The Undemanding Fashion of Hair

One of the least acknowledged realities of the age we live in is that fashion is undemanding. It used to be that people were laughed off the social scene for wearing a jacket, waistcoat or accessory that was even slightly ‘out of date.’ The intense snobbery of fashion demanded compliance; many strived, and few were able, to keep up. Now, ‘personal style’ is king. Fashion has a subtle, overarching influence but its diktat grows ever weaker. In no way is this more evident than in hair styling.

The last time I considered it necessary to head to the hairdresser to chop my locks into something resembling a trend, I was still at school. In truth, school days are some of the most severe in craze-following; the insecurity of youth demands leaders. However, the days when boys all wanted the same haircut are gone – and when one leaves the classroom, one discovers that there is little requirement for men to change their crowning glory to the whims of fashion.

It was surprising to me that in Sweden, my girlfriend’s home country, men are far more reliant on trend when it comes to a visit to the barber. A half-Swedish friend of mine recently told me “I was in Stockholm recently and every guy had this same haircut; really short at the back and sides and long on top.” Not everyone, surely. “It seemed like it!” he responded. This particular cut, seen on Michael Pitt in Boardwalk Empire, has been adopted by many, most notably David Beckham.

It is difficult to imagine, but this is what used to be the standard everywhere; men with the same haircut. In today’s culture, a man is no less respected or desired because he wears his hair centre parted rather than side parted, weighed down by wax or coiffed with curls. A different style might draw interest, but rarely ridicule. There is no anxiety to do ‘the done thing.’ Senior directors of leading companies can have rock star locks like Nick Buckles or closely cropped like Willie Walsh; either way, they have no less credibility in the boardroom.

I have been speculating recently on what I would look like with the latest hairstyle to hit Sweden. “Like a Nazi” some have offered, uncharitably. It is curious how we are still drawn to followings, though individuality is more highly valued and ‘personal style’ celebrated by all from Prince Charles to Tom Ford. Personally, I quite like the idea of trying out a new hair style, but it is an immense relief that I don’t feel pressured to do so.