Remember when a haircut was a haircut? When you were young it was always hair cut short, sometimes platito-style, with the barber literally placing a bowl on your head and cutting around it.
That was BC, before circumcision. AC meant you could now wear long pants and grow your hair a bit longer to match your sprouting moustache, or what you want to call a moustache
even if it’s just fuzz.
In the ’60s, my adolescent generation, guys wanted their hair long like the Beatles or other rock stars, which upset elders no end. Alas, just as you thought you could grow your hair long, you were in college and had to take ROTC, which meant getting a crewcut.
Mercifully, that was only a two-year course and you could resume your adventurous hirsute pursuits, except during martial law when, for a brief period, authorities tried to keep guys’ hair short—until Marcos probably realized he risked an uprising worse than a New People’s Army or a Moro revolt if he insisted on short hair.
My point is that as an adolescent and young adult, you had a bit more freedom with the instructions you gave the barber: “2 by 2,” for example, referred to measurements using the fingers, 2 fingers on the side and 2 fingers from the neckline. The variation—usually 2 by 4—wasn’t that exciting, though.
In your 20s, you chose a certain style and pretty much stuck to it as the years went by, even as your hair thinned and your exasperated barbers tried to pretend you still looked like Paul McCartney. If you were honest with yourself, you’d come to terms with the truth and finally tell the barber to shave it all off. Better totally bald—which incidentally has its own sex appeal—than constantly trying to cover bald spots and a receding hairline.
Barbershops then had a sparse menu: haircut, shave, manicure, pedicure (yes, the nail jobs for men go way back—a sign of status).
Parlors and salons
Somewhere in time the choices grew, mainly because guys could go to a beauty parlor with their nanay. The hairdressers offered more options, including curling straight hair and straightening curly hair, and all kinds of add-ons. I did try that route but hated it because of all the hard sell, plus a warning from gay friends that if you were sort of cute, the gay hairdresser would find ways to ruin your hair so you wouldn’t overshadow her beauty.
So I returned to the barbers and for maybe 20—or is it 30?—years now, they just asked if I wanted a barber’s cut—something I’ve never figured out and which I think is retaining whatever style you walked in with.
No more 2 by 2 or platito here, just barber’s cut. I realized, too, that there’s an inverse relationship between the cost of the haircut and the amount of hair that was cut. The more expensive the joint, the more theatrical the barber or stylist or hairdresser gets with all kinds of rituals before cutting your hair, with a snip here and a snip there, so you have to go back in a week.
The hard sell of the beauty parlors from which I fled is worse now in men’s salons (yes, salon, pronounced the French way). As they cut your hair, they point out your dandruff, or thinning hair, or dandruff on thinning hair, and offer their latest treatments—wow, from Germany.
“How much?” I asked the latest barber (yes, I don’t go back to the hard-sell ones, and am running out of new ones to try).
“Seven,” he said.
I gasped: “P700?”
“No, P7,000,” he clarified, but added quickly that he had a special price for me: “Only P1,700.”
But I’m digressing. Because I usually go with my son for a haircut, each visit involves long discussions on what it is going to be. Gone is the platito and the crewcut and even the barber’s cut. In the last salon we went to, they had pictures of international celebrities with names for each hairstyle.
My son always chooses the boldest, and most painstaking, styles like—is it underarm? (No, Dada, he says, it’s not underarm. And so I ask: underarmor?) There’s also an elaborate, hourlong razor-shaping of the hair, and the first time my son had it I jumped and asked why he ended up with the Banaue rice terraces on his head. The correct name, he said, is pineapple cut because, well, you get rows on your head like a pineapple. Give the stylists time and they’ll probably offer a dragon fruit cut.
‘LeBron’ and other cuts
The last time we were at the salon, my son thought he would make it easier for me by asking if he could have all his hair shaved off. I knew it was a trap because he often dares me to get a haircut like his. I said no, not completely shaved off, unless he was thinking of becoming a monk.
So he chose the “LeBron cut” and dared me to get the same style.
The barber got into the act: “Sige na, lambing ni bunso” (Indulge your youngest child).
I didn’t want to explain that my son wasn’t the youngest, but I chose a style, something in between, not LeBron, or whatever other celebrity cut there is. I don’t know if you want to call it a chancellor’s cut, but my faculty members and students love it, and I joke back about how I looked right after the haircut—like I had just seen the grades of my delinquent scholars (meaning my hair was standing on end).
I’ve since checked a great article on the internet about all the different male haircuts you can get these days in the United States. Ready?
Buzz cut, crewcut (yes, crewcuts live!), Ivy League (aka Harvard, Princeton Clip… Can we have Ateneo, La Salle, etc.?), businessman/peaked (aka, simply, the tapered cut), Caesar cut, The Fade (broken down to high fade, low fade, temple fade), comb over fade, high and tight, undercut (oh, there it is, not underarm or underarmor), square/flair/shape up, asymmetrical, faux hawk (mohawk’s younger brother, according to the article), top knot (also known as man bun, which I had for one day, on my son’s dare), long side swept, long and slicked back.
There’s more, such as variations on the neckline (blocked, rounded, tapered), on sideburns, and on textures.
All these variations are really overdone with upper- and middle-class barbers, but you’ll find them in low-income neighborhoods as well, sometimes with even bolder experiments.
Give me time and I’ll get to comparing men’s and women’s hairstyles in the Philippines, to see who’s more vain.
(Look up ties.com and Hair Terminology for the explanations on US hairstyles.)
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.