Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Terrorist Chic

I was walking my dog yesterday,
(yes, the famous "Wolfy").
And as we were walking I saw a guy walking toward us and as he got closer I could see he looked like a clich'e of a middle eastern terrorist. He was kind of slim and had a shaved head with a little stubble and a full beard. not too long but full and thick. His skin was tan and his facial expression was best described as morose. And to complete the effect. he had on a wrinkled, olive drab, army field jacket. He couldn't have looked more like a terrorist unless he had explosives strapped to his body or an AK47 slung over his shoulder.
As he walked by I could see he was a normal looking guy in his face and it was only his costume that made that "terrorist " effect. So I asked myself. Why would a citizen of St. Louis Park ( one of the most Judaic of our suburbs) go out of his way to affect that look? It had to be purposeful didn't it? He couldn't have come up with that look by accident could he? So what was he thinking??

As a person who spent his career in beauty salons and spas, I always wondered about people who have, what would you call it, "alternative" fashion. I worked for many years trying to make women and some men as attractive as possible and it was strange to see those who went in another direction.

Yes, I could see some who just couldn't care less and just did normal hygiene and sensible clothes and couldn't be bothered with more. And I agree that some people went overboard the other direction. Women who's day (or week) was ruined because their nail polish did not look right. Women who cried because their stylist cut one inch off her long hair instead of 1/2 inch. Older women who piled on the make-up so their eyebrows were two inches wide and you could smell the perfume from fifty feet.
But then came the end of the fifties and the beginning of the sixties when the beatniks and hippies started the kind of grunge and or goth look. Yes Virginia. The goth look of black lipstick, black nail polish and black clothing was a big deal 50 years ago! (Why can't you guys find something new?) I laughed the other day when I saw a kid with a blue mohawk who wasn't aware that mohawks were so 70's at the latest. That's what? Forty years ago?
But what was happening was that people were dressing as a political statement and that still continues to this day.
I remember in 1963 I was in basic training in the army and I came home for the holidays with the shortest hair possible. I tried to wear a cool hat but to no avail as everyone could see my clipped scalp and of course I was ridiculed for it. The hippies said "do your own thing" unless it wasn't their thing. Someone said maybe "hippie" was short for hypocrite.

There still is a group I don't understand. And maybe it's just a that I'm more sensitive to it than most. But this group is fascinating. These are people, like our terrorist friend, who go out of their way to look strange and off-putting.
Like the guy with the mullet. He has to be aware of how ugly and outdated it looks but he not only doesn't care but he carries it to new heights (or lengths). This is the guy who's mullet has one inch of hair on top and sides and a foot and a half of hair in the back. That hairstyle requires long range planning and the guy wearing it looks like he hasn't planned anything longer range than his next doobie (not that there is anything wrong with doobies).
I saw a Hispanic guy with a regular short haircut except for a foot long braid growing out of the nape of his neck. How many haircuts do you did he have where he had to say " Don't touch the braid, man". Hair grows 1/2 inch per month so it took at least two years.
And how about the guy with the beard that is so long he braids it. How does he know how to braid his chin? Does he hire a ten year old girl from the neighborhood to do it for him? Or the guy with the intricate beard and sideburns with different angles and "Z's" shaved on his chin. What a pain to shave in the morning!
Or even just the guy with hair so long it constantly falling in his face every minute of his life. How can he stand it?
A number of years ago there was this AFA (African American) guy I saw regularly in downtown Minneapolis. He had an afro. Oh, whats that you say? Whats the big deal? Oh nothing except it was as big as a blimp. You could see him coming from three blocks away. And it bobbed when he walked. You just had to stare. And if he saw you staring he say angrily "What you looking at man". The thing is, take my word for it . Black hair does not do that by itself. You need to really work at it to get it that big. So this guy worked at it to get it big enough to be stared at and then got mad when you did. Dr. Freud help me here.
The problem as I see it is that all of these looks are UGLY. So they must have them for some other reason. Maybe they like the intimidation factor, but it only really works well on elderly ladies. Maybe they think of themselves as so alarmingly ugly to begin with why not just go with it. It could be that its just a good way to remain unemployed and blame it on society.

And then of course we have tattoos and piercings which have the added aspect of pain. Thirty years ago only 3% of the population had tattoos and most of them were armed services guys or convicts. Now about 30% of those under thirty have tattoos. And you know what, a lot of tattoos look OK. sometimes even pretty or cool. But then you got the people who go overboard and have their whole body done (ouch) and it's expensive too. Or those who have tattoos on their face or their (God forbid) genitals). AAgghh!!

I had a male stylist employed at one of my salons who had his whole scalp tattooed with an intricate pattern. He told me that when he needed to get a regular job he would just grow his hair out and you couldn't see the tattoo and when he was in a more liberal position he would shave his head and there it was. He was in his mid twenties and I asked him what he would do if he lost his hair later in life. He stopped to think and then said he hadn't thought of that.

And of course we have the pierced tongue and the tramp stamp in the small of the back. Let's just let everyone in the world know you are a slut and a whore Not that there is anything wrong with being a slut/whore. Some of my best friends are blah blah blah.
Can you imagine the guy with the spider web tattooed on his face going on a job interview? I can't either.
I had a female employee at one of our salons with a number of tattoos. She was very attractive and the tattoos were relatively tasteful. One day she asked me if I had any tattoos and when I said no, she wrinkled her nose like "oh ick".
I thought it was curious that I was looked down upon because I hadn't defaced myself!
I started to imagine the day in the future when us un-tattooed and un-pierced would be shunned and jobless and looked at as some kind of freak.

What a crazy world.