DOUGLAS FARR lowers his voice. 'I'm hiding from the hairdressers. Look what they're doing to the other guys' hair]'

He looks round the dressing-room in dismay. In half an hour, Farr will be stepping out on to the Paris catwalk wearing clothes from Paul Smith's new collection for spring '94. Smith wants to get away from the grunge look, so the order has gone out that all the models' hair must be swept or tied right back.

Farr is far from happy. 'I mean, I made my name with my long hair like this,' he says, shaking his dark curls over his face. 'This man from an agency came up to me on the beach in Miami and gave me a job on the spot. Yeah, I know everyone says hair is going short, but I'm going to ride the wave out. If I cut my hair, I'll look like everyone else.'

There is no stopping him now. He leans forward confidentially. 'Anyway, look, my mum's here. It's her first trip to Europe, the first time she's seen me in a show. She's got a video camera. I want to look right - for her]'

Farr need not have worried. Smith gave him 'special dispensation' to keep his hair how he wants it. Hair matters to these boys. All male models are 6ft tall with well-toned bodies and smouldering looks, so little things make a difference. The right haircut can make a big difference - between earning dollars 200,000 a year or just enough to cover the mortgage.

The models have been wearing their hair long for at least 18 months now, but word is out that short is on the way back. David Bradshaw, fashion editor of Arena, is convinced of it. 'By the end of the year, they'll all have short hair. They're all waiting for each other to do it.'

There is a hint of the future backstage at Paul Smith: Manuel Rodriguez, a new model from Venezuela, has had his head shaved. 'It's new, it's different, it's strong,' he says. 'There's no competition because there aren't a lot of people around like me.'

It means one fewer model for the hairdressing team backstage. Richard Stepney and Giles Hayward-Smith, from London's 4th Floor salon, are men's hair specialists. Their skill is cutting rather than styling, shaping a head of hair so that it retains its shape for a couple of months. In London, they will spend an hour on a pounds 28 haircut. Here, they have 33 men to get through, a few minutes per model, making ample use of Kiehl's creme 'with silk groom', which they apply to give the hair a groomed look 'without being greasy', and Phyto Plage, strictly a sun-protection oil but which gives body to dry hair.

Stepney has worked for years at men's catwalk shows, originally with a former colleague Peter Smith, who is over the other side of Paris today preening the models at Comme des Garcons. 'Men don't look after their hair properly,' he says. 'The general attitude towards hair is that if you do care for it, there's something wrong with you.'

He thinks some of the models' hair is too long. 'You know, they enjoy their long hair, but they've got to be careful. You go too long and, well . . . Let's say there's a fine line between looking great and looking like a Chippendale.'

Omry Reznik, 22, a long-haired model from Israel, was thinking of going short. It was a business decision. 'In the States, long is still in. I've got to get over there before it goes out. On the other hand, long is just coming in in Germany. That's nice - they are the highest-paying clients. Then I'll probably need to get it cut for Italy and France.'

And what about your body? Do you work out? 'Well, it's important that you are defined, very defined, but not huge. If you're huge, you're limiting yourself.'

Ten minutes later, the show started. Douglas Farr came out, hair a mess, body defined (but not huge), and grinning broadly. His mother's video camera whirred.

Manuel Rodriguez came out looking strong and different and special. In the audience, the fashion editors and image-makers watched and noted. Soon, very soon, they will be ready to tell the world's men what to do with their hair.

(Photographs omitted)