John Lyttle's Column

John

Lyttle

Going back to our roots: I return from having what's left of my hair cut - scissored short, much shorter than usual - and bump into David by the fax machine. David says - nothing escapes those eagle horn-rims - "You've had your hair cut." I'm primed to fire off a personal favourite ("No shit, Sherlock"), when my dear, close, and tragically single friend idly adds, "That hair cut makes you look like a gay man." Actually, I look more like Tin Tin, that authentic Belgian tragedy, but this still leaves me one up on David, who has more than once been mistaken for Snowy.

But - loth as I am to admit it - he's both rude and right. The rape of my locks is indisputably the sort of look popular with those whose hearts belong to squaddie, and homosexuality and hair are tied together, invariably with pink satin ribbons and bright plastic kirby grips, from the unwavering stereotype of the camp hairdresser - doesn't everyone know one? - to the current vogues for bleach boys, waxed butts (the ever- creeping and ever-creepy influence of American porn) and Absolute Yul Brynners: those gay men who equate masculinity not with the abundant presence of thick, shiny, healthy hair styled in myriad amusing fashions, but with its almost total absence. These chrome domes shave from the crown towards the feet, into the armpits, then over the chest, banishing the tough tufts, down, down, down. Right to the dangly bits, there to denude aesthetically offensive fluff. And it's all to seem well hard, mate: a massive waste of effort and a major abuse of Immac, for everyone knows that the only creature on earth with that few follicles is a baby (or a Chihuahua) - babies being the polar opposite of butch, not to mention the pre-pubescent opposite of adult. Which might explain why some otherwise totally smooth operators sport, eek, goatees, even if it makes them look as if they've got their heads on the wrong way round; it proves they can still grow their own, hence they must be grown-ups.

It's also a high-maintenance operation masquerading as a low-maintenance operation; the latest in male vanity. This wasn't always so. Once we bright young things lived for blow waves and peroxide geometric cuts, otherwise known as "lemon wedges"; big and butch wasn't in it. Big hair was. The whole point was to be pretty - a word which then automatically summoned the "feminine" - and pretty fussy: why take one bottle into the shower when you could take two, three or four? The inordinate time and attention lavished on one's "riah" - that's your actual ancient gay backslang - told the tuned-in who and what you were.

That's why the first marcel wave of male-orientated hairsprays - remember Dry Look and Cossack? You do? Pretend not to - were marketed at the dye- hard dancing queen (gel, volumiser and styling putty would later be similarly pioneered) who thought the ozone was a club in Earl's Court. Toting a spray-on bullet-proof helmet told its own story, just as the beard on the contemporary Daddy Bear tells its particular cropped or bushy tale, informing those with a penchant for father figures that the Daddy Bear will play his assigned role (namely, "Who'll be sleeping in my bed?"). That's why Daddy Bears have it better than most heterosexual men of the same age, forced to sing endless choruses of "Let's all meet up in the Grecian 2000": Daddy Bears are glad to be grey.

The DB's whiskers have evolved from the clone's moustache. The clone's moustache is a pivotal - dare I say Seventies and seminal? - moment in the history of gay hair; a symbolic rejection of sissyhood, its appearance was intended to liberate gay men to become their own "tall, dark stranger" - as, arguably, a decade later the Jimmy Somerville-Mr Potato Head trend took and shook the skinhead image until it yielded new meaning: "Mess with me and you'll get a good kissing."

The arrival of the clone moustache more or less coincides with the date that the love that dared not speak its name finally screamed its pecs off; no wonder this clipped metaphor rode the upper lip, right above the mouth. The clone's moustache was an ideological act, even if its owner never attended a Pride march or went on a "zap" (a "zap" is ... a zap is basically a bunch of queens bursting into Boots to liberate the lubricants). That's when gay hair first got shorty, paving the yellow brick road for flat tops et al. And as the head shed, hirsute hit the rest of the body politic; mossy arms, chests and backs were unveiled and celebrated.

But what they were celebrated for is different from the values of the current stripped crop. If hairlessness is meant, on some level, to denote youth - fur grows more fulsome with age - then hairiness is a mark of maturity, as grey hair is, nominally, a sign of experience. To remove one's hair, be it from the head, or places further south, to turn yourself into something close to a walking, talking, living phallus - is, perhaps, to erase experience. Or more, to deny it. Now this could be viewed as stalling tactics, or as a gesture towards hopefulness in a period painted black. For, shorn of experience, you're ready for permanent renewal, no matter life's - and death's - harsh lessons. Like a young person - even if you're old. Like a dumb person - even if you're not. Which only goes to show that these dark days it's nigh impossible to know when to keep your hair on.

Suggested Topics
News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
News
i100
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
News
i100
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
News
In other news ... Jon Snow performed at last year's Newsroom's Got Talent charity event
people
News
i100
Life and Style
Text messaging changes as a relationship evolves
life
News
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
Sport
Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Real Madrid
football
News
peoplePerformer had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

    £300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

    KS1 Teacher

    £95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

    HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

    £32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

    Day In a Page

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?