It’s been 77 days since my last haircut.
If I don’t get it cut soon I’ll be able to audition for a role as an extra if “That 70s Show” does a reunion special.
My hair has been a bit longer. That was in a previous life that I recall was my mid-20s.
Currently my hair is the length it was in 1973 as it is touching my dress shirt collar. That may not strike you as long but back in the mid-1970s in a number of high schools including Lincoln High where I grew up in Lincoln, Placer County such a transgression would get you sent to the counselor’s office. Once there they would pull out a ruler and measure just how much past your collar your hair fell. They would duly note it in a message they would send to your parents advising them of its exact length, what the school dress code required, and a few curt words about how your son will not be allowed to return to school until his hair was in compliance.
For those under 50, I am not making this up. It wasn’t until my senior year in 1974 that we were allowed to wear dress shorts to school. That was only allowed before Sept. 30 and after May 1 for what turned out to be six weeks of school. And you could not wear any shorts unless they were Bermuda-style and hemmed — a look Rodney Dangerfield perfected in the 1950s.
It didn’t matter that the only air conditioning on campus was in the administration building. The classrooms were built in the 1950s with a nuclear attack in mind and before school architects were enlightened with the concept of placing windows in a manner to allow natural cross ventilation.
Teachers had to actually ask permission to bring a portable fan from home in a bid to keep students from succumbing to the heat on 95 degree plus afternoons. You haven’t truly struggled in class to concentrate until you’ve taken trigonometry at 2 p.m. on a 98-degree day in mid-May in a room with only three windows that open while being instructed by an extremely competent teacher whose biggest fault was he talked in the most monotone voice on earth.
In fairness this was still in an era that some students would get up before the crack of dawn to go dove hunting then go directly to school with their shotgun mounted on a rack across the window of their pickup. Instead of a SWAT team descending on the student parking lot, they’d get called to the office, told not to do it again, and before being sent back to class they had to go to their vehicle, were told to make sure the gun was unloaded, told to place it under or behind the seat, and then lock the door. The pickup keys were then surrendered to an administrator and the student told he could retrieve them from the office secretary after school.
Those days seem light years away.
If there had been a pandemic back then the length of your hair would have been the big issue and not staying six feet apart.
Barber shops would have been deemed an “essential” business as the future of civilization rested on keeping teen boys’ hair from touching a dress shirt collar and/or hanging in front of their eyes. Did I mention side burns were risqué and any side burn that creeped past the base of your ear earned you a trip to the office?
If you really wanted to tempt fate you could wear a T-shirt to school. That would result in an immediate trip directly to the principal who, after determining you didn’t have a dress shirt stuffed in your locker to wear over it, would call your parents to pick you up and then suspend you from school for a day.
Keep in mind the only T-shirt that anyone back then had the courage to try to break the rules wearing to school was the once classic white Hanes, short-sleeved T-shirt. If someone had shown up at school wearing a colored T-shirt with either a design or wording they probably would have been expelled from school and the juvenile delinquency authorities summoned.
During the past month or so I have been making strategic “cuts” of hair that have repeatedly curled in odd fashion, especially that on the sides of my head that were starting to make me look like Bozo the Clown. That also includes snipping hair strands that kept hanging down over my ears.
In another 30 days or so when my hair will likely reach the bottom of my collar, I will have reached my limit and will likely seek out the flourishing black market where freedom fighters or rogue citizens, depending upon your perspective, are practicing an ancient craft that has essentially been deemed illegal to practice for the time being — cutting hair.
It’s not that I am inept at cutting my own hair. I did just that for 17 years until I turned 30. The catalyst for me doing that was a trip to the barber shop as a 13 year-old where Swede — more engaged in sharing a story with his buddies waiting their turn in the chair — ended up cutting my hair horribly bad on one side. After discovering his error and without asking me, he then proceeded to give me a crewcut to remedy his handiwork. When I saw what he had done when I had so I could look in the mirror he told me not to worry as it would grow back.
It took me close to a year but I sharpened my technique to the point no one could tell that I cut my hair myself. I was fortunate that my mom had an old barber kit that had belonged to her nephew so I was not using kitchen shears or office scissors that almost always have disastrous outcomes.
If worse comes to worse I could cut my hair again.
But here’s the problem I have with that. The people who are professionally trained and are smart enough to secure a state license are certainly smart enough to follow basic protocols that are now in place.
The fact they can’t legally cut hair in San Joaquin County while others can open their businesses is as arbitrary and subjective as the dress code at Lincoln High back in 1973.
My mom and other parents thought the dress code imposed by Western Placer Unified School District was government overreach as there was no underlying rationale to justify why hair touching the collar was considered an offense of such a magnitude that if you did not comply you would be suspended from school yet bringing a shotgun to school barely earned you a slap on the wrist.
Barbers — along with hair stylists and nail saloon workers — have been suspended from the economy not because conducting their craft with the same protocols others are doing to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic has been deemed harmful but because of arbitrary decisions.
It’s time that we clean up disheveled government edicts. It’s time barbers and hair stylists to be allowed to legally cut hair again in San Joaquin County.