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Fashion archive: There’s a price to pay for looking like a caveman

The old barber’s-shop joke has now come true. Male clients who come in with shoulder-length hair in one of the several pop group or beatnik styles are being asked to accept a cost estimate by some hairdressers (who themselves got a pay rise last week) before they will tackle it.

“Well, it stands to reason,” said one hair stylist in London yesterday. “You can’t charge a bloke the same for mowing a hay field as you do for just tidying up his front lawn. We’ve got craftsmanship to think of, too. I’m a stylist, not a hedge-trimmer.”

All men’s hairdressers seem to be strongly in favour of shorter styles. There is the hard, economic fact that shoulder-lengthers leave a painful gap in trade. And while an up-to-date stylist has a great variety of shorter cuts at his fingertips there is not much you can do with 2ft-long male hair and keep it this side of sanity. For both reasons, they are inclined to be on the side of the headmaster who banished a long-haired one from the boys’ department.

The hairdressers are not entirely sure where some of the bigger style trends have originated. The immediate postwar crew cut was obviously a gesture to the American GI. Then came, partly in reaction, the flashy man-about-town cuts like the District Attorney and Boston, very full at the back, perhaps learned from Italian films.

The completely uncut look – Caveman or Long Back and Sides, as it might be called – was the natural choice of the rebel against society, suitable for challenging conformist parents or headmasters with.

After the beatniks had done with it, the Merseyside pop groups took it up, largely as a crib of the all-conquering Beatles. It has not looked back since, though short (and potentially rebellious) hairstyles are still in the great majority.

Looking at trends, some senior stylists think the male shoulder-length is with us for another four or five years. They are racking their brains to think of ways of bringing these clients into the salon more often than once a quarter.

But the more fashionable cuts, said one stylist, will stay at a maximum of three inches on top. New styles will ring the changes on the parting – a short one at the front, or at the back, or even diagonal.

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