“Hair style is the final tip-off to whether or not a person really knows him or herself.” ~Hubert de Givenchy, Vogue, July 1985 (slightly altered to include my gender)
Sitting in the hair salon, looking at pictures of men with works of art on their heads, it was hard not to feel a bit ridiculous. The same shape had been perched above my face for the last decade or so; my hair is long on top and combed almost straight back, with a part down the middle. I’ve never considered it to be a particularly good hairstyle, but then I’m not sure if I could spot a good hairstyle if one passed by my line of vision. The only time I’ve ever considered taking a photograph into a barber shop was about four years ago, when I felt that Richard Belzer had a really cool look. I never went through with it, despite my desire to be the first person to shove a picture of Richard Belzer in someone’s face and say, “Make me look like that!”
My friend Kim was the whole reason I was in the salon to begin with. She had suggested giving me a makeover, and I was more than happy to oblige. Hair was the first step. Kim was adamant that my slickened mane had to go, and she emailed me a picture of what she envisioned as its replacement.
I opened the email to find Taylor Lautner looking back at me. “I’m 32 years old,” I thought. “I can’t pull off werewolf hair!”
We eventually went to the salon sans Jacob Black, deciding instead that the perfect hairstyle would be found somewhere in the salon’s book of haircuts. We flipped through page after page of Korean men whose hair all sort of looked like a combination of Sid Vicious and Bruce Lee. After some slight debate, Kim selected one she thought would be good. She showed it to the hair stylist and said, “He needs help. Make him handsome.”
About an hour later I emerged a new man. Really, I was the same old man, which was obvious considering how uncomfortable I felt with my new “messy” hairstyle. Kim then brought me to Uni Glo, where we picked out two new outfits. I was unrecognizable to myself, and even though it felt awkward, I considered this to be a good thing.
The next day I told my friend Chrissy about the makeover and she said, “You shouldn’t change who you are.”
“No,” I explained to her, “I didn’t do that at all. I had someone else change who I am.”
That’s the whole point of a makeover after all, isn’t it? The idea isn’t so much to change as it is to recreate, to have someone with a keener set of aesthetics take your colors and swirl them into something brilliant. The problem, though, is that the person with the makeover can’t stay in the salon forever. The guidance goes away. And there I was, left by myself, to paint my new “messy” hairstyle from memory, right there on my head where everyone could judge my accuracy.
I couldn’t do it. The hair wax was applied, the hairspray rained down like pesticide, and I was left looking like Ed Grimley. The hair that had looked pretty hip the night before had become a monstrosity. The night before I was Orlando Bloom, but with the rising sun I had transformed into Ace Ventura.
Kim had to come to my apartment for emergency hair assistance. Even she had trouble recreating the salon’s masterpiece.
“That’s not what it looked like,” I told her. “You’ve given me a fo-hawk.”
“It’s not really a fo-hawk,” Kim said. “It’s like one, just with less hawk and more fo.”
A few days later I threw my comb angrily into the mirror, causing four teeth to break off and fall into the sink. My hair was driving me to insanity. I was sick of it and was giving up. The “messy” style, or the FO hawk, or whatever it was, was not something I could do on my own. I would just put my hair back the way it had always been.
When I did, I looked at myself in the mirror. There I was, the same old me. I couldn’t help feeling an extreme sense of disappointment. It was too familiar, my old hair, and I hated it. I stuck my head back in the shower, grabbed the hair wax, and started all over again.