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Hippie punching through the ages
August 27, 2013 1:48 PM   Subscribe

"In the fall of 1970, sixteen-year-old Chesley Karr returned to Coronado High School in El Paso, Texas, after a summer spent harvesting wheat in the Midwest. During his working vacation, he had let his hair grow out over his ears and collar. Later he asserted that his long hair, which he referred to as a "freak flag," was both "a cultural statement and a practical matter." Culturally, he believed his hair identified him as a supporter of the "peace or hippie movement"; practically, haircuts had been a low priority on the wheat farm. To his surprise, the high school gym coach refused to admit him to class; the issue then ascended through the principal's office to the school board, which told Karr he could not return to school without a haircut. Rather than acquiesce, Chesley Karr took his school to court." -- Flaunting the Freak Flag: Karr v Schmidt and the Great Hair Debate in American High Schools, 1965 - 1975 or a history of uptight authority figures overreacting to trivial fashion changes, sort of relevant again now Arkansas is attempting to ban tattoos and piercings. (Via.)
posted by MartinWisse (85 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
When I was a junior in high school (1990 which now feels like a million years ago), the graduating Salutatorian was expelled 2 days from graduation for showing up to school with a purple and blue mohawk and refusing to change it back.

So while I'm horrified that there are laws that allow high school kids to get tattoos (because I can remember what I wanted when I was a teenager and am horrified at what I could have ended up with given the leeway), this isn't something that really should be banned.
posted by bibliogrrl at 1:59 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


now Arkansas is attempting to ban tattoos and piercings.

The current version of SB 387 -- linked in most of these sources -- doesn't do this. It bans subdermal implants, defines scarification (without banning it or using any "vague language" regarding its legal status), clarifies the definition of body piercing (without banning it or using any "vague language" regarding its legal status) and raises the time necessary to become an Artist Trainer to five years from three.

Stand down, outrage brigade.
posted by Etrigan at 2:04 PM on August 27, 2013 [21 favorites]


This is bringing back fond memories of Hair and the song, not to mention this great song which also refers to long hair as a freak flag.
posted by bearwife at 2:07 PM on August 27, 2013


> history of uptight authority figures overreacting to trivial fashion changes

Never felt these set-tos were about specific student fashions etc. so much as about control. Are you going to be a nice compliant little consumer trainee and do as you're told? NO? WELL, WE'LL SEE ABOUT THAT, YOUNG MAN! It doesn't matter if the issue is trivial, from the authorities' POV a challenge to authority is a challenge to authority, and that's never trivial.
posted by jfuller at 2:12 PM on August 27, 2013 [12 favorites]


Maybe, just maybe, there will come a day when there is an outbreak of outrage because a legislative body ( some legislative body, somewhere, somehow) has had the nerve to propose a fucking jobs bill.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:12 PM on August 27, 2013


I'm not advocating any new laws, but if a younger human bothered to ask me, "Should I get a tattoo?" My reply would be, "Absolutely. Go f***ing nuts ... once you're twenty-five and you have a half a grasp on what permanent means."
posted by philip-random at 2:12 PM on August 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm horrified there are laws that allow high school kids to get tattoos

Many students are 18, legal tattoo-gettin' age, when they graduate. A friend and I both turned 18 the March of our senior year, we got tattoos that April. We don't regret them, either!

I don't remember any excitement about the things being banned at my high school. It was pretty relaxed for a public school, though. My Latin teacher liked the aforementioned tattoo so much she gave me extra credit.
posted by troika at 2:14 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


My Latin teacher liked the aforementioned tattoo so much she gave me extra credit.

This calls to mind a certain scene from "Life of Brian"...
posted by Slothrup at 2:18 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Someone posted this scare on facebook last week and I was skeptical. I looked up the bill (which is now actually Act 596) and I don't really see anything objectionable in it. What am I missing?

The article here isn't really helping me with that.
posted by ctmf at 2:19 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Scare about the tattoo thing in Arkansas, I mean, not haircuts in the 70s.
posted by ctmf at 2:20 PM on August 27, 2013


I'm curious what brought about Act 596. Did it come about to right some wrongs, or is it an attempt to crack down on businesses that don't need cracking down?

Either way, it doesn't seem all that relevant to school dress code hippie punching.
posted by 2N2222 at 2:27 PM on August 27, 2013


I always wondered what would actually happen if you just abolished school dress codes. Near-nudity? Racist or drug-oriented t-shirts? Yeah, some kids will do that. Your average neurotic schoolkid isn't going to want to wear something that gets them mocked or hated, though, are they? You'd probably see a lot of pajama pants and sloppy clothes. Like college.

Dress code fights take up so much of our educational energy. It might be worth it to just stop worrying about it, and see what happens.
posted by emjaybee at 2:29 PM on August 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


Is this a good place to tell my story about how I was once turned down for a software dev interview because the recruiter didn't think I had enough tattoos and piercings?
So while I'm horrified that there are laws that allow high school kids to get tattoos
I have no idea if it is still a thing, but more than a few tattooed co-workers* have explained their DIY "prison style" self-administered tattoos. Apparently all you need is a Bic pen, safety pin, tolerance for pain, and patience. No one would confuse the end result for a professional tattoo, but that seems to be the point.

*All software engineers. So maybe the recruiter had a point...
posted by b1tr0t at 2:29 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh. It appears that there's also a separate Act 597 that does prohibit non-physicians from performing sub-dermal implantation. Still not outraged.
posted by ctmf at 2:34 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


But the sign said long-haired freaky people need not apply.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:35 PM on August 27, 2013 [22 favorites]


I was walking down the street with my wife the other day noticing all the people our age and younger sporting so many tattoos. I don't have any but have wanted one particular image tattooed for almost 10 years (money is the only thing holding me back), and my wife has probably 4 small-to medium sized ones that are usually covered.

We got to wondering if tattoos would still be cool when our daughter grows up, or if they would be some lame thing her lame parents used to do in the lame old days.
posted by Hoopo at 2:35 PM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Coincidentally I read another story today about a different Coronado High School back in the Seventies.
posted by Toekneesan at 2:37 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had a friend in high school whose dad was a UU minister and whose mom was a social worker (or the other way round, can't remember), so of course he "rebelled" by becoming....a Republican. (It didn't last very long.)

I think about him when I see parents with full sleeves at the grocery store. Kids will rebel by becoming Amish or something.

Also not seeing where this bill bans things - lots of licensing and regulatory language, but no banning - but ok.
posted by rtha at 2:40 PM on August 27, 2013


Are earrings on guys even "cool" right now? Not the kind that are big enough to run CAT-5 through, I mean...
posted by entropicamericana at 2:41 PM on August 27, 2013


Etrigan: " The current version of SB 387 -- linked in most of these sources -- doesn't do this. It bans subdermal implants, defines scarification (without banning it or using any "vague language" regarding its legal status), clarifies the definition of body piercing (without banning it or using any "vague language" regarding its legal status) and raises the time necessary to become an Artist Trainer to five years from three."

Thanks for clarifying. PolicyMic apparently is using Outragefilter to attract visitors again.
posted by zarq at 2:42 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, also:

"I used to be 'with it' then they changed what 'it' was now what im 'with' isnt 'it' and whats 'it' seems weird and scary trite and cliched to me.

IT'LL HAPPEN TO YOU."
posted by entropicamericana at 2:43 PM on August 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


I have a tattoo of a piercing.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:43 PM on August 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


We have a "no tats or piercings under 18" law here in Georgia. The only effect I can see that it's had is that tat shops in Alabama now do a booming business marking up Georgia teenagers.
posted by deadmessenger at 2:44 PM on August 27, 2013


I'm horrified there are laws that allow high school kids to get tattoos

I turned 18 a little less than a month after starting my senior year of high school. Most of my graduating class was 18 before we graduated. Some of us got tattoos before we left high school. There are things far more horrifying in this world than people with tattoos. Calm down.
posted by palomar at 2:46 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is bringing back fond memories of Hair and the song, not to mention this great song which also refers to long hair as a freak flag.

bearwife, do you also remember "Uneasy Rider"? Long hair *and* hippie punching!

"Just when I thought I'd get outta there with my skin
These 5 big dudes come strollin' in
With this one old drunk chick and some fella with green teeth

Now I was almost to the door when the biggest one
Said, "You tip your hat to this lady, son!"
And when I did, all that hair fell out from underneath

Now the last thing I wanted was to get into a fight
In Jackson Mississippi on a Saturday night
Especially when there was three of them and only one of me"
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:48 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


>Dress code fights take up so much of our educational energy. It might be worth it to just stop worrying about it, and see what happens.

Kids will probably spend less energy trying to think of new ways to denote status without getting in too much trouble, and parents all around will spend more money as kids compete for overt status via more expensive clothes/accouterments.

At my high school, the uniform was explicitly chosen to try to minimize class and ethnic signifiers; and for the most part I only ever resented it because you had to use this one ridiculously overpriced uniform vendor. At first it was weird but now that I'm older… I think it's alright. As a somewhat poorer kid with no fashion sense, it was helpful to have a default you couldn't fuck up.

Within reason. Tons of kids had weird hair colours and no one cared, so there's that.
posted by pmv at 2:50 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Absolutely. Go f***ing nuts ... once you're twenty-five

Growing up (graduated in '93) I always thought the idea of tattoos were cool - and sort of verboten, as tattoo parlors were banned in Oklahoma until 2006. Of course, you could get one if you knew the right people to ask, and I saw a couple of garage-based "shops" that were nicer and cleaner and more sanitary than some places I've looked at here in Houston. For years, I said "I want something, but I don't know what to get because its so permanent and also I hate needles".

Had a minor midlife crisis thing when I turned 30. Got my left ear pierced, because, hey, it's reversible, right?

A bit of a tragedy happened four years later. With the help and support of MeFites and brethren at my Masonic Lodge, I made it through the worst times. I then realized I knew what my first tattoo needed - HAD - to be, and so I got it done the day after my birthday in 2009. That made me realize that it wasn't as painful as I'd expected, and as friends told me, "It's addictive." About a year later, I got my second bit of artwork. Also discovered the joys of hanging out with friends when everyone starts to show off the work they had done that you've never seen before - like one of my Masonic brothers who always wears a suit and tie, but underneath has more than twenty tattoos!

I'm blabbing on, but my point is - nobody should legislate what people can do with their own bodies. This applies to a lot of things, not just stuff that's skin or epidermis-deep.
posted by mrbill at 2:52 PM on August 27, 2013 [12 favorites]


Wow. This takes me back. I was a teen at this time, and I definitely remember the "long hair" harassment from the buzz-cut crowd, as well as the religious conservatives. Those guys had no clue what to do with the Jesus Freaks. Good Christian kids...but long hair!!!
posted by Thorzdad at 2:54 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


In '73 or '74 the assistant principal walked through the lunch room pulling aside all the boys whose hair was long enough to touch their ears and/or collar. He sent me home with a note saying I wasn't allowed back until I got a haircut. My mother was upset because she thought it was silly, and I had just gotten a haircut the weekend before, but that wasn't the hill she wanted to die on so she spent the 2 bucks or whatever it was and I was groomed into compliance with Mr. Overstreet's dictates. Now I have less hair than Mr. Overstreet did then, so that's irony for you.
posted by Daddy-O at 2:55 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Now, if 6 turned up to be 9,
I don't mind, I don't mind.
If all the hippies cut off their hair,
I don't care, I don't care.
Dig, 'cos I got my own world to live through
And I ain't gonna copy you.

White-collar conservatives flashing down the street
Pointing their plastic finger at me.
They're hoping soon my kind will drop and die,
But I'm gonna wave my freak flag high . . . HIGH!"
posted by symbioid at 3:08 PM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ah, the good old days. Between 1968 and 1971 (when the Army determine the length of my hair) I experienced: Being denied entrance to the Faba bar in toledo ohio because my hair was too long, being told on a regular basis (by cranky old men I didn't know) to "get a haircut" while walking down the street in Ypsilanti, Michigan, being treated poorly when I got my draft physical, and, making it worth every bit of it, having hair that was a magnet for any coed from Gross Pointe or Birmingham who wanted to upset their uptight parents by dating a Hippie.
posted by HuronBob at 3:11 PM on August 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


"Absolutely. Go f***ing nuts ... once you're twenty-five and you have a half a grasp on what permanent means."

I wish I could find the episode of This American Life that interviewed a woman who had done research on people's attitudes toward their tattoos. She found that an overwhelming majority do not regret their tattoos and say that their tattoos successfully serve the purpose for which they got them (even though the purposes vary widely).

She theorized that this might be in part the cognitive thing where people come up with rationalizations and justifications for big irreversible decisions. Like when people who spend $500 on a PS3 become passionately convinced that the Xbox sucks.
posted by straight at 3:12 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Honestly, to me, a tattoo is a representation of what you were at a given point in time. That may be regretable to a certain subset of the population (reformed nazis, satanists turned evangelist) but for most people, I think, they will carry it with them, even if it is a bit cheesy, acknowledging that, hey, at one point this was me, even if it isn't anymore. Like - I'm no longer an anarchist, but I still want to get the tattoo because at one point I was, and it was deeply informative to my world view and I wanted one, so I won't deny myself one just because I no longer am, but to signal that this was a part of my evolution as a being.
posted by symbioid at 3:18 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]



Are you a boy or are you a girl?
With your long blonde hair you look like a girl
(Yeah, you look like a girl!)
You may be a boy (Hey!) you look like a girl . . .

Like, Long Hair

Almost cut my hair
Happened just the other day
It's gettin' kinda long
I coulda said it was in my way
But I didn't and I wonder why
I want to let my freak flag fly
And I feel like I owe it to someone . . .

People ask me everywhere
Is that really all your hair?

Take two words like "hip" and "square"
The truth will shine and not your hair
Black or blonde or nappy or fair
You can't judge nobody by hair . . .
posted by Herodios at 3:23 PM on August 27, 2013


My son's high school just sent out a message to the effect of "no boobs, no butts, and no bellies". Seems pretty girl-specific, but other than that, they are pretty easy going about dress/presentation. My daughter just wrapped up jr high and high school having blue/green and/or pink hair, and nobody ever said a word. Occasionally, I'll see a student with a tat, but for the most part, I don't think it's enough of an issue to create additional policy. A few years back, they had a half hearted "no hoodie" policy, but it never really flew. I mean, everyone wears hoodies.

I went to Catholic school in the 80s, and they had a reasonable, if boring dress code. Hair for boys had to be collar or shorter length. Never really a big deal. Spiky hair and Flock of Seagull flips were somewhat in fashion. So of course, I had to shave my head. It did raise some eyebrows among faculty, but when they found that my bald head had no particular meaning, it was all good.

A few weeks back I went to my kid's high school photo studio to order some reprints, and there was a notice on the wall for grad pic policy of several local Catholic schools. Curiously, among the forbidden hairstyles for boys was shaved heads.
posted by 2N2222 at 3:24 PM on August 27, 2013



Me and my brother were talking to each other
'Bout what makes a man a man
Was it brain or brawn, or the month you were born
We just couldn't understand

Our old man didn't like our appearance
He said that only women wear long hair

So me and my brother borrowed money from Mother
We knew what we had to do
We went downstairs, past the barber and gymnasium
And got our arms tattooed

Welcome to my life, tattoo
I'm a man now, thanks to you
I expect I'll regret you
But the skin graft man won't get you
You'll be there when I die
Tattoo . . .
posted by Herodios at 3:26 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Crews vs Cloncs was the similar case at my high school. Long before my time, fortunately.
posted by enf at 3:32 PM on August 27, 2013


When I was in high school, we had a couple kids with tattoos. The usual exchange was "Oh, you have a tattoo," "Yep, it's a (thing)", "Cool." So not especially disruptive. Far more disruptive was the teachers who'd come roaring in like a Stuka if they happened to glance ink and start screaming about tattoos and dress codes and how they were going to regret it when they were 55, letting us know that having a tattoo was a surefire way to annoy the shit out of the faculty. And temporary tattoos were becoming a thing/fad then, so became a great way to troll teachers into an apoplectic reaction, far more disruptive than the kid with the (real) tattoo.

2N222, if those schools do hair-based drug testing, that's probably why. My school announced they'd be doing hair-based drug testing and a mysterious number of boys came back with shaved heads the next day, followed by a sudden and mysterious ban on shaved heads as a hairstyle. As above with the tattoos, this could occasionally be a distraction, as when a teacher went full fangs-out at a kid with a shaved head who revealed in a quiet voice that he had cancer after several minutes of screaming. He still tried to give the kid detention for lying and, when his parents came in with proof he actually did have cancer, changed it to "usurping classroom authority." Fortunately, the administration was better at PR than he was.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:35 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Huh. Baby dyke that I was, one school I went to tried to force me to wear a long-hair wig to hide my flat-top. The time several (also female) dorm monitors tried to hold me down to apply makeup didn't work, either. This was after the school confiscated all my pants.

I haven't owned a single item of women's clothing since (other than one beaded gown for the occasional drag show). So we can see how well presentation rules by force pan out.
posted by Dreidl at 3:40 PM on August 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


Ghostride The Whip, I suppose hair-based drug testing might be a reason for a no shaved heads policy. Never occurred to me. But holy fuck, high school drug testing seems several degrees of fucked up beyond a stiff dress code!
posted by 2N2222 at 3:46 PM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


but for most people, I think, they will carry it with them, even if it is a bit cheesy, acknowledging that, hey, at one point this was me, even if it isn't anymore.

which is fine if all you've got is an A with a circle around it, maybe on your shoulder. Stuff like this on the other hand is going to determine who you are to some degree for quite some time.
posted by philip-random at 3:54 PM on August 27, 2013


Back to High School civics with this author.


Not only does our founding document say nothing about allowing the state to control what its citizens do with its bodies....


the states have general police power in our system, and can do whatever they want subject to the rights incorporated by the 14th amendment and the due process and equal protection. eg, the state has plenary power where the constitution is silent.

(bear in mind I'm not defending the state, which probably is running afoul of the first amendment and/or some unenumerated right. I shouldn't have to say that, but internet and all)
posted by jpe at 3:57 PM on August 27, 2013


I always wondered what would actually happen if you just abolished school dress codes. Near-nudity? Racist or drug-oriented t-shirts? Yeah, some kids will do that. Your average neurotic schoolkid isn't going to want to wear something that gets them mocked or hated, though, are they? You'd probably see a lot of pajama pants and sloppy clothes. Like college.

My weird hippy-dippy alternative highschool was like this. There were boys who wore dresses, furries(not full fursuit stuff, but like paws/tails/ears/etc), and several people who regularly wore EXTREMELY revealing outfits that made me think of Eve Salvail's clear plastic skirt in the fifth element. There were also a few people who wore properly banned stuff like trenchcoats and capes and "things you can hide teh weaponz under!". And of course there were a few oogle/gutterpunk types.

The world did not burn. Yea some people wore drug shirts, no one wore racist shirts. You probably would have gotten a foot inserted in your ass and asked to go home and possibly never come back if you did.

Your final line about pajama pants and sloppy clothes is spot on. Plenty of people wore stylish hipstery stuff, rave gear, or weird stuff like that in kinda put-together "effort obviously went in to this" outfits they might not get away with other places. But tons of people had days where they did, or were people who just generally threw on whatever was on the floor and slogged in.

I spent an entire winter wearing a giant jacket like the one in that macklemore video that i probably would have gotten thrown out of any other for highschool because i could have hidden like 6 AK-47s in there.

There were a lot of stupid rules along those lines that school utterly discarded, and the world never burned down. In fact the only problems i ever saw there were from bizarre decisions the administration made, or selective enforcement of weird rules they came up with of their own accord.
posted by emptythought at 4:06 PM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm a few years younger than HuronBob. High school was 'fall 70 to spring of '75 and up here in ND nothing, I mean nothing, got the old men and guys my dads age just fucking INFLAMED was long hair. My dad could have given a shit but my uncle Bob would grind his teeth at the sight of my brother and I, with our hair falling down to our shoulders. It was sweet.
posted by Ber at 4:20 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


The only subdermal implantations I have, piercings, and scars are not on purpose, unplanned, and mostly accidents from farm work. I would never do that on purpose. Badges of accidental honor, not deliberate inking of some image of the time. We seem to be building a new culture of body mods for (in my view), pretty shallow reasons. P.S. Hats off to the Maori.
posted by primdehuit at 4:33 PM on August 27, 2013


My reply would be, "Absolutely. Go f***ing nuts ... once you're twenty-five and you have a half a grasp on what permanent means."

I'm puzzled by the "hurf durf careful it's permanent" objection to tattoos. It's just a body. If I get to be 50 and care what I look like enough to feel a serious-business emotion like regret about my appearance, then either I will have infinite regret-capacity, fucked-up priorities, or the next 25 years will have been really uneventful.

The effects of heroic keg-stands, or lack of contraception, can be permanent in a meaningfully negative way, and the old folks who are insecure enough about their own acquired wisdom and experience that they feel the need to spout wise in the same way we've heard millions of times (the wisdom of experience isn't very valuable to most listeners unless it's non-generic experience, free of cliche and unquestioned received prejudice and bullshit) would do well to redirect their admonitions where they fucking matter. So: "CONDOMS AND BIKE HELMETS AT ALL TIMES" good, "HURF DURF DO NOT DO MINOR THINGS THAT YOU WILL LATER FIND UNATTRACTIVE IF YOU END UP HAVING THE SAME TASTE AS ME HYPOTHETICALLY" not-so-good.

If you want to get some ink, make sure the needle involved is professionally clean, and fucking have at it. Your appearance is our problem (if we make it that way), not yours. (I don't even think there's much of an exception for, like, white power tattoos. An 18-year-old who is enough of a douche to want a white power tattoo is an old enough douche to live with their tattoo's consequences.)

I rather like my (barely-still-visible, as it happens) by-drunk-17-year-olds-for-drunk-17-year-olds ink-bottle-and-(fresh-from-the-sterile-package)-syringe tattoos. I rather like my professional ones, too. I should hope that, even if I stop liking them, the magnitude of my emotional reaction to them never exceeds the "meh" which is the maximum they warrant. Anyone else is free to have whatever opinion of folks' tattoos that they want, and they're free to voice such opinions, and (in the case of my tattoos, anyway), such commentary might be welcome, provided it's new and interesting and not the same tired old meaningless unreflective bullshit that they're probably only saying because they've heard similar things millions of times themselves.
posted by kengraham at 4:42 PM on August 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


Followup:
Disclaimer, I haven't cut my hair, or shaved since the mid '80s, my dad used to take us to town for haircuts when we screwed up on the farm, for punishment. I never could get into that nice, clean feeling I see others get when they go to the barber. FTWIW, it was kind of Laugh In, Archie Bunker time. I tell all my nieces and nephews this is how I'm made and supposed to look, and they seem to look at me like some big bearded, long-haired, very interesting uncle. This is progress, because I got in all kinds of trouble looking the same in the '70s.
posted by primdehuit at 4:43 PM on August 27, 2013


I always wondered what would actually happen if you just abolished school dress codes.

Some kids will wear red, others will wear blue, and pretty soon the guns will come out. At least that was the scene back when I was being a teacher's aid.

Myself, I'm just happy the piercings and implants aren't gps trackers and internet monitors. Yet.
posted by happyroach at 4:45 PM on August 27, 2013


Also, primdehuit reminds me that, if you're rigged for epic beard-growing and you're not doing it, get on that shit for those of us who can't. (I am 25 and my ability to understand permanence greatly exceeds my ability to grow a proper beard.)
posted by kengraham at 4:45 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ay my HS, shorts were what would get you sent home, do not pass Go
posted by thelonius at 4:46 PM on August 27, 2013


Badges of accidental honor, not deliberate inking of some image of the time. We seem to be building a new culture of body mods for (in my view), pretty shallow reasons.

I'd rather have a culture that celebrates interesting art than one that involves a depraved notion like "honor".
posted by kengraham at 4:51 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Some kids will wear red, others will wear blue, and pretty soon the guns will come out. That was the rationale (IIRC) for most of the dress-code stuff in my school days (80s/90s); hats were forbidden for that reason as well. (Somehow I was able to get away with a brown wool fedora, most of the time.)
posted by epersonae at 4:55 PM on August 27, 2013


Ah, the good old days.

When I went back to see the family for Christmas in my second year of college in 1968, I took a train from Seattle to Chicago, a train that had four cars of extremely bored and rowdy draftees, fresh from boot camp, between me and the dining car. And I had hair to my shoulders.

Oh, man. What a gauntlet that was to run. The jeers, the cat calls, the thrown garbage. And then when I got to the dining car, they wouldn't serve me, so rinse and repeat through the same four cars back to my seat. Once was enough -- I ate from vending machines at the longer station stops for the rest of the trip.

A year later, on my one hitchhiking big road trip from Plainfield, Vermont back to Seattle, I caught a ride from Buffalo to San Francisco along Route 66. And, on the second morning of that ride, against my best advice, the medical student giving me the lift thought it would be cool if we had breakfast at a Denny's in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

The waitress wouldn't even look at me and asked the medical student 'what does he want?' while someone -- and this was when it cost a 25¢ a song, mind you -- poured about five dollars worth of quarters in the juke box in order to play Merle Haggard's The Fighting Side of Me for the whole time we were there. In a dead silent room.

Hair was such a big, big deal then.
posted by y2karl at 5:12 PM on August 27, 2013 [18 favorites]


primdehuit reminds me that, if you're rigged for epic beard-growing and you're not doing it, get on that shit for those of us who can't.

My beard turned a year old just a couple of weeks ago. By that I mean, I've worn a beard since I was 18 (minus 3 months around age 22 when I had to shave for a job that I didn't stay at for very long). But I used to keep it trimmed, usually around a #2 clipper guard length. About 18 months ago I decided to just stop doing that and grow it out. Then I was going in for a job interview and thought maybe I should trim it back. Did that, didn't get the job, haven't trimmed it since. (Well, my barber shapes it a tiny bit, but the length is basically a year of growth at this point.)

It's fun to have a giant beard. I already stood out in a crowd before, but NOW! Epic fun. I get comments from people all the time, none of them are ever negative, most of them are admiring.

If you have never grown a giant beard, I heartily recommend it.
posted by hippybear at 6:00 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


She found that an overwhelming majority do not regret their tattoos and say that their tattoos successfully serve the purpose for which they got them (even though the purposes vary widely).

She theorized that this might be in part the cognitive thing where people come up with rationalizations and justifications for big irreversible decisions. Like when people who spend $500 on a PS3 become passionately convinced that the Xbox sucks.


This strikes me as really infantilizing, paternalistic, and just generally tiresome/judgemental/weird. Anything in that venn diagram zone.

It's like, ok i don't totally understand why you'd do something i wouldn't do and i don't agree that it's "normal". So i'm going to come up with an explanation to why your thought process must be clouded/otherwise impaired because no sane right minded adult would do That Thing I Don't Like.

Maybe they're ok with them and genuinely enjoy them, and that weird narrative of how they're just deluding themselves in to thinking it's ok so they don't feel bad about it or regret it is complete schlock?
posted by emptythought at 6:12 PM on August 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have worn a braided ponytail since college—so like for thirty years. In a beautiful old, red Halston hatbox I keep my collection of braided ponytails—each one representing a cataclysmic change in my life, typically requiring an involuntary drastic change in my appearance or at least my morning ritual: my divorce, losing my business, hurricane Katrina, almost dying. There are five of them, all braided, spanning three decades.

Pretty much my whole adult life I've lived with a stereotype that wasn't particularly accurate. I was assumed to be older than I am; the hippie movement was born in the Sixties, as was I. Most of the real hippies were boomers and I was technically after the boom. The nice upshot of that is everyone thinks I look great for my age. It was also always assumed that I could get you pot. I can't. I couldn't then, I still can't.

btw, I get a lot of crap for not donating my ponytails to Locks of Love and other such organizations. They do not seem to me to be good stewards of either the financial rewards of such donations, or even of just friggin' hair.

When people ask why I have always had a braided ponytail, I tell them the truth. I hate haircuts.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:24 PM on August 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


Toekneesan, that's a wonderful picture.

hippybear: I will affix each of my wispy, tentative chin-pubes to the trailer-hitch of a demon racecar driven by the Anti-Barber, and request that the gentleman start his engines, if this is what it takes to summon forth the full hirsutitude of my hitherto undistinguished jaw and join you in Beardtopia.
posted by kengraham at 6:39 PM on August 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a couple of braids from my hair saved, from bad moments in the '70s when I would still cut it during traumatic times. I always braid it 3 or 5 just to keep it out of my way outside. Also http://www.metafilter.com/user/142512, keep the faith (to quote Tavis Smiley), I didn't get a real beard until I was 25, still don't have any chest/back hair. Just a big long beard. Viking Heritage.
posted by primdehuit at 7:26 PM on August 27, 2013


http://www.metafilter.com/user/142512
Badges of accidental honor. I'm sorry, I didn't mean any military stuff with that, only to say farm life is dangerous to life and limb(s). We in the midwest know farm machinery is more dangerous than most stuff. I personally have brothers who have lost limbs (leg, thumb) from machines that just do what they do. Kind of like our other brothers in the middle east that have to deal with horrible shit on a daily basis. Touché., mon ami
posted by primdehuit at 7:46 PM on August 27, 2013


I don't recall anyone ever being sent home for wearing or failing to wear anything in high school. I frequently wore a tie-died shirt with huge magic mushrooms and pot leaves on it, and no one cared in the least. I also recall a classmate who routinely sported an outfit consisting of a belly shirt, short-shorts, and thigh-highs with garters.
[...]
Sorry, what were we talking about again?
posted by 1adam12 at 8:13 PM on August 27, 2013


Are earrings on guys even "cool" right now? Not the kind that are big enough to run CAT-5 through, I mean...

Answer: Emphatically yes. It's a great look. I'm a minimalist here, one point of decoration is nicer than ten.

My only alteration is my right ear pierced. I had it done at SF Pride in 1990. I've worn my late husband's diamond there for over 20 years. I have no interest in tattoos or piercings otherwise, for myself. But a guy with earring(s) that fit his look is nice.
posted by wallabear at 8:17 PM on August 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


born in 1959. Hit grade eight in 1972 (the start of high school in my lost corner of suburban Canada). The shit hit the weekend before school started. No way would my dad let me out of the house with hair over my ears, or wearing torn and faded jeans. So I arrived in this new social zone with an awkward mess of a hair cut (not exactly short, definitely not remotely long enough), and wearing brow cord pants. Meanwhile, everybody who was anybody had their hair long, their jeans shredded (I'm talking guys here). It took me at least two years to recover from that.
posted by philip-random at 8:21 PM on August 27, 2013


Hmmm...I'm 30 and I have a full sleeve and each side of my ribs done. I didn't start acquiring tattoos until I was 25. My parents (in their late '60s) pretend that I don't have them, and won't let me wear short sleeves around extended family. My tattoos aren't offensive and are very well executed: I went to talented artists after I had spent at least a year deciding on each design.

As a small and very not-intimidating mostly heterosexual female, I get a lot of questions. A lot of people, especially around my age give or take 10 years, are impressed and excited to talk about my ink. Guys I have dated...that's more complicated. Even guys that I've been with who have tattoos of their own haven't been overly-happy with my sleeve. One guy I went on a few dates with told me that I was going to get old and my ink would be saggy and ugly one day and I would regret it all. My current SO, who has no tattoos but secretly wants several (hello generation gap!) originally had kind of an inquisitive yet "I just don't know..." feeling about my tattoos. I told him I had them before we were together, and that they weren't going anywhere, but where he was going was up to him. He likes them now, and likes to tell me I'm beautiful and sexy and all that, so I figure they can't have been that much of a turn-off for him.

FWIW, I have no piercings. Just never got around to it.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 8:28 PM on August 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Girls in 1968 Nevada had to wear dresses to school. They could wear pants underneath to protect from the cold on the way to school (no bus then), but those had to be removed for school. Clearly, the school authorities were out of their depth.
posted by telstar at 8:47 PM on August 27, 2013


Sorry about the snark, primdehuit. Got confused! Sometimes the words do their free-associating thing; was picturing like dueling scars and whatnot. But yes: I agree that having marks on one's body that tell the story of where one's body has been and what it's been up to is a whole different kettle of fish from putting art on one's body.
posted by kengraham at 8:49 PM on August 27, 2013


Maybe they're ok with them and genuinely enjoy them, and that weird narrative of how they're just deluding themselves in to thinking it's ok so they don't feel bad about it or regret it is complete schlock?

Well it's schlock in my case. I got a tattoo in my early 20s. Twenty years on I don't regret it at all. Most of the time I forget I even have it as it's on my lower back so don't see it all the time. When I do catch a glimpse of it or someone else does and comments (it's very unique and humorous) it makes me smile and feel good. It represents a certain era of my life. It takes me back to the younger me and all things that was good from that time. It's like a symbolic connection to it and the larger story behind it.
posted by Jalliah at 9:26 PM on August 27, 2013


Yeah, you know I think the ones you get not on purpose are the ones you get to tell your kids/nieces/nephews about and become an awesome Uncle. Unless their dad is missing a part, then you have to make up with other stories, of which I have many...
posted by primdehuit at 10:16 PM on August 27, 2013


Now I have less hair than Mr. Overstreet did then, so that's irony for you.

You can pull the Hunter S. Thompson move on him!
posted by Meatbomb at 12:04 AM on August 28, 2013


I got my last haircut on October 28, 1965 at 7:20pm. I was a 12 year old girl who just wanted to have long straight hair. Not short, permed up, or hairsprayed. That evening after dinner, my parents told me to get in the car. They drove to the hair salon that did my mother's hair— it was usually closed at that hour. My parents had colluded with the hairdresser to bring me in after hours for a forced haircut. While my father held me down, while I kicked and cried, my hair was cut from 18 inches to 4 inches. To add insult, a curly permanent was applied, followed by ratting and hairspray.

I washed that shit outta my hair that night and cried and cried. I hated what I saw in the mirror, a beaten down, dowdy, middle aged woman instead of a young girl. A few days later in despondency, I ate some drano trying to end my miserable life. I survived though, and vowed that never again would anyone cut my hair. It took me nearly 20 years to be able to speak of this incident without completely breaking down. I never forgave my parents.

My hair now tickles my ankles when I stand up and I support the rights of people to look the way they wanna look. And now that I really am an old woman, teens come up to me and say, "cool locks" all the time.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 1:11 AM on August 28, 2013 [15 favorites]


I'm puzzled by the "hurf durf careful it's permanent" objection to tattoos.

I'm not.

Lots of people have big, bold and often of-the-moment tattoos. A recent UK study (a small study, of people already seeing a dermatologist) showed that one third of people regret their tattoos. A 2006 study at Northwestern found a quarter of people regret their tattoos. A 2008 study from Harris Interactive put it at 16% among (US) respondents. The UK study found that nearly half of people got their tattoos between the ages of 18 and 25.

Both of the first two studies found that people who had been tattooed under 18 were more likely to regret it. In the British study, people who had had their upper body tattooed were more likely to regret it.

It's not always top of mind when you're 18 how you're going to feel about stuff when you're a decade or two older. Writing as someone with a twenty year old tattoo I'm lucky I still like, when you go to the beach at somewhere like Brighton (UK) it's like a festival of ugly tattoos.

OK, so beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But I'm willing to bet that there will be a larger spike in tattoo removal in the future than the one we see now, where one of the strongest influencing factors is still downward social pressure from employers, clients etc who still have some of the older view of tattoos being.. uncouth. It's still the generation ahead of today's 18-40 year olds who call the shots on the acceptability of tattoos.

We're a couple of decades into tattooing as a mainstream trend. In theory, all those people who got inked through the nineties and noughties will soon be or are parents, managers, teachers etc who make the rules and attitudes should not just change a little, as they have done already, but a lot.

My bet is though that kids born within the last five years will see a generation of adults inked up and ageing and decide that they want to be different and it's not a look they want, because that is what kids always do. At that point, tattoos will become less fashionable because of upward social pressure and the net result is that people with less aesthetic, more generic and/or more obvious tattoos will feel more self-conscious about them at the same time they start losing the body beautiful.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:43 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


In theory, all those people who got inked through the nineties and noughties will soon be or are parents, managers, teachers

They already are. I know I'm in something of a bubble here in San Francisco, but a ton of people ten/15 years either side of my age (late 40s) are tattooed and are parents and are employed. I work at a think-tanky kind of place and have a tattoo that visible when I wear short sleeves; I got it my second year or so into this job and nobody batted an eye.

When I first moved to SF, I worked at what was then the only Whole Foods in the city. According to our employee handbook, tattoos had to be coverable by sleeves and pants, no facial piercings were allowed, and hair had to be a "natural" color. Ha ha ha ha.
posted by rtha at 5:46 AM on August 28, 2013


In theory, all those people who got inked through the nineties and noughties will soon be or are parents, managers, teachers

So this weekend, I was doing an ROTC orientation/training exercise. A hundred cadets in total, about half of them brand-new to the program. One of the senior cadets is a mild-mannered kid (okay, he's 21 and about to be a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, but I'm old, so he's a kid) who smiles a lot and cracks jokes a lot more than he yells. He'll make an excellent staff officer, but you don't imagine him standing atop a tank leading the attack on Cobra headquarters, if you know what I mean.

And then on the third day, he gets into the short-sleeves-and-short-pants physical training uniform, and you realize he's about three nights' work from having full sleeves on all four limbs. No skulls or knives or full-color tableaus or anything like that -- mostly various types of foreign writing and pictographs and the like, but he's 80 percent ink from shoulders to wrists and hips to ankles. The new cadets treated him obviously differently after that, and it really struck me how even kids born in the '90s still don't entirely think of tattoos as just another thing that you see sometimes. There's still that exotic tinge to them that can change your mind about someone.
posted by Etrigan at 6:05 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


...At that point, tattoos will become less fashionable because of upward social pressure and the net result is that people with less aesthetic, more generic and/or more obvious tattoos will feel more self-conscious about them at the same time they start losing the body beautiful.

I don't think I dispute anything in this comment, but what does it have to do with obnoxious, patronizing admonitions via which Person A presumes to predict Person B's future mental state? One would think that Person B's possible, or even likely, future regret is not of sufficient concern to Person A to warrant being smug and obnoxious. Moreover, to whatever extent someone's tattoo regrets are the result of being treated negatively because of tattoos, such comments contribute to the problem they are (if actually made in good faith) trying to address.

There's still that exotic tinge to them that can change your mind about someone.

That's true, although it greatly depends where you are, I think. When I lived in [large cities], the only tattoos I ever saw draw comment (other than admiration of new ink among friends) were elaborate, kind of sinister full-facial tattoos on a guy we'd see at our metro stop frequently. Now that I live in [smallish college town], my comparatively tame and pedestrian lower arm ink is something my students (who are mostly in their early 20s and mostly haven't lived many places) comment on. I think tattoos are mostly remarkable to folks whose social experience is pretty homogenous and to folks who want to hate on what they consider weird (even if, as MuffinMan points out, it's hopelessly obsolete to think of tattoos as anything other than pretty conformist, at least from the point of view of the culture at large).
posted by kengraham at 6:24 AM on August 28, 2013


Girls in 1968 Nevada had to wear dresses to school. They could wear pants underneath to protect from the cold on the way to school

Yeah, my wife used to tell about the chillblains and bladder infections she and her sisters would get having to walk to school in dresses and crappy shoes in deepest, Devonian winter, but hey it's more important for girls to look proper than to actually stay healthy.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:34 AM on August 28, 2013


If you have never grown a giant beard, I heartily recommend it.

Been there, done that, had the beardfro. It was fun, but I'm happy having a somewhat less conspicuous beard now. I did get asked once, in a shoarma joint after a night of heavy drinking, whether I perhaps was some sort of Muslim holy man, but I can't remember ever being hassled about it.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:42 AM on August 28, 2013


Yeah, my wife used to tell about the chillblains and bladder infections she and her sisters would get having to walk to school in dresses and crappy shoes in deepest, Devonian winter.

My school - and I doubt I'm rare in that respect - used to make the boys wear shorts even in freezing weather with two feet of snow. The Children's Act of 1989 marked a notable change in whether schools could just disregard the welfare of kids against common sense.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:10 AM on August 28, 2013


My roommate is 22 and covered in tattoos, including one of Pac-Man eating a meatball sub. Unless he grows up to be a terrible person, I don't think he will ever regret the awesomeness of those tattoos.

I don't do tattoos, piercings, or anything really; I dislike having things on my body in general. But I think tattoos and piercings are awesome, and support people having them.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:11 AM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pac-Man eating a meatball sub

Like a cat in Ask, you must post a photo.

please?
posted by troika at 7:12 AM on August 28, 2013


troika: "My Latin teacher liked the aforementioned tattoo so much she gave me extra credit."

"Lemme show you my new ink! It's a tribal tattoo, pretty sweet, right?"
"Oh yeah? What tribe, huh?
"Palatina!" ( raises gladius )
posted by boo_radley at 8:09 AM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


My dad thinks that tattoos are "disfiguring," though he did begrudgingly acknowledge that my friend's huge, gorgeous octopus sleeve was the shit. He also told me he knew he was old when he started seeing kids with gauged ears and just Did Not Get It. He, of course, was a long-haired hippie himself back in the day... I get my flowing locks from him!

I love and am fascinated by body decoration of all kinds, from piercings and tattoos to clothes and haircuts to jewelry, everything. But I always kinda knew I'd be working in fairly conservative industries, so my ability to express this love is limited. I used to have blue hair, but I doubt my executive director would approve.

Regardless, I do have a couple of non-standard piercings that aren't visible in work clothes, and I have my tattoo in mind. I vowed way back in high school that I'd think about any tattoo idea for a full year before I got one- and thank god, because there're four or five tattoos that I used to want but think I'd regret now. But the latest idea, I've had for almost two years, and I still love it- all the plants and flowers from the yard of the house I grew up in, across my back.

Trouble is, to do it the way I want, we're talking over a thousand dollars, so it's on the back burner for now. But one day...

One guy I went on a few dates with told me that I was going to get old and my ink would be saggy and ugly one day and I would regret it all.

See, this is like... what does he think is gonna happen to the REST of your body? We all get old and saggy and faded, if we're so lucky as to live that long.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:42 AM on August 28, 2013


My parents (in their late '60s) pretend that I don't have them, and won't let me wear short sleeves around extended family.

I was 32, picked Mom up at the airport when she came to visit. "What's that in your ear?" "The earring I got two years ago, and posted pictures of, and told everyone about..." She just gave me That Look, even though she'd had "Permanent Makeup" done and I know she's got a butterfly on one of her thighs.

When I posted pictures of my first tattoo two years later, she surprised me. "That's awesome, and it looks really good! When I'm down visiting again, you want to go get more work done? We can go together!"

Ahh, parents. I love my Mom. :)
posted by mrbill at 12:08 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


At my Catholic high school, I wore a green Army uniform for JROTC. My quiet, barrel-chested classmate Clovis didn't do JROTC so he wore the pretty easy uniform of white short, gray ants, and a maroon tie in the winter.

He showed up for Senior year orientation (August 1989) but was turned away at the door because he was wearing a broad-brimmed black hat and a Full Amish-lookin' black beard. Oh, of course it was a deliberate challenge to the school's stated uniform/grooming policy, but it looked awwwwesome.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:20 PM on August 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ya know, I have no idea what the guy was going on about, but I had just whipped up on him on the tennis court in front of ALL THESE PEOPLE. I warned him I was a decent athlete; it didn't take, I guess. Honestly, I like my tattoos and never feel too self-conscious about them; maybe a little a few years ago when my SO was introducing me to his family, including the now-legal adult kids, and how they would view me. If I'm 75 years old and I've had a good life, I'll be the awesomest senior in the home; whatever. And as I get a little older, I have tried to be much more vigilant regarding my health and especially skin care (why yes, I would like some extra sunscreen and a hat and sunglasses, thank you).

mrbill, my mother came home for thanksgiving break her freshman year of college, which must have been 1964 or so, with pierced ears! Which she had pierced during a weekend spent at a friend's uni. In 1964, only CERTAIN KINDS OF GIRLS had their ears pierced, and apparently my grandparents held quite a grudge. My half-aunt, who is almost 10 years older than my mother, still doesn't have pierced ears; the younger aunts had my mom take the fall and pierced their ears when they went off to college. Funny how all that works.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 1:32 PM on August 28, 2013


Ghostride The Whip: "My school announced they'd be doing hair-based drug testing and a mysterious number of boys came back with shaved heads the next day, followed by a sudden and mysterious ban on shaved heads as a hairstyle."

Do they set a minimum length? I clip my head to 3/8ths of an inch every other week or so and that's pretty much as much hair as grows in those weeks. And of course the testing places just switch up to other body hair if your head is too short; were these guys shaving their eyebrows off too?

kengraham: "Also, primdehuit reminds me that, if you're rigged for epic beard-growing and you're not doing it, get on that shit for those of us who can't."

I've always wanted a full on dwarven beard that I could part in the middle and maybe weave a bead into on each side but my beard is really stiff and I can never get past a month or so when it starts poking into my chest and clothing (it's like velcro when it does; ouch).
posted by Mitheral at 9:50 PM on August 30, 2013


my beard is really stiff and I can never get past a month or so when it starts poking into my chest and clothing (it's like velcro when it does; ouch)

Two words: beard oil
posted by hippybear at 10:11 PM on August 30, 2013


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