Student View

(March 6, 1997, Gazette)

Hair! Minimal fuss characterizes student style

By Kathleen Lippa
At around this time last year, when Council of the Students' Union candidate poster photos were the brunt of every student joke, a guy with a mop of wild hair sauntered past the display of election posters in the hallway, making one of my classmates remark: "I'd vote for him!"

Whether or not Robert Mendoza's curly locks made the difference for his slim-margin victory last year is debatable. But there's definitely a shift towards more naturally flowing hairstyles on campus these days. Whether it's tied back, unevenly chopped, or shaved, student hair has thankfully stopped looking like the teased disasters from the 1980s. And because I welcome this relaxed hair trend, I've dedicated this space to the "fros" (puffy hairstyles) that refuse to be silenced by hairspray or crimped by bad perms.

None of the students who let me take their picture for this column had any idea what I was so worked up about. For them, hair is a non-issue. But I think what people do with their hair is fascinating. Neglected, stringy locks -- to use a most obvious example -- have been as characteristic of the grunge movement as any Nirvana album. In fact, the influence alternative music has had over so many young people in recent years can be measured by looking at hair alone.

Examining our personal hair history (going back to the day of the first big chop) can be painful. Looking back at the rise and fall of hair, we re-live a relationship's demise, or the day we decided who our favorite band was. In each case, there's a story behind the dramatic haircut, or the unwashed mess passing as a homage to Kurt Cobain. We may think our new style is "just something to do," but upon closer inspection there's always more to the hair story, and it usually involves wanting a change.

But here we are now, losing interest in dramatic hair cuts, and going for less anxious styles. We still drool over the hair celebrities and band members have, but we're pulling off our own versions with minimal fuss. When students add color now -- whether red, green or purple -- I don't think it's angry like punk was. Rebellion has given way to fun. Length is more about whether or not you have the money to get it cut, and less a reaction against society.

Who knows? Maybe the right haircut is all you need to get elected student president.

Kathleen Lippa is a fourth-year student from St. John's who is working on a double major in Russian and English. The photo which accompanied this column showed her on a good hair day.