• Long hair spells danger

    Why do we cut boys’ hair? Because girls have long hair and boys have short hair, that’s why. But why do we do it? That human hair grows is natural. It just happens. So why the scissors? Is baldness to blame? 

    As Canned Heat observed in 1968:

    The police in Denver, they don’t want none of them long hairs hangin’ around

    Some things don’t change much 

    I had a haircut today. You may have noticed I often like to wear my hair long. It goes right back to my teens, when I realised that the act of not cutting, but growing male hair was one of the most rebellious inactions available. 

    Grow your hair

    It was free. It was easy (it just happened). It was passive, which was useful if you were a pretty shy, retiring kind of kid. It was a way of yelling loudly at authority without actually yelling loudly at authority. 

    Now, I just like the look. My son is a mini me, so is often mistaken for a girl (My stubble gives me away). But it regularly reminds me how we culturally link hair length to gender by pruning our children accordingly. 


    It wasn’t always so. Look at Samson and his strength. Jesus Christ and all his disciples, wafting their locks. 17th century gentlemen and Indian braves. But somehow, ever since we began delousing soldiers with short back’n’sides, that’s been it for men. 

    Rather like the Western suit and tie, it’s gone global. When I do return to hairdressers, it’s with a hint of trepidation. I await the: I only do one kind of men’s cut, and that’s all coming off, son! 

    But of course, that’s only in my head. Right? Here’s to hirsute variety. After all, remember kids: 

    All hairdressers are in the employment of the government. Hairs are your aerials. They pick up signals from the cosmos and transmit them directly into your brain. This is the reason bald-headed men are uptight.

    Danny in Withnail & I

    While we’re on the subject of what boys should like, Boys Don’t Like Flowers

  • Boys don’t like flowers

    The first flowers of spring

    My son says to me: “Dads and boys don’t like flowers.” We’re standing in a carpet of crocuses and snowdrops in our back garden – the first flowers of spring.

    He’d heard it from a boy at nursery. I say, “I like flowers.” He says, “I do, too.” It’s a fleeting victory. I will lose the culture war. Men and boys don’t like flowers. But it was not always so.

    Red roses for me

    Whenever powerful men of the Persian or Ottoman empires were portrayed by painters, rather than a horse or a sword as a prop, they would invariably be holding a flower to their nose – often the rose.

    Floral scents were highly prized in the region – as, indeed, they are everywhere on Earth. To smell of roses, rather than of the more unsavoury things of life, was seen as civilised and, more specifically, gentlemanly.

    To give Western culture its due, the buttonhole lingers on alongside the floral tie as nods to a gentleman’s love of flowers – but these feel rather dated cultural expressions nowadays.

    Be sure to wear flowers in your hair

    When I read Robert Byron’s majestic 1930s travel book The Road to Oxiana, I came across a passage about his arrival in the western Afghan city of Herat that struck a similar chord. 

    He observed young Afghan tribesmen from the hills swaggering into town together, rifles slung over their shoulders – the epitome of young manhood. But they were also holding flowers in their hands or tucked behind their ears.

    I love this image. It seems inexplicable to me that nature – and beauty more broadly – should be disliked by men. Is our appreciation of beauty meant to end with women? 

    Next time you’re walking the dusty road, into Herat, or wherever, to sure to smell the roses…