Serving to straight white males look much less fascist was the very last thing I assumed I’d be doing after I began slicing hair at a queer-owned salon in Park Slope, Brooklyn, again in 2014.
However November eight, 2016, modified the whole lot, and never lengthy after Election Day one in all my shoppers got here in for a trim. Connor may go months between visits, and it was a shock to see him come again ahead of anticipated, asking for an adjustment to his lower. At a dinner together with his spouse and pals, he defined, he’d been advised he regarded like “one of many Breitbart guys.”
Two weeks earlier, I had given Connor an undercut. Though he didn’t ask for the lower by title, it match the outline of what he wished: a low-maintenance, easy-to-groom model that made him look good-looking. However the undercut has a backstory — and components of that story have been changing into more and more seen as white supremacists celebrated what they thought-about a breakout political triumph.
We love our race, the alt-right started to loudly proclaim. Additionally they love their undercuts — the “fashy” look, as fascists wish to name it. However many others have cherished the undercut earlier than them.
When the undercut grew standard within the German empire dominated by Prussian kings within the late 1800s, it was often called der Inselhaarschnitt — the island lower, in reference to the patch of hair sitting atop a shaved head. English road gangs, just like the Peaky Blinders in Birmingham, have been quickly sporting the identical model, and it made it to the US on the heads of working-class European immigrants.
As Hitler’s Third Reich rose to energy, its members embraced the undercut as a technique to join with the navy success of the Prussian armies that got here earlier than them. Later, it grew to become standard within the US Armed Forces, however within the wake of World Conflict II it grew to become related to wartime violence, and European males selected looser, quick hairstyles to counter the navy connection.
It resurfaced in black barbershops, the place fades and navy cuts reworked into edgy sharp types. The hi-top fade emerged partly out of the undercut in these barbershops throughout the 1980s and early ’90s, wrote Quincy Mills in Reducing alongside the Shade Line: Black Barbers and Barber Retailers in America, and was most popularized by the good of the cool, Grace Jones.
What’s fascinating is how one haircut has signified so many various issues, throughout totally different historic moments and totally different constituencies. As a queer stylist, it’s a lower I noticed in militaristic homoerotic images within the 1990s and vogue magazines within the 2000s. It’s a lower I’ve given many occasions at Badlands, the salon the place I work. It has been a part of the aesthetic language within the queer neighborhood for years, put to notably good use by individuals figuring out themselves as she or the nonbinary they/them. The lower is androgynous and sharp, and can be utilized in many various methods. It might pull lengthy hair away from femininity with out going into masculinity.
However with its new profile because the chosen lower of the white nationalists, it’s inflicting some white males to rethink a lower that has lengthy been within the mainstream of hipsterdom. It implies that the aesthetics of the racist alt-right made their manner into my salon in one of many US’s most liberal enclaves.
Which isn’t that shocking, as a result of no person has been resistant to the trauma of 2017. It performed out in my slicing chair simply because it did in bars and workplace blocks and all over the place else the place People behold our present second. The federal government is within the palms of racists, anti-gay and anti-trans bigots, misogynists, predators, and opportunists, and I’ve seen the outcomes. Connor’s want to keep away from bumping up in opposition to a particular model of maleness and whiteness was one in all some ways I noticed the political local weather articulated as I wielded my scissors and razors.
The transitions that happen in a hair salon could be very highly effective. In Connor’s case, the election made him need to distance himself from what he noticed as a fascist alliance. I additionally noticed it as a shifting perspective for Connor — from what he’s seeing to how he’s seen, each personally and politically. Altering your hair for political and even non secular functions isn’t new. Many communities and people have modified their hair when their neighborhood, identification, or values has come beneath assault. Shaved heads, pure hair, and quick hair have all been used as a language to precise politics and values.
In that context, what could seem to be a easy dialog a few snip, trim, chop, fade, shave, or layer usually has much more substance to it. At our salon, we work exhausting to embrace our queer neighborhood and make an area the place everyone is pleasant and no person tolerates hate. I’ve discovered consolation sharing private tales with my shoppers this 12 months, and sharing their moments of change whereas slicing their hair.
After the Orlando bloodbath, one in all my shoppers, a instructor, teared up in my chair as a result of nobody talked about the tragedy at work. He felt remoted and alone together with his grief, and mentioned he felt consolation on the way in which to his lower, realizing he was going to a spot the place the queer flag hung within the window.
That very same week, one other shopper got here in, and we talked about how androgynous haircuts assist articulate an individual’s transition from a female to a masculine look. I cherished that they have been selecting very particularly what articulated their identification, and that I could possibly be of service not solely to their “look” however their evolution.
Personally, I lower the edges of my hair quick and go away the again lengthy — which to my blissful shock made me extra visibly queer and extra in keeping with the ladies I used to be interested in. It additionally led to a buddy suggesting that I ought to let my hair develop out earlier than leaving on an upcoming journey to a rustic the place being a lesbian continues to be unlawful. ●
Patty Suarez is a New York primarily based artist and barber, working at Badlands Salon and Barbershop in Brooklyn. On Instagram she is @mrjulianray.