The Anti-Samson: My Haircut Story

Here is the true story of one long-term Buzztown reader and how he conquered his fear and improved his self-esteem by getting the haircut that he really wanted. Several readers have written to Buzztown saying how the site has given them the courage to try a new cut. If you just need a little more encouragement to get the cut you really want, this should do it.

Everyone knows the famous Biblical story of Samson, whose strength was tied to his long flowing hair. My experience has been the Anti-Samson; my strength and self-esteem flourished only after I buzzed my hair.

Boyhood trips to the barbershop were never pleasant for me. I always saw them as something being forced onto me, my appearance being altered without my permission and beyond my control. My parents always insisted on short, conservative hairstyles, no different from most other boys but not my choice either. It's not that I wanted long hair, but the haircut experience was always nerve-racking and rather traumatic for me. In retrospect, it's such a shame that I could not enjoy the male-bonding experience of boyhood haircuts in that bastion of masculinity--the barbershop. But I had no brothers to share this experience with, and the first day at school after a haircut was always a day of self-consciousness, hoping that no one would notice that I looked different (I guess I couldn't understand that, as haircuts are concerned, different was more likely to be better than worse).

When my parents felt that I was old enough to choose my own hair style, I generally wanted it as long as was socially acceptable, about collar length in the back with several inches on top and shorter on the sides (no bowl cuts, thank God). But as I got into junior high and high school, in the early nineties, buzzcuts were coming back big. All the football players had flattops, and I wanted one too, but, like many guys, I was afraid of making such a drastic change in my appearance, after a lifetime of being self- conscious about getting a regular haircut much less a drastic one. The buzzcut fad never really died out either. By the time I was a senior in high school, flattops were still the norm for the most popular guys in school. But, of course, not every guy had a buzzcut. I was kind of a shy, studious kid, never confident enough to go out for varsity sports, so I stayed with the safe, preppy business-length cut, although inside I wanted nothing more than to jump in that barber chair and let the clippers buzz and the hair fly.

This was nothing more than a symptom of my low self-esteem. Because I didn't feel that I was good enough to be accepted by the jocks, I couldn't allow myself to look like them, either. But I certainly wanted to, and pretty bad. When I finally graduated from high school, I was among the top students, so I got to give a speech at graduation; the theme of my oratory was the letting go of the high school experience and how everyone has the opportunity to start anew now in the real world.

The night of my high school graduation, I headed out with my best friends, along with most of my graduating class in a number of separate cliques, to Florida for our big "Senior Trip." I knew that this trip was symbolic of now being free of the tortures of high school life, and it had occurred to me that I was now free to get the haircut of my choice, but I wasn't sure when I planned to act on this. But, one day, the thought entered my mind--what better time to cut my hair than now, on the trip that was supposed to symbolize my new freedom? So I pulled out the yellow pages in our beachside motel and turned to barbers. One ad stuck out at me--for Absolute Tops Barber Shop--because it said that they specialized in military cuts. I told my friends, "I'm going to cut my hair and it's going to be SHORT." I also called my parents, as I had been instructed to do on this, perhaps my first long- distance unchaperoned trip, and told them I was cutting it very short and not to be shocked when I got home (I had never expressed to them before that I even wanted to buzz my hair).

So, I got in my car, all alone as it had to be, and drove down to Absolute Tops. I walked in and was surprised to find a more salon-like atmosphere with female barbers (this is a military barbershop?). This wasn't the way I had fantasized about finally cutting my hair--which I thought would be in my hometown barbershop where all the jocks got their flattops--but nothing could stop me now. I waited my turn, and I told the stylist Lori that I wanted a flattop. She questioned me, trying to make sure I really wanted what I was telling her. I wanted to say, "You don't know how long I've been waiting for this haircut?" So, finally, the haircut commenced, and Lori cut it pretty much as I had wanted. It was a very short flattop, though not completely down to the skin. This was fine with me because I knew that, even though I personally would like to have gone shorter, I was still among my classmates and the haircut would have created talk. So, even though the whole thing was supposed to be part of the "new me," I was still tied to worrying about what others might say. For some reason, even though I knew the comments would not be negative, I was just afraid of drawing attention to myself; it would seem so "unlike me."

I arrived back at the motel newly shorn. My friends, of course, had to take a look and all said they liked it. I went inside our room all alone and just stood in front of the mirror to get a long, good look for the first time. I was really happy with the way I looked, the haircut I had literally dreamed about for five years.

Later that night, we planned to go to a club where the whole class was going to be, so, still a bit insecure and self-conscious, I opted to wear a baseball cap to reduce the attention. But when we arrived, the bouncer at the club decried that all hats had to be left in a box at the door. So, there I was, with no choice but to reveal my new flattop. It really did look great, but I was still self-conscious. But surprisingly little was said about my haircut, and what was said was positive.

I came back from that trip, finally, a new man. My parents said that they had expected to dislike it, but that it looked great on me. What I eventually realized is that I have the right head shape for a flattop and that the square look of the cut suits my otherwise roundish face to at T; and since I had cowlicks in the back, the buzzed look eliminated that problem. For the rest of the summer, I was in the barber chair every two-to-three weeks getting my flattop trimmed.

I went to college in the fall in a different state where I knew no one. I was comfortable arriving with a buzzcut because nobody knew me any other way--it was the change that I had feared before. I continued to keep a buzzed haircut and experimented with different--in fact, just about all--buzzed styles. I tried the crewcut, the high and tight, the regulation cut, even a total shaved head. At this point, a buzzcut was expected of me, and nothing shocked anyone.

My buzzed haircut sort of became my trademark. My new friends at college mostly had business length haircuts--although buzzed styles were pretty common overall on our campus--and my haircut is what made me different among them. Eventually, it really became a pride issue--I was no longer self-conscious about my haircut, I was damn proud of it. One of my college friends recently saw a picture of me in high school--pre-buzzcut--and commented at how dramatically a haircut had changed my appearance and that I looked like a completely different person.

One summer after the college semester ended, I decided to enlist in the Marine Corps Reserve. This had been a longtime goal of mine, one that I had lacked the courage and self-esteem to tackle before. It wouldn't be a big stretch to say that getting a buzzcut gave me the confidence to do this, since I now felt more masculine and powerful than I ever had before. Finally, I looked like a tough, masculine man--not the bland, wimpy kid from high school. I don't know--maybe my desire for a buzzed haircut had been somehow subliminally tied to my desire to become a Marine--but, on the surface at least, there was no direct connection between my fondness for a buzzed hairstyle and the regulation haircut of the military. Anyway, now that I was a Marine, the haircut was now a mandatory part of my life, and my pride has only increased. Another perk of being in the military is that anyone who might have a problem with the severity of my haircut automatically excuses it because of my military obligations.

Most people think that Marines are required to have high and tights or flattops, which is really not true. In fact, Marines can have their hair on top as long as three inches, as long as it is faded to zero at the hairline around the neck and ears. So, essentially, if he so chooses, a Marine can wear a rather long taper cut, one of the longest and least-extreme buzzed styles. But, the truth of the matter is, most Marines share my pride in short hair and wear hairstyles much, much shorter than required (perhaps this is why people assume they are required to have haircuts so short). In fact, totally shaved heads and sometimes even extremely short styles, such as the horseshoe and the recon high-and-tight, have been known to be discouraged by certain commanders. But even if they don't personally like the style, most Marines opt for very short haircuts as a sort of professional pride of what they have accomplished and who they are. When you see two or more guys together with nearly identical buzzcuts, you are most likely looking at Marines; the haircut is a badge of honor and recognition.

I am now wearing a horseshoe flattop, one of the most extremely short hairstyles this side of a totally shaved head. I have no plans to get rid of it, even as I enter the corporate world after my education is completed. I know that many companies discourage buzzed styles, but I plan to fight this as much as possible. I don't want to grow out my flattop. It's part of who I am now, and I think it is symbolic--if not literal--proof of my personal growth in the self-esteem area.

So, unlike Samson in the Bible, my inner strength did not disappear when I cut my hair. Quite the opposite--only when I cut my hair did my inner strength finally manifest itself and allow me to reach my full potential.

I know that many guys write to Buzztown and Hairnet Hotline with anxious desires to cut their hair, fearful of the reaction. I can only encourage that if you want a haircut, then by all means, get a haircut. It's not a big deal, and the reaction will be almost surely positive and almost certainly not nearly as dramatic as you imagine. I think my story is a bit of the extreme; a haircut probably won't change your life. But a few things are guaranteed. You will look better. You will feel better about yourself. You will realize that your own preferences about your personal appearance should outweigh anyone else's. You will at least learn a little personal lesson that, if you can get up the guts to do something you want to do but are afraid to do, you can probably conquer other, more monumental, fears in your life. And, oh yeah, you'll have one awesome haircut.

If you're like me and most other buzzcut guys, you'll find yourself looking forward to your next haircut. You'll probably want to go even shorter, and you'll start to become much more conscious of the length of your hair and how quickly it grows. What seemed like a radically short hair length before will seem downright long and shaggy after just a week of growth. Beware--buzzcuts are addictive. But they're also a lot of fun to wear, a lot of fun to maintain, and a really attractive, masculine look for most men. Enjoy life--get a haircut!

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