The other day a lady in her 30s was seen at a Dhaka hair salon placating an inconsolable small boy about his haircut just done by the hairdresser. The helpless mother was insisting that the cut had been what he wanted. The teenage boy looked into the big mirror, and vehemently shook his head in disapproval. He started grumbling, "No, mom. I didn't want it." The hairdresser smiled endearingly, "Boy, this is exactly what the young boys are going after these days." "Look at them, I want those cuts," the boy pointed at some older youths passing by the salon. All of them had the semi-weird hairstyle with little or no hair on the lower part of their heads. Bunches of sharply cut bushy hair stood upright in the middle. Even a few years back, this hairstyle would be viewed as something grotesque.
The elderly segments of people stare at these boys with dread thanks to the youths' brusque and arrogant manner of movement. The spectacle these boys with their outlandish haircut offered seemed filled with elements that befit ruffians. The said haircut, punkish and at times shocking, has lately spread to the whole country.
The kid was referring to the haircut of the 21st century punks. He somehow grew a liking for this hairstyle. Given his mother's style of calming the child, it appeared clear that they were from an enlightened, educated family. The little boy behaved exactly like the others of his age would do. It was a kind of collective community pressure. Thanks to the haircut of a number of bullies and gangsters --- as well as eve-teasers, which is called 'punk style' in the cities, youths with punkish hair are now branded indiscriminately as thugs. This is what has happened in some parts of the country. An over-reactive district administration even went to the extent of slapping a ban on these haircuts. It was because a section of people are said to have identified them as being involved in many social offences.
Following a barrage of uproar from rights groups, the prohibition was slackened. But instructions to local hair salons not to give youths the wild haircut remained in place. Many have termed the administrative intervention an instance of overdoing. While a lot of others called the step an infringement on personal freedom.
Throughout the world, male and female hairstyles come and go. This factor has a lot to do with following the trends prevailing in the showbiz in a certain period. In Bangladesh and the neighbouring India, the haircut role-models for the youths once belonged to the Bombay or Hollywood filmdom. Framed photographs of superstars like Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Gregory Peck or pop stars were a common sight at the salons.
Like dresses, hairstyles also try to spread many types of message. Some remain for some time as part of a craze or fashion. In the period just after the 1971 liberation of the country, the fad turned out to be keeping long hair. From the 1990s onwards, a section of male youths were seen growing plaited hair. Their number, however, was not too high. But they still move about boastfully in the cities around the world, including Dhaka. Growing long hair by males was once considered a kind of rebellion against the time-worn social norms. A nearly similar message was also given by people with their shaven heads. But the styles have changed with the passage of time. Newer hairdos entered the scene with newer messages. These trends began in the 20th century to accompany scores of campaigns — some against N-proliferation, some for protecting the environment. Yet a lot of them are pure fun — or gimmicks.