Sometimes, New York is a beacon of normality. Perfectly sensible people, dressed in perfectly normal clothes, going about their business in a way that can only be described as, well, normal. It comes as a welcome reminder that the ways of life are the same in cities across the globe, and that New York truly is the ‘melting pot’ that acts as a metropolitan United Nations for the world.
But then sometimes you see people that make you realise that New York is completely unique, and that if New York didn’t exist and some writer or filmmaker invented a city that had all of its attributes, he or she would be dismissed as an irrelevant fantasist.
After a long weekend spent in “upstate New York” (a tag that is essentially as useful as saying “north of Bournemouth”) where normality is identified by the smell of newly cut grass and chirruping birds, the return to the city came as a small culture shock. New York had laid out the red carpet though, in the shape of four separate and unassociated people walking past me in the space of a few yards with haircuts that could only be seen in New York and its immediate environs:
1. The Reverse Flock of Seagulls
Nobody knows the name of the lead singer of the Flock of Seagulls (it was Mike Score, before the pedants get tapping on their keyboard) but everybody knows his haircut. Frankly, it would be hard to forget that four inch flop of hair over one eye. Nonetheless, it appears Mike inspires people to this day. A victim (I’d call her a fashion victim, but there was nothing fashionable about this) had clearly taken a look at some 80s videos on VH1, and decided that while she couldn’t pull off the Full Seagull she still had to find a way to pay homage. Duly, she invented the Reverse Seagull – the same flop of hair, attached to otherwise relatively short hair, but only down one side of her neck. To say it looked like she had a ferret on her head that was making a spirited attempt to flee down her back would be to give the style too much credit. The irony, of course, is that an actual flock of seagulls perched on her head would have been much more impressive and fashion-conscious than this abomination.
2. The Nuclear Fall Out Shelter
To be fair, this one can be spotted in plenty of American cities, but its presence in New York is oddly reassuring. Only women can sport this haircut, and you generally have to be 45 or above to pull it off. Essentially, imagine the kind of style that uses at least a can of hairspray for every square inch of hair, and you’re well on your way to understanding the look. With a width of at least twice the size of the bearer’s head, and a shape that’s vaguely reminiscent of an upside down wok, the hair do is impervious to anything that is thrown at it. Riot police should start having their hair done like this when they’re going into a siege situation. When somebody pushes the red button and plunges the world into a nuclear winter, it’ll be these women who survive to populate the world again with the help of that strange guy from IT who we all laughed at when he said he was stockpiling cans of beans in the hideout he’d built 200 yards beneath the surface of the backyard of the house he lives in with his
3. The 50s Throwback
Look, everybody likes dressing up now and then. I mean, we’ve all got our secret ‘Heidi the orphaned granddaughter of a goat herder’ outfit lurking at the back of our
wardrobecloset, let’s face it. Oh, just me then? But there’s a marked difference between going to a fancy dress party, and walking to work with a heavily sculpted quiff. I’ve seen less grease on political spokespeople as they try to explain why education cuts are a good thing for the nation’s children. That leather jacket does not make you look like a T-Bird, and you’re impressing no one.
4. Words Cannot Begin to Explain
Sometimes you see a haircut that just makes you happy to be alive, or proud to be an American. Even if you’re not one. When I first looked up, I saw a guy ahead of me wearing a (frankly regrettable) snow washed denim jacket, and sporting a rather bushy afro. Having momentarily averted my gaze, I turned back to see another man in an equally regrettable snow washed denim jacket, but sporting a natty skinhead. Huh, what were the chances of seeing two such jackets on one day, I thought casually to myself? Zero, as it turned out, when the second man turned directly towards me in order to show the true glory of his half afro/half skinhead look. If he doesn’t have conversations with himself in the mirror, turning through 180 degrees for each bit of the dialogue, I will be severely disappointed.
Ah, the wonders of normality, New York-style.