Harrowing Hair Laws - Hair Week

By Mark Falanga

Photo courtesy of Candida.Performa.

Former NBA All-Star Dennis Rodman was known for many reasons when he played in the 1990’s. From his admirable five NBA championship rings or his ferocious rebounding skills, to less savory behavior like kicking a cameraman in the groin or marrying himself in New York.

But through it all, the most recognizable feature of Rodman is his hair, whether it is dyed blonde, purple, or even green. Which made it ironic that Rodman visited North Korea to such fanfare from the communist regime two weeks ago. The fiercely autocratic country has strict rules on how its citizens may keep their hair, and Rodman’s would certainly not be allowed.

According to this guideline, North Korean women may choose from 18 styles. The styles are further subdivided by being separate for married and single women. Married women generally have hair that is shorter and single women are allowed to have their hair in plaits, braids, or brandished with a ribbon.

Men have fewer choices than women with only 10 styles to choose from. Also, unlike the women, men must keep their hair no shorter than five centimeters and have it cut every 15 days.

Though the standards may seem bizarre in the United States, North Korea strictly enforces this law. In fact, a television show called “Let Us Trim Our Hair In Accordance With Our Socialist Lifestyle” used hidden cameras to single out men who were breaking these guidelines. The program even made false claims about long hair saying that it could rob the brain of energy.

Though these laws are unusual even by communist standards, they’re more common than you think. From 1996 to 2001, the Islamic Fundamentalist Taliban controlled Afghanistan. Along with their fundamentalist rule, they imposed hair guidelines, which required Muslim men to grow beards long enough to exceed a fist clasped at the chin. Those who disobeyed were quickly beaten on the spot with a rubber hose. The people detested this law so much, that when the Taliban regime was toppled by US led coalition forces in 2001, men celebrated this by going to barber shops and immediately shaving off their beards.

The United States is not exempt from imposing rules on hair. While the federal and state government have no rules on what type of style their citizens may choose, local schools can impose such rules. In fact, earlier this year, a 15-year-old girl was suspended from her school not because of the way she cut it, but the color that she dyed it.

Upon reading this headline, one would assume that the hair color was something unnatural like, green, purple, or pink, but it was a color of reddish brown, which caused the uproar by school administrators. The suspension is indefinite, as she cannot return to school unless her hair was dyed to its natural state.

Schools aren’t alone in having hair guidelines, many sports teams may have them as well. Perhaps the most famous one of all is the one imposed by the New York Yankees starting in 1973 and is still imposed as of this writing. Though specific rules are lacking in term of the length of hair, facial hair is forbidden, with the exception of a clean cut mustache.

This created quite a stir when the Yankees signed center fielder Johnny Damon, notable for his long hair and beard. However, rather than take a hard line stance on his hair, Damon agreed to cut it creating quite a contrast in before and after pictures. Many also think this rule should be changed since David Price, one of the best pitchers in the MLB, said that if he was traded to the Yankees, he would not sign a long term deal with the team because of their ‘old school rules.’

Ultimately, many feel that choosing their own hairstyle is something not up to the government officials or local club rules, but themselves. But judging by the strict laws regarding the previous stories, many are finding out that hair is not a right… it’s a privilege.