That’s Some Head of Hair You Got There

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Zayn Malik
Very right-now hair on One Direction's Zayn Malik
Zayn Malik
Very right-now hair on
One Direction‘s Zayn Malik

The jokey paraphrase “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow” amuses me because it’s undeniably true. Only a couple decades back, the mullet was the ‘do of the day: now it’s only good as a punchline. People who had mullets look at pictures of themselves from way back when and shake their heads in shame. Well, some of them.

And while they’re shaking their heads, they’re shaking whatever ‘do they have now, often without thinking that this ‘do, too, may come back to embarrass them in the not-so-distant future. That’s the thing about fashion. We all know that what looks so right at one time can look so wrong at another.

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Not long ago, women would do anything to avoid straight hair. I remember when hair rollers on women during the day was a common sight. Date night was approaching. I remember when crew cuts were the choice for men and how repellent they were during the 1960s and ’70s. They connoted the military when shaggy-haired protesting was in sway. I remember when afros were one of the best ways, if not the very best way, to manifest black pride. Not to mention cornrowing, which does remain popular today. The poster for Get Hard, the just-released Kevin Hart-Will Ferrell movie, shows the former cornrowing the latter’s Fuller-brush coiffure.

This hair business crosses my mind as I see the shapes and sizes of the heads of men who’ve lately crossed my path in Manhattan and elsewhere. I mean the generally younger men, prone to challenge the status quo with new street fashions.

The ‘do I’m seeing most frequently — and I’m not claiming I see it on every man, or even every young man — is the one where the sides and back of the head are completely shaved, leaving only a patch of hair maybe three-quarters of an inch thick on top. I haven’t asked anyone whether the design has a name and, if so, what it is. I call it The Floating Island.

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There is, however, a designation for another style that is becoming popular: hair gathered and secured by a rubber band. I’d have termed it the Top Knot, but looking at websites concerned with hair fads, I see it has been dubbed “The Male Bun.”

I would have said The Floating Island and The Male Bun were prevalent among recent top-of-body looks, but I’ve been noticing yet another arrangement trending up while the aforementioned are trending down, along with spiked hair, which you still see it occasionally but not as much as five, eight, 10 years ago: the Fade.

The word “fade” refers to hair left sufficiently long on the top and includes a pronounced left or right side part. Beneath this, the hair is severely cropped until it, uh, fades away to the hairline. Director Peter Sellars may be the one who had the earliest version of this, leading to his Shockheaded Peter presentation.

Jaden Smith and his hightop fade

On the website Styles Weekly, Jaden Smith is pictured in something called a “short, curly, hightop fade.” On Men’s Hairstyle Trends, San Diego barber Brian Burt suggests several of the fade and makes a practical suggestion: If you’re not certain how to tell your barber what you want, take a picture of it along. Also on Men’s Hairstyle Trends, Tom Chapman, who’s based in Torquay, England, seconds Burt’s endorsement of the fade. It looks as if you can’t go wrong with it on either side of the Atlantic.

I’ve also been ruminating over men with full heads of hair. Needless to say, men losing cover on the crown, known as vertex hair loss, wouldn’t be drawn to The Floating Island. Unless they were contemplating an island with an interior pond or lake. Men with receding hairlines can’t quite go for the fade without thick hair at the top of their head.

Men with any category of baldness probably aren’t preoccupied with all this. The close-cropped fringe stays popular and, you’d think, will continue to do so. The men who’ve decided that if you can’t beat it, join it, shave their heads. In current trends, the totally bare scalp is holding its own.

As for me, The Fashionisto!, I found my basic mid-range hairstyle a while ago and have stuck with it, despite (or because of) the grey. For some reason, I call to mind long-departed movie queen Claudette Colbert who found what she considered her ideal look (curls across the forehead) and declared she’d keep to it, no matter whom she would play on the screen. There’s a lot to be said for not ever having to think about what to do.

Speaking of trends in women’s hair — which, Colbert aside, I haven’t been — I don’t see much change from the currently desired look: hair usually parted in the middle and left to hang straight down with nary a curl or wave daring to disturb the line. Looking at the grip that style has on women today, I’m think of the young girls I grew up with and how morose they’d be if they had straight hair. The very notion of ironing their hair would have made them crazy.

My guess is that until Jennifer Aniston, one of the leading cover girls of the last decade and the person solely responsible for wiping out all memory of Farrah Fawcett, determines she’s had it with her influential locks and opts to do something dramatically different, it’s going to be straight hair straight on.