Maybe you’ve seen this already: Some Boys Ask, ‘What’s a Barber, Mom?’
Setting aside the obvious, which is that this article is half a decade or more too late (the trend is so old that I’ve been intentionally cutting my son’s hair so he doesn’t look like all the other boys with long hair), can we talk about some of this?
First things first, though. I am 100% ok, in favor of, and totally thumbs up to boys with long hair. I think it’s pretty adorable and I like that we’re moving toward less rigid ideas of gender and aesthetics. I wish I didn’t even have to write that disclaimer, but I feel that I do.
We live in the “Upper Upper West side,” aka “Hipsturbia” (labels also either coined or adopted by the NYT). A suburb of NYC, a place for which people reluctantly leave Brooklyn after they realize that it’s hard lugging a stroller up a five-story walk-up. I love it, but it has its Portlandia moments. This article, for example, applies.
A few weeks ago (which, if you do the math, was april and not really that hot), I saw a girl, six or seven years old, on the playground running around with dusty grey-purple skinny jeans and no shirt. She had long, gorgeous dark hair and the freedom and lack of self-consciousness you tend to see only in girls of that age (sadly). She looked straight out of Kinfolk Magazine. She looked like she was really feeling it at Coachella. I don’t think she had a flower crown? but my mind may have edited one onto her.
She looked styled. And I’m pretty sure she was. Because it wasn’t that hot out. (No, not necessarily proof but gut instinct, k?)
It brings me this internal conflict because on one hand, this girl was awesome and beautiful and free. Take your shirt off, kid, take it right the fuck off and be who you want to be and do what feels right and anyone who has a problem with it can go to hell.
On the other hand, I”m pretty sure her mom styled her for the playground.
Same with long hair on boys. Be wild and free. There is no “girl hair” or “boy hair.”
But we know in the end it’s the moms.
When we talk about style choices like these, we are talking about parents of the creative [upper] class (Mara Hoffman, who incidentally makes some gorgeous wedding gowns, was one of the parents interviewed). There is [unfortunately, still] a certain luxury in allowing your boy to look like a girl. Let’s make no mistake. It may not necessarily be a statement, but it is a choice and in most of these cases, a very careful, conscious choice to further the style of the child, maybe even an extension of the parents’ own personal brand (Mara Hoffman referred to it as their “internal tribe”). And I think defending it at times might add just the right amount of mild outrage to complete the look.
The one thing I like about this trend is that it normalizes uncertainty about a child’s gender. Boys with long hair are used to being mistaken for a girl and it’s NBD. It doesn’t matter. Being called a girl is not being called less-than. It’s not an insult and no one gets offended and maybe we can all get used to that and move on. Anything that moves toward making “like a girl” a neutral or even positive thing is ok by me.
So I’m conflicted about it all. What I’m not at all conflicted about is the fact that this is what you get in the NYT Style section, which my husband at one point heard someone aptly call “Look at These Wankers.”