The last time I remember hearing about hair was in 1993. That was when President Clinton reportedly closed down air traffic at LAX to get himself a $200 trim from a fancy pants L.A. stylist named Cristophe Schatteman. Clinton said he had checked with the Secret Service to make sure the airport would not be affected and that he did not pay $200. He claims the whole thing was a big misunderstanding. Maybe so. Who knows? Whatever the case, the incident caused everybody to be in a lather about the president's follicles.
Before that episode, the most memorable period for hair stretched from the mid-'70s to the early '80s These were hair's Dark Ages. Rock bands, known previously as a scruffy bunch with messy heads, began emerging on the scene with stylish cuts. So alarming was this development that the groups created their own subgenre: "hairbands." Trivializing rock with ostentation (Boston) and artifice (Duran Duran), their crimes against music were bad. But those were rectified by punk, which celebrated rock by stripping it down to its three-chord roots. Which, speaking of roots, those emanating from the heads of punks were shaped into spikes and mohawks, lending their movement an endearing, if frightening, cartoonishness. The hair bands' sins against fashion went considerably deeper, leading, as they did, to a hairstyle known as the mullet. Short on top and long in the back, the mullet is more or less like sporting on one's head a raccoon whose back has caught on fire. The style launched a thousand late-night jokes and, according to Google when I entered "mullet haircut" as a search phrase, about 30,000 websites. That is double the number of websites of some small countries.
I'll not parade you backward any further through hair's history, but from the long hair and Afros of the 1960s down through the powdered wigs of the founding fathers, suffice it to say that, overall, when hair is in the news, the news is generally bad.
Which brings us to the current scandal. Not long ago, The New York Times ran a story about the rising cost of haircuts that was headlined, "You Paid How Much For That Haircut?"
The answer was $800.
Eight. Hundred. Dollars. For a haircut. It makes Clinton's purported $200 seem like a coupon special.
Eight hundred dollars, and I'll bet a beard trim is extra.
When I told my wife, she asked, "What else do you get with that? A trip to Bermuda?"
As far as I know, you don't get anything else with that. Oh, maybe some of that fizzy water the hoity-toity salons serve their patrons.
And what if you don't like it? What then? Shrug it off with the words we've all had to say more times than we've cared to count: "It will grow back"?
Or what if you do like it but it is one of those in-the-shop cuts? You know, when you leave the haircutter feelin' all, "Check me out. This is a good haircut." And then you shower and it boings or hangs or does whatever your hair does that you just can't stand? What if it does that?
Eight hundred dollars.
As the Times writer, Alex Kuczynski pointed out, the fee "is the equivalent of twice the annual income of the average citizen of Bangladesh."
On the other hand, it is only about one-zillionth of the annual income of the average celebrity in the United States. Sure, a number of nobodies are getting their hair done at these exclusive joints, hoping, no doubt, that they will be mistaken for a somebody. But the target audience for haircuts whose prices would feed entire countries for a month is those people who try to make sure we know them by their social conscience - there is a reason they're called actors.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that all the snide asides and catty comments in this column are the work of a man who has been known to cut his own hair with a pair of kitchen scissors. My wife hates when I do that.
But I like to think of it as avant-garde. The very unevenness of my self-administered cut would be right at home at an art show or a cast party.
I can hear them now. “Where did you get your hair done?”