Barbershop of Horrors

From the awesome mental_floss magazine, here's the Top 5 Barbershop of Horrors, listing some of the weirdest haircuts throughout history.

1. Mohawks

Mohawk leader Joseph Brant with a scalp lock
Mohawk (Image: Taishar [Wikipedia])
Clonycavan Man

THE STYLE: Originally sported by warriors of various Native American tribes, the hairstyle was adopted by a squad of U.S. Army's bad-to-the-bone 101st Airborne Division during World War II, before being commandeered by the punk rockers in the 1970s.

THE STORY: Up until a few years ago, no one would have questioned the mohawk's [wiki] roots. However, in 2003, an Irish peat harvester made a discovery that would change the hairstyle's history forever - a 2,300-year-old corpse, remarkably well preserved by the unique chemistry of a peat bog, sporting a bonafide 'hawk.

THE SHOCKER: The ancient Irish punker, dubbed Clonycavan Man [wiki], had gel in his hair, which archaeologists determined was made from vegetable oil mixed with resin from southwestern France or Spain. Imported hair product? Today, scientists are still working hard to determine whether Clony was a prehistoric punker or just an Iron Age metrosexual.

2. Pompadours

Elvis's pompadour
Madame de Pompadour

THE STYLE: If the word brings to mind images of pink Cadillacs and bouffant 'dos, you're on the right track. But in the same way America borrowed rock 'n' roll from the blues and method acting from the Russians, the key to those 1950s locks lies in 18th-century France.

THE STORY: The Marquise de Pompadour [wiki] was King Louis XV's über-fashionable mistress, and her elaborately teased, upswept hair was imitated by high-society women throughout the country. While 20th-century pompadours were considerably tinier than those of its namesake's, the modern version claims one definitive advantage: technology. Where today's science has yielded hair wax, putty, glue, and paste to cement them into place, pomps of yore depended on beef tallow, bear grease, and other artery-cloggers.

THE SHOCKER: Not surprisingly, slathering one's hair with animal remains tended to attract animals (insects and other nasties), which occasionally turned the original pompadour [wiki] into, quite literally, a rats' nest.

3. Beehives

Marie Antoinette
B-52 "Balls Eight" Stratofortress
Marge Simpson

THE STYLE: Speaking of rats' nests (and the Marquise de Pompadour, for that matter), the beehive [wiki] of the 1960s is itself a 200-year throwback to the 1760s Big Hair Days.

THE STORY: There's more to those 18th-century bouffant styles than meets the eye. Whereas the modern beehive is nicknamed "the B-52" for its uncanny resemblance to the B-52 bomber's distinctive nose, Marie Antoinette and her gal pals stowed actual warships in their hair - or at least miniature replicas of them.

THE SHOCKER: Like precursors to the Cracker Jack box, these 18th-century 'dos served as treasure troves, housing exotic prizes like tiny caged birds, cupid dolls, and other bulky curios. Of course, not every hairdo was a winner. When millions of hungry peasants revolutionized France, the over-the-top hairstyle quickly fell out of fashion - landing in that little basket just below the guillotine.

4. Queues

Nurhaci, the Manchu emperor who brought the queue to China
A queue wrapped around the head

THE STYLE: When the Manchu invaded China in the 17th century, they brought over a killer fashion trend - killer as in, adopt it or else.

THE STORY: The Manchu sported the queue, a shaved-in-front, pony-tail-in-the-back haircut, and forced the Han Chinese to do the same. The effect? Quite a lot of protest.

THE SHOCKER: While much of China eventually submitted to the do-or-die trend, many thousands bravely chose to keep their hair - and lose their heads. So what was the big deal with getting a little shave? Aside from the queue not being such as flattering cut (even compared to, say, the mullet), it also happened to be against the religion of millions of long-haired Confucian Chinese, who believe that one's skin and hair are sacred.

5. Mullets

THE STYLE: A fad gone bad or the most reviled haircut in history? Popularized by David Bowie and others during the glam 'ol days of the 1970s, the mullet [wiki] was adopted (and expanded voluminously upon) in the 1980s by hard rockers and their headbanging army of fans. As hair metal gave way to grunge and alternative music in the early 1990s, a term was coined to describe those who still clung to the headbangers' signature cut - "mullet heads."

THE STORY: According to the Oxford English Dictionary, which inducted "mullet" into its venerable lexicon in 2001, the word (as it refers to the hairstyle) was "apparently coined, and certainly popularized, by U.S. hi-hop group the Beastie Boys" in their 1995 song "Mullet Head."

THE SHOCKER: Since making it into the OED, ridicule of the bemulletted has grown increasingly vocal and, judging from a random sampling of anti-mullet Web sites, rather virulent. The mullet is one haircut Americans love to hate - and give funny names to. To list a few: The Tennessee Top Hat, The Kentucky Waterfall, and The Camaro Crash Helmet. Our personal favorite, however, is The Missouri Compromise, which manages to reference both the haircut's "business in front, party in the back" policy, as well as the shameful Compromise of 1820, which regulated slavery in developing U.S. territories.

The article above appeared in the Scatterbrained section of the March - April 2007 issue of mental_floss magazine. It is reprinted here with permission.

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Fun facts about the pompadour: a lot of pompadours were pouffed up with false hair extensions, which had been powdered with flour to appear white. The very rich could afford to visit a stylist every week or so for hairstyle maintenance, but poorer folks would have to wait a month or more in between stylings... meaning that many of these delicious flour-filled hairpieces would become happy homes for mice, fleas and roaches. Ick.
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The Chinese "queue" was forced upon men in China as the emperor was balding and he wanted to look younger than the male stock around him......
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Um... Those are not mullets in that photo. All three of them have long hair on the sides and top. A mullet is short everywhere but the back. Mullets were not popularized by 80s metal musicians. They all had long hair all over. It was hockey and soccer players that popularized mullets in the 80s.
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