Ross, with trademark 'do
Bob Ross is somewhat of a cultural icon at this point. He had an interesting life story. Ross served in the Air Force for 20 years, retiring with the rank of Master Sergeant. His soft-spoken, almost milquetoast television persona was actually a response to his having been so tough in the military. He once told the Orlando Sentinel that part of his military role was being
"the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work"
He swore to himself he'd never scream at people again after he left the service.
According to Ross' biography entitled Happy Clouds, Happy Trees: The Bob Ross Phenomenon, published in April of 2014, Ross' trademark afro was born as a way to decrease spending. Strapped for cash prior to being on television, Ross decided to have his hair permed in order to save money on haircuts. Though he wasn't fond of the hairstyle, once his show started airing, it was too iconic to alter.
The photo below is what Ross looked like without the perm, an image posted by Redditor DXGypsy. It's amazing how a change in hairstyle renders him practically incognito. But if you think Ross looks different there, you won't believe what he looked like as a young member of the Air Force. Talk about unrecognizable (and attractive)! See that photo here.
Ross, sans perm