The Curse of the Summer Haircut

The Curse of the Summer Haircut

I traumatized my son today. I cut his hair.

My son isn't Samson. He didn't lose his strength when I did it, although I'm sure there were a couple of times he was looking for some pillars he could push to knock the house down and take me with it.

My son is 8, and is from Haiti, but he has fairly loose curly hair. He is also not as diligent about combing and picking out his hair as a father might hope, but as you would expect from an 8 year old boy. So whenever I do it, there are a lot of tangles, which get a death grip on the pick and pull no matter what I do, and the whole thing ends in sobbing and recriminations. My son gets pretty upset too.

So after a grueling 10 minutes of trying to pick it out, I decided to cut his hair.

My son always gets worried when I announce it's haircut time. That's because for a couple years, I was the one who would always saddle him with his Summer Haircut.

The Summer Haircut is the buzz cut many parents invariably give to their sons, usually when they're around 6 or 7. That's the age when boys are not yet fashion-conscious enough to worry about their hair, and too young to know they should put up a fuss. So their parents either haul them off to the barber, or they pull out their own clippers, slap on the 1/8" guard, and go to town.

My own mother gave me my Summer Haircut one year, but she waited too long. I was 8 years old, and cared enough about my appearance — not much, mind you, just a little — to know that my buzz cut looked totally stupid. Combine that with my plastic horn-rimmed glasses and the green plaid pants my mom bought for me, and it was only a matter of luck and a keen interest in playing sports that kept me from becoming a complete nerd. (If it had been five years later, and I'd had access to a computer at age 8, my life would be completely different.)

I sported a crewcut that summer, because my mom thought it would look handsome on me. However, I griped and complained enough that she refused to cut my hair that way the following summer. I was relieved, but I still ended up feeling guilty for not liking it, like she had done something special for me and I had refused it.

Of course, the buzz cut is only slightly worse than the four or so years I tried parting my hair down the middle, as was the fashion in the 1980s. I never considered that since my hair had a cowlick on one side and a natural part on the other, I would spend those four years fighting the forces of nature, or that my staunch refusal to use any hair product would doom my hair style to failure.

I finally gave up and cut my hair short again — funny how things come full circle — and when it grew back, it naturally fell into the part I have now, and I haven't changed it for nearly 25 years. The part has gotten a little easier to maintain in that time, sort of like carrying a bucket of water that has a slow leak.

But despite my own resistance to the buzz cut, I was a little disappointed when, after two summers of very short hair, my son told me he didn't want his Summer Haircut this year. I don't know why. It was an awesome haircut. He has a great shaped head, like Patrick Stewart from "Star Trek: The Next Generation," and his haircut really showed that off.

But he decided last fall that he didn't like the Summer Haircut, despite all the prominent athletes and celebrities who sported the shorn look. Instead, he prefers his hair to be somewhat long and in an afro, which brings us back to the problem of the tear-jerking tangles.

After some gentle coaxing and a promise not to tease him about all the girls who will go crazy for his new haircut, he has said he may consider letting me give him another Summer Haircut in June, although after my latest efforts, he's sporting a short afro this Spring. But despite my wife's "what's good for the little goose is good for the big goose" logic, I will not be sporting a similar haircut, shave my goatee, or otherwise alter my appearance.

The hair I have left needs a sporting chance before it's finally gone.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

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