COMBING & CURLING
When your mother combs your hair,
Here's a rhyme for you to say:
If you try it, I declare,
It will take the snarls away!
In the ocean of my hair,
Many little waves are there;
Make the comb, a little boat,
Over all the billows float;
Sail the rough and tangled tide
Till it's smooth on every side,
Till, like other little girls,
I've a sea of wavy curls!
Gelett Burgess. Goops and How to Be Them.
My mother, bless her heart, tried hard to make me into a lady. Raised "genteel poor" (a preacher's kid in a family of ten), she relied on both Emily Post and Amy Vanderbilt for insights into middle-class norms. My brother and I also read The Goops, though more for fun than guidance. The Goops offered this to little tangle-prone moppets like myself:
My mother didn't recite Burgess as she yanked the comb through my disobedient curls or poked my scalp with bobby pins during the Saturday night hair-setting ritual. She said, "You must suffer to be beautiful". That lesson would eventually apply to pointy-toed shoes, high heels, girdles and bras. And that was just for starters.
But at some point, I stopped believing that. There's grooming, and there's pain, and I am old enough to know the difference!
Last week I was joking with a friend that the first longhair court case in 1965 was "the Fort Sumter of the Culture War". Maybe it wasn't such a joke, after all. A map of the states where school dress codes were upheld in the majority of court cases neatly overlays the maps of opinion on other cultural issues. At the extremes, the states within the jurisdiction of the Fifth Circuit (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi) upheld the school's position in 12 of 13 cases. The Second Circuit (Vermont, Connecticut and New York) only had three dress code cases between 1965 and 1978, and ruled in favor of the students every time.
Beginning in 1964, newspapers reported numerous instances of boys – some as young as 9 – being barred from school for having long hair. Most of these confrontations ended with a quick trim. In a parochial school in New Hampshire, the administrator loaded 18 students on a school bus and delivered them to a local barber. The first legal case involving hair was Leonard v. School Committee of Attleboro (Massachusetts), which began with the first day of classes on September 9, 1964 and went all the way to the state Supreme Court, which in December 1965 upheld the school’s right to dictate the appearance of students. Leonard, already a professional musician performing under the name Georgie Porgie, had argued that the school did not have a written dress code and that his long hair was vital to his career, but the court ruled that the principal had the authority to tell Leonard to get a haircut and to expel him when he refused. When he attended an Attleboro High School all-class reunion in 2013, he was greeted as a celebrity; to his classmates and the younger students at the school, he had been a hero. To some fans of freedom of expression, he still is; his entry at the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame website, claims, "every kid who sports long hair, pink hair or a shaved head, or wears a nose ring, a tattoo or makeup, owes his right to do so to” the Pawtucket-born Leonard.
Georgie Porgie and his band appeared at least once with the Cape Cod garage band The Barbarians, who recorded the 1965 hit "Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl", the unofficial anthem of the Great Hairy Cause.
As you can see, I was a bald baby. A bald baby named Jo, no less. In this picture I am wearing a white batiste dress, which makes me look at least a little feminine, unless you consider that it was a hand-me-down from my brother. (Yes, in the late 1940s, some baby boys still wore little white dresses.)
If my mother had really cared that my sex was clearly discernable by strangers, she would have stuck a ribbon on my head, or made a frilly headband out of lace-covered elastic. Bad Mommy!
Today's little girls are so lucky! Not only do they have entire pink, girlie wardrobes and high heels just for them, but now they don't have to suffer the indignity of baldness.
Because everyone knows that REAL girls have long hair.
(The pink tutu isn't a big enough hint?)
I continue to collect anecdotes about uses of pink outside the United States. Today's story comes from a Finnish woman living in Saudi Arabia, and she includes wonderful pictures as well. Note the snippet about the gendered meanings of not only pink clothing but long hair/short hair. We don't talk much about hair in the U.S. anymore; why might that be? It seems that long hair for boys and men became as much of a non-issue as pants for women and girls sometime in the 1970s.
Finally, a teaser: I acquired a Fall/Winter 1962 Sears catalog yesterday. Scans to come!