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Obit: The Male Ponytail, 1972 – 1998

Ottawa City magazine
Shannon Rupp


Where have all the men in ponytails gone? The hair-in-bondage look – once a fashion must among Ottawa’s male civil servants and some of its ore visible TV personalities – seems to have al but disappeared. Did someone send out a memo?

The last vestiges of the dubious style can still be found among the would-be hip, but increasingly, it has become a sign of the uncool. Or at least the unemployed.

A scriptwriter who tames his own long dark mane only duress – family gatherings – speculates that male ponytails have fallen out of favour because of all the TV drug dealers who wear them. He has a point: there’s something oily about guys who try to hide their long hair. (Or maybe that’s just the gel they’re using to slick the ‘do in place.)

Arguably, the style first emerged among aging Peter Pans desperate to cling to a last suggestion of virility. Hair, after all, does seem to arouse. The hot but restrained librarian who unpins her bun – literally lets her hair down – is a modern cliché. In the fairy tale, Rapine lured rescuers with her trailing tresses. In Greek mythology, those who glimpsed Medusa’s serpent locks (now there’s a look…) were turned to stone. As for men, their hair often serves as a phallic stand-in: Samson was emasculated when Delilah made that unkind cut. (Her shears may not have done the kid of damage Lorena Bobbitt inflicted on her fella, but there’s an obvious connection.)

And there’s also no doubt that hair equals personal power. When army recruits enter boot camp, their heads are shaved to signal their loss of individuality – and the reach of the military.

So why are all these guys succumbing to scissors? Does the end of the trend reflect a growing neoconservatism? Should we mourn that those who hid liberal beliefs in corporate drag have been forced to choose a camp? Are men signally their acceptance of themselves as bureaucratic eunuchs? If so, what are ht implications for society?

Implications-shmimplications, says one wag who keeps his own thick brown locks closely cropped. “They finally figure that wearing a ponytail makes their heads the horse’s…’ Well, let’s not go there. 

1 Feb 1999