Alan Attwood: Out of lockdown, a shaggy dog story

A park encounter: woman with dog. Observing park etiquette, I said "Hi" to the dog first. I admired how sleek it looked. Recently trimmed. "Yes,'' she replied from behind her mask, ''just been groomed.'' Then her eyes flicked north. To my head. And I knew what she was thinking: I could use some grooming too. But this had been impossible.

Alan Attwood.

Alan Attwood.Credit:Eddie Jim

Toilet paper was an early symbol of the lockdown; C another. I have found myself shouting questions at people on TV (never a good sign). Newsreaders; athletes; leaders ... Hey, where did you get a haircut? Not what I usually do. But for the first time in many years, I’ve actually been thinking about hair.

It mattered in the 1970s: a decade of big hair. I let the locks go. My "styling" technique was to dry wet hair by bending over a bar heater and shaking vigorously, like a dog just out of the sea. The result resembled the electrocution I might have suffered. I was happy with this look; my headmaster of the time, less so. He bailed me up to describe it as “interesting”. My reply: “Thank you, sir”, wasn’t what he wanted to hear. In retrospect, his psychology was all wrong. Had he admired my mane, I would have cut it. Which is what I did after leaving school and its silly hair rules.

My kids have stumbled on photos of me from that era. Their response: “You were kidding, right.” I wasn’t. I was emulating Robert Plant and Justin Hayward (eclectic tastes, even then). Gradually, though, pragmatism kicked in. Keeping it short meant not thinking much about hair. It meant removing a hat or a helmet and not worrying about looking like a toilet-brush or Bert and Ernie from The Muppets, which is what has been happening lately.

I’ve gone undercover. Hiding hair under a beanie or cap. Slightly alarmed by what’s been happening, especially the colour, but also increasingly intrigued ... "Hmmm, what if I just let things go?'' Could I find an independent witness to confirm or deny my belief that the man in the mirror the other morning (after a swim) was actually Robert Smith of The Cure? How cool would that be?


Having dreamed recently about pushing dogs aside on their way to the groomers, my ambivalence has grown along with a fringe. Last weekend’s announcement about hairdressers reopening caused neither my heart to leap nor my feet to race down the street to take my place in a long queue. I’ve become oddly attached to what’s been happening up top. Is it too soon, too simplistic, to return to pragmatism; the way things were? I’ll give it time. Think a bit. No short cuts. Yet.

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