A Cut Above the Rest
The Mohawk is back, resurfacing on stars and students with an attitude for rebellion
The resurgence of certain trends is what makes fashion redundant and, at the same time, marvelous. For a designer to change the cut of yesterday's hem and drape it on today's models, deeming these items as "must haves" is almost laughable.
The same can be said for certain hair styles. However, depending on who you ask, the Mohawk has never lost its edge. Popularized by London's Kings Road in the late 1970s, and then by Mr. T in the early 1980s, today's bearers of the uncouth cut are stereotyped as punks.
"I know when people look at me they say 'Okay he likes punk music' [or] 'He's a punk'," says Tom Gardner, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, who usually wears his hair in a dirty-blond Mohawk in Liberty Spikes (coined after the crown on the Statue of Liberty). "I listen to punk music, so I guess I am a punk. I am a rebel. I do what I like to do, and I like my hair the way it is."
Others with Mohawks stress that the hair style is also something more.
"They're more than stereotypes, they're almost truths in that it signifies rebellion," said Charles Olson, a freshman in the School of Public Affairs, who has a Bihawk, which is two Mohawks on either side of his head worn in Liberty Spikes. "It is a rebellion against a norm in society. It's a small, almost token rebellion, and it's just cosmetic, but it's a symbol of a deeper rebellion."
Though that may be the case, mainstream icons seem to want to bring the hairdo out of the recesses of people's minds and shine the limelight on it once again. With celebrities such as British soccer star David Beckham, Blink 182 and even Sean "P. Diddy" Combs sporting Mohawks, the hair style that's been associated with punk rock for more than a decade may be getting a cleaner image.
"I'm just being me," said Combs on a recent MTV special that showed the music mogul getting his haircut as he prepared to run the New York City Marathon. "I'm just a rich, hip-hop [businessman] with a Mohawk. That's all it is."
For some, it's not so cut and dry - the Mohawk's entrance into the mainstream goes against the hair style's uncommon roots.
"I'm kind of upset," said Jeff Starr, a junior in CAS. "It means the Mohawk has become a trend, and because [Combs is] growing a Mohawk I'm on the verge of just shaving a bald line down the center of my head to have an anti-Mohawk in place of the Mohawk's popularity."
Starr began growing his Mohawk this year. He doesn't seem to use gel (or glue, which is commonly used) for the full effect, but he says that it still defines a part of him.
"I just started becoming more punk," Starr said.
Gardner agreed with Starr about what a Mohawk should be.
"It's just sad seeing that [the Mohawk] is going into mainstream," he said. "Pretty soon a lot of people are going to be doing it. I'll probably end up cutting mine off."
Gardner first got the idea to grow a Mohawk when a friend introduced him to the punk lifestyle in high school.
"It was back in ninth grade," he said. "My friend did it and he really introduced me to punk music, which is where he got the idea from. As soon as I saw [the Mohawk] I loved it. It was different and that's what I was looking for back then; but I didn't grow one until this year."
Olson had a similar story. His desire to replace his normally low-cut hair with a Mohawk occurred after coming across the band Anti-Flag's album when he was 11 years old. He noticed a few members of the group had Mohawks.
"I thought it looked really rad," he says. He decided to grow a Mohawk, but his mother had other plans.
"My mom hates it. She is constantly trying to wear me down and telling me how ugly it looks and how horrible it makes me look," Olsen said. "For a long time she told me I couldn't. One day I just said, 'I don't care, I'm going too,' and I did it."
With a father in the military, one might expect Olson's Mohawk to be under siege by both parents, but that isn't the case.
"My dad's in the Marine Corp, but surprisingly it doesn't bother him. He'd shave the sides for my Mohawk and everything," Olsen said. "He was really supportive. He liked it. He thought it was cool."
Four years later, after maintaining a Mohawk throughout high school, he decided it was time for a little update.
"I have never seen someone with a Bihawk. At least not in person anyway," he said. "I'm going to stick with this for a while. Let it get big and keep the red on. I've got virgin cherry and nuclear red [dyes] at home."
No matter the style or color of Mohawk, having one is enough reason for others to want to ask questions.
"I've had the style for years so
I'm used to it," Olsen said. "[People ask me], 'How do you keep it up?' and 'Can I touch it?' I just say 'Glue' and 'Yes you can touch it.'"
Students with Mohawks have experienced an assortment of responses.
"Most people like my hair," Gardner said. "They think it's cool, it's different. I think most people respect differences, especially here at AU."
Salinee Goldberg, a freshman at Nova Community College in Woodbridge, Va., who has a Chelsea Hawk, a Mohawk with bangs, agrees. She received no different reactions from peers, only from adults.
"Teachers hated it," Goldberg says. "They took it as an insult in middle school and high school for not conforming," said Goldberg, who first sported the style as a seventh grader. "But there were always the ones that would say, 'Oh I like your hair.' Most people on the street say that. They just start conversations with 'how long did it take you to do that?' or 'you could poke some ones eye out with that!'"
Her parents didn't like the Mohawk at first, but they've become accustomed to it, Goldberg said. Besides, she could always find company amongst friends who shared her hair style.
"It seems like almost everyone I am friends with have had one or still does. Then again I always fell in with the street punk crowd," she said.
Not everyone with a Mohawk has friends with them, however. Starr's friends already have plans for his next hair style.
"My friends think it's a joke. They want me to grow a Mullet next," he said.
Those who grow a Mohawk should be aware of what they are doing before reaching for the clippers.
After growing his Mohawk for almost three months, Gardner recommended that anyone grow one if it's for the right reasons.
"I think if someone's doing it to be cool then I don't like that, but if someone wants to stand out and be their own person then definitely," he said. "I didn't do it because I knew others would like it. I did it to be different from everyone else."
Goldberg agreed with Gardner.
"If they are into it for the right reasons of course, but it's a given that it will be harder to get a job, since most employers will stereotype you as a punk," she said. "People think you are either a criminal, a low life, a drunk or unemployed,"
However, it's usually these instances that make her step back and see the big picture.
"[The Mohawk] is not a sacred thing to me," she said. "I don't give a damn about my hair really. It grows back, that's why I do these crazy things. To be offended by someone's hairstyle is shallow in my eyes."
Goldberg also noted that, despite the Mohawk's origins, "they never associate it with Native Americans anymore."
Most believe the Mohawk originated within the Native American Mohawk tribe, but George Hamell, a curator of ethnology at the New York State Museum in Albany, N.Y. said the hairstyle can be traced back to another tribe in the early 1600s.
"The hairstyle itself was first seen and described by French explorer Samuel de Champlain among the Hurons of southwestern Ontario," Hamell said in a June 2001 National Post article.
Hamell further explained that the name "Huron" is derived from the stiff ridge of bristles along the head of a boar. Their name is believed to come from this description and their particular haircut.
"To my knowledge I don't know of one contemporary image of a Mohawk wearing that particular hairstyle," Hamell said.
The haircut may have become associated with the Mohawk tribe because of a picture of an Algonquin Indian from Long Island, which was used to illustrate a book published in 1656 on the Mohawk Iroquois by Johannes Megatolensis.
Yet, whether it's in an illustration of a 350-year-old book, on a British punk rocker or Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, the Mohawk can give wearers a sense of belonging or a sense of rebelliousness.
To some the Mohawk has a purpose.
"I guess for some people it's just hair," Olson said. "But it's part of an image, part of a lifestyle as far as punk rock goes"