A while back, I wrote about the fact that people treat me differently now that I have long hair. I don't really know why this is true, but here's a theory.
For almost all of my life, I have been decidedly different from other people. I like different kinds of music, I like different kinds of food. I prefer more individual sports, most of which make for bad television, and thus don't tend to be fodder for water cooler conversation. I like finding my own way of doing things, rather than learning what everyone else is doing and repeating it. I don't obsess over whether I "fit in" at work, and I never did at school. I've always been comfortable doing my own thing, playing alone if I must, resisting unwanted peer pressure, and so on.
For most of my life, this has served me quite well. Avoiding peer pressure kept me entirely out of risky adolescent and young adult situations. I've never had a problem with drugs, and I've never let social norms or pressures dictate my romantic relationships. My preference for individual sports like running eventually lead to many several high school track and cross-country records, a top-ten ranking, a full-ride scholarship to a Division-1A NCAA university, and a varsity letter there. My preference for funny intellectual pursuits lead to some good academic choices that, in turn, lead to a satisfactory and in some ways lucrative career. My insistence on finding my own way gave me above-average creative ability in music, which has provided me with a (so far) lifelong rock music performance hobby with many good friends who are excellent musicians. Despite occasionally rubbing up against people who resent those who are different, my being different has worked out wonderfully for me.
Despite all these differences, however, I've never been particularly individualistic about my physical appearance. For most of my life, I've had short, clean-cut hair. My fashion sense has always gravitated toward classic time-honored articles of clothing like jeans, polo shirts, cargo shorts, and earth tones; at work, I've always preferred classic dress shirts and flat-front slacks, even occasionally wearing ties. I've avoided styles that struck me as being too trendy, such as hair coloration, too-baggy or too-slim-fitting pants and shirts, facial hair, and so on. I've never had a piercing, nor do I have any tattoos.
Now that I think about it, this combination of a rather conservative outward appearance combined with a rather eccentric and highly individualistic mental disposition is a little mismatched. The most stereotypically individualistic people are often artists and bohemians, whose fashion sense tends to match their free spirits. The most stereotypically conservative, pro-social people are often those who dress the most traditionally, in unassuming clothing that fits in pretty much anywhere.
A possible result of this mismatch of mine is that people see me, and expect a highly conservative, pro-social, conformist kind of a person. When they discover that my mental disposition is decidedly individualistic and personally expressive, perhaps some of them have interpreted me as being stubborn, aloof, rude. A man who looks conformist but refuses to conform is possibly a man who conforms to some social group, but not yours. This might trigger thoughts in people's minds: What's wrong with me that he's not going along with my thing? Why does he keep himself out of my business? Why does he think he's so special?
Long hair is, in today's world, one of the more deviant fashion statements a man can make. It is even more uncommon than tattoos and piercings today. It also tends to evoke the pacifist imagery of hippies and free spirits, unless men with long hair go out of their way to dress like goths or metalheads. Especially on a man like me, who today is dressed in khaki slacks and a polo shirt, long hair presents an air of non-comformism, but also one of non-aggression. And if a man with long hair tends to smile a lot, something I've taken upon myself to doing in public whenever I pass by other people, the peaceful non-conformist presentation is all but complete.
So, with my long hair, it's possible that people now expect me to be a little different, perhaps a bit eccentric, individualistic, and so they're not caught off-guard when I do or say something quixotic. It's possible that my outward appearance is now better-matched to my mental disposition, and that because other people now expect me to express the unexpected, they're more receptive to it.
I'm not certain of any of this, of course. It's just a theory.
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