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PART TWO: "THE FUN OF INITIATION HAIRCUTS"

(PART TWO)

"THE FUN OF INITIATION HAIRCUTS"

(HAIRCUT HAZING)

(If you missed Part One, click HERE)

HIGH SCHOOL SWIM TEAM HAS DELIGHTFUL ANNUAL INITIATION RITUAL

 

For more than 30 years, this high school swim team shown on the left has had a cherished tradition of initiation rituals in which they shave the heads of freshmen just joining the team into Mohawks and other humiliating designs.   

But the freshmen "victims" love it and look forward to it every year for the powerful sense of bonding that it brings. On the 2010  initiation night shown in these photos, 23 swimmers were carved up by the 17 upperclassmen who had their own heads shaved in previous years.  They figured if they could take it and enjoy it, so could the new initiates.  They were right.

 

“I look awesome,” said the victim on the right whose shaven head was left with short tufts of dirty blond hair extending outward from his ears. “I belong on the cover of ‘People’ magazine.”  He said the event is an initiation rite that all newcomers have come to expect.


“This is a really good swimming program," he said, as the upperclassmen stiffened the remaining hair over his ears to make the tufts protrude more.. “But it comes with consequences.” And the consequences are submitting to a humiliating haircut that gets stared at for a few days.  

 

“My life is over,” said the guy on the left with a grin as he felt the bull's eye shaved into his scalp.  But the night was just beginning for the boys participating in a head-shaving ritual that has been in place since 1980. Every year, the team stages this pasta feast and shaving ceremony prior to its biggest meet of the state tournament, where the first-year members of the team go under the razor at the hands of their upperclassman teammates. There were a few Mohawks, always a popular initiation haircut, along with the more bizarre designs.   

Because the school has strict rules, their heads must be cleanly shaven by the time the swimmers appear back on school grounds. But with winter break conveniently scheduled the following week, the athletes had a few extra days to enjoy sporting their initiation haircuts, so they can prove to everyone that they had the balls to go through the initiation..    

 

The coach, who submitted to having his own head shaved as a freshman in 1988, said the tradition began as a team bonding experience meant to intimidate opponents. But he said over the years, creativity in the haircuts has become as important as intimidation.  As an extra incentive, he promised the athletes that if they won that year's state title, he'd let them shave his own head "as ugly as that'll be."  We never heard whether he managed to hold onto his hair.  Hopefully not.

 

But since he too had already been through it as a freshman 22 years earlier, he should be able to endure a little embarrassment for the sake of his athletes.

 

CALIFORNIA SWIM TEAM INITIATION:  

The freshmen shaved in this memorable California swim team initiation were expected to wear their humiliating haircuts to school the next day so the entire student body could see what was done to them.  One of the seniors said of the freshman haircuts:  “we are just a normal school with dedicated swimmers who get embarrassed the next day at school after the seniors shave the freshmen.”

 

 Another person who was present for the swim team initiation posted this comment:  “The seniors created some lovely masterpieces on the freshman boys' heads that will undoubtedly get them more attention than they want at school tomorrow. We hope the shaving helps them all swim faster this week.” 

 

Embarrassing, yes.  But at another California high school a short distance away, the school newspaper said actually the shaving of freshmen soccer players by the seniors is.an eagerly anticipated annual event that the entire school looks forward to with great anticipation.  The whole school can’t wait to see what new humiliations the seniors have inflicted on the new crop of freshmen.  And the shaven freshmen, in return, get a tremendous sense of belonging by supplying the whole school with a few laughs at their own expense.

 

A crazy haircut is the ultimate icebreaker that turns shy kids into the life of the party.  It’s healthy.  It’s fun. 

 

And it’s good. 

 

ANOTHER SWIM TEAM  INITIATION:

 

This is one of the best swim team initiations I’ve seen.

 

He’ll have fun wearing that one!!!

 

Swim teams have often been able to get away with freshman initiation haircuts easier than other athletic teams.  Since it’s a widespread tradition for everyone on a swim team to shave their heads completely bald before a big race – to reduce drag and thereby swim faster -- , that makes it almost impossible for principals to argue with any logic that the team is picking on freshmen by shaving just a portion of their hair – before everyone on the team goes completely bald.  What’s wrong with leaving a little extra bit of the hair on freshmen for just two or three days? 

 

Kudos to all the swim teams that seize on that technicality to preserve the great fun of freshman haircuts. 

 

A GREAT NEW IDEA:  EVEN THE SENIORS GET RE-INITIATED EVERY YEAR:  

At some schools, a fascinating new tradition is rapidly developing.  In order to get around strict anti-hazing rules.  On more and more high school and college teams -- as you will see in multiple first-hand accounts below -- either the team’s senior co-captains or, in some cases the entire team volunteers to submit to the haircut initiation again every year for four straight years.  Hey, you can’t call it freshman hazing if even the seniors are getting initiated.    

A couple of decades ago, some seniors on this Northern California high school football team – including these two co-captains – were among the first in the nation to adopt the radical new idea that everybody on the team, including seniors, gets an initiation haircut. They made front-page news in the local newspaper with their startling idea and were greatly admired for volunteering, as upperclassmen, for the head-shaving to set an example of team pride for the freshmen.  

 

The father of the guy with the great-looking Mohawk in the foreground was a barber, so he did the initial shaving of the team-members.  And thereafter each football player’s own  father manned the clippers once a week  to keep their own son’s Mohawk trimmed for the entire football season.  

 

The seniors and captains admitted they got stared at when they wore their team haircuts in public and at games – but they said the head-shaving inspired the whole town to support the team.  Wow – what gutsy kids!!!

 

The team bonding is ten times more powerful if all the team members are walking around the campus for a week or two with embarrassing initiation haircuts . . . when the entire team voluntarily shares the embarrassment together.  It becomes a highly visible emblem of intense  team pride.  But, equally important, it also lets the entire student body bond with the team . . . because it lets all the other students see exactly 

who’s on the team by spotting those jaw-dropping  haircuts.     

When I attended a very large university, a lot of the football team members were in my daily classes.  But I had no idea which ones they were.  They blended in with the other anonymous students.  But at those schools where the entire team gets initiated every year – not just the freshmen -- it lets everyone on campus know which guys are representing them on the team.. . . so they can be proud of them.

 

For an example of one California high school soccer team that that has adopted the “everybody gets initiated” idea with enormous success, see the following item below.

DELIGHTFUL HIGH SCHOOL SOCCER TEAM HAIRCUT TRADITION: 

This soccer team at one of Northern California’s most highly respected high schools has adopted the “everybody gets initiated every year” idea with spectacular success to get around anti-hazing laws. 

 

Upperclassmen on that team told their school newspaper that every winter – just before freshman initiation night -- they scour the Internet for photos of NFL initiation haircuts that they can inflict on their own rookie players.  They like sharing the ritual with their NFL heroes.

 

It’s an embarrassing ordeal that both the victims and the upperclassmen on that high school soccer team say they eagerly look forward to every year for the incredibly powerful bonding experience it provides between the rookies and the older players.  Nothing – absolutely nothing – creates a bond quite as powerful as all the new freshman players saying to the veteran team members:  “I so much want to be a member of your team that I’m going to prove my commitment to the team by voluntarily letting you do anything to my hair that you choose to – and I’ll wear whatever goofy haircut you give me for several days in public so everyone can see my commitment.”

 

One of the freshman victims on that high school team told the school newspaper:  “It’s a really fun initiation – a great school tradition” that he wouldn’t want to miss.  “It’s only hair,” he said.  “It grows back.”

 

But once all the willing freshman players on this team have had their heads shaved into weird patterns, an extraordinary thing happens.   The shaven freshmen are allowed to stand up and feel what’s left of their hair . . . and then all the upperclassmen take their places in the initiation chairs.  And all the upperclassmen – including the seniors -- voluntarily submit to the same initiation haircuts to show team unity.  

 

That means that every soccer player goes through four initiations by the time they graduate.  The everybody-gets-initiated-every-year idea is increasingly copied by other schools to get around anti-hazing laws.  You can’t call it hazing when even the seniors get initiated.  

 

Freshmen say that seeing the seniors demonstrate their support of the new freshmen by voluntarily submitting to the same embarrassing haircuts every year creates an unbelievably powerful team bonding.

Everyone leaves the room with a wacky haircut.    Next day at school, the entire soccer team shows off their initiation haircuts and poses for photos for the school newspaper (from which these photos are taken).  The entire team is expected to wear their

mutilated haircuts for several days – and during the first big soccer game of the year with a rival team. 

Asked what the other team will think of their bizarre haircuts, one of these shaven freshmen said:  “They’ll probably laugh at us – but we enjoy it.”

 

According to the school newspaper, the entire student body eagerly looks forward every winter to seeing what sort of strange haircuts the soccer team will emerge with.  The school newspaper says it’s a “beloved” tradition at the school.  The freshmen say it brings a powerful sense of belonging.

 

To stay within the anti-hazing laws, any freshman who doesn’t want his hair mutilated is allowed to opt out -- but he’s missing an experience that the victims insist is a cherished highlight of their high school career.

 

Their school newspaper cites a study conducted by two university professors, showing that nine out of 10 students who undergo hazing in college don’t mind the experience at all.   The survey said most students perceive hazing as having much more positive benefits than negative, with only 11 percent feeling “stressed out” by the initiations.

Not wanting to be outdone by the soccer team, the same school’s baseball team members all show their own team spirit by getting Mohawk haircuts for the playoff games every spring.  ““When we get the Mohawks for the playoffs we just kind of come alive and we start to hit much better than we did during the regular season,” said one team member.  “I think it’s contagious; the Mohawk energy just sort of goes through the team.”

 

Kudos to that high school for successfully harnessing the incredible power – and the fun -- of team haircuts.

 

SCHOOL PRINCIPAL SUPPORTS THE FUN OF SHAVING FRESHMAN HEADS – IF THE FRESHMEN GET WRITTEN PERMISSION FROM PARENTS: 

One  really wise principal at a highly respected boy’s school firmly supports the tradition of freshman head-shaving as a way for the incoming students to visibly demonstrate their support for the school football team – and the students love the ritual. 

Every year the principal joins in the fun by sending a note home to the fathers of incoming freshmen, saying we’re going to be shaving the heads of the freshmen on Monday as a show of support for the school football team,  Please sign this paper if you want to allow your son the fun of getting  his head shaved.  And then the faculty joins in the fun by letting the kids shave their teachers' heads to show solidarity with the shaven freshmen. 

The kids consider it the most fun-filled event of the entire school year.  Wow!!!  Great idea!!!  What a powerful school tradition. 

 

Almost all the fathers enthusiastically sign the permission slips, allowing their sons’ heads to be shaved – which provides a powerful bonding between fathers and sons.  Most fathers frankly enjoy seeing their sons prove their manhood in a rite of passage by enduring an embarrassing initiation haircut. 

 

A FATHER STAUNCHLY DEFENDS THE RIGHT OF HIS YOUNG SON TO SUBMIT TO A HAIRCUT INITIATION. 

The father of this freshman haircut victim made news headines in 2012 by courageously standing up to school officials and publicly defending his son’s right to submit to an embarrassing initiation haircut as a treasured rite of passage when he entered high school. 

In earlier years, it had been a cherished tradition at that same Midwestern high school to shave the heads of freshmen – a rite of passage that most incoming freshmen eagerly looked forward to – but the head shaving was now banned.  

 

But the boy’s older brother, who was a senior in the same high school and whose own head had been shaven before the ban went into effect, wanted to return to the old tradition -- wanted to initiate his younger brother and two of the younger boy’s friends the old-fashioned way by giving all three of them embarrassing freshman haircuts.  The younger brother enthusiastically asked their father for permission to submit to the initiation right there at home and to wear the haircut to school to show everyone he had been properly initiated..

 

 

So their father told the older brother (shown here on the right), sure, go ahead and shave him, if that's what he wants.  

The next day, school officials suspended the older brother (shown here) for manning the clippers and thereby allegedly violating state anti-hazing laws.

 

But the father showed up on the evening TV news, saying his kid asked for the initiation and that he (the father) gave permission for his son to be shaved.  Way to go, Dad!!! Thanks for defending the innocent fun against pecksniff school officials.

 

So ask yourself:  If the victim himself wanted the haircut and asked his older brother to initiate him . . .  and if the father gave his full permission for his son to be shaved right there in the family living room in front of the parents . . . and if the older brother wanted to have the fun of welcoming his brother to the school with a crazy haircut . . . and if the victim himself actually enjoyed showing off his initiation haircut to the TV cameras  . . . then where the dickens is the harm in it?  Lighten up, people!!!

 

And, wow, what a great job the older brother did with those clippers.  I’ve seldom seen a better haircut initiation in an NFL locker room – and they are the masters at it.

 

The story of that father giving permission for his own son to undergo a haircut initiation isn’t really that unusual.  See the strikingly similar story below, where another open-minded, fun-loving father joins in the enjoyment of his own son's initiation. .

THIS MOHAWKED MUSICIAN AND MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER TELLS ONE OF THE MOST CHARMING, BOYHOOD HAIRCUT INITIATION STORIES YOU'LL EVER READ 

You'll love it.

Shaun Groves, a musician and motivational speaker -- who sometimes on stage sports one of the best-looking Mohawks you'll ever see -- tells a delightful boyhood story of his own initiation haircut many decades ago as a young high school freshman. It's a truly memorable rite-of-passage experience any young boy would be lucky to have.

His story illustrates better than anything I've ever read anywhere why school officials should lighten-up and let young boys enjoy the incredibly powerful bonding experience of an initiation haircut, because it's a memorable welcoming experience..  Here, with great photos of his own boyhood initiation, is the story in Shaun's own colorful words.  Enjoy.   

“Don’t run,” he said.

I didn’t.

Three Texas cowboys escorted me from my house and out to the driveway.  Kids from the 

neighborhood circled out front on their bikes or sat on our lawn watching my initiation in fascination..

Bzzzz.

The cowboys used sheep shears to remove most of my hair – all but a strip of bangs in front, a tail in back, and a circular tuft on top.

My dad, who would soon take a job with the Texas prison system (no joke), took these mugshots so I’d never forget the day. Like I ever could.  [Good for Dad, joining in the fun.]

Decades before, the seniors on the football team began the tradition by shaving a “T” for “Tyler” into the heads of freshman football players – a “rite of passage” that, in wussier states like Vermont or California, would be called hazing.

By the time I was a ninth grader at Robert E. Lee High School, all Seniors, not just ball players, could shave the head of any freshman. And though the practice was still called T-ing there were no T’s involved. Instead, a kid might walk away with a “Bozo” – hairy around the edges, smooth on top. Or a “mange” haircut  – random gouges of hair taken out at random intervals all over your head.

I was both horrified and honored to be T-ed by my girlfriend’s big brother and his 4-H friends that day. On the one hand, it meant looking like an idiot for a week, at which point I was allowed to shave all the hair on my head and go to the big dance looking like slightly less of an idiot. But still, I had to go to the first formal dance of my high school life looking like I’d just stumbled out of Auschwitz in a tuxedo.

But it was an honor to be T’ed, because it meant seniors actually knew I existed.  A freshman boy would never cop to it, but walking around with a vandalized head was actually a real reward of sorts --  highly visual proof that he was known to someone presumably cooler.  

Someone with sheep shears.

Many decades later, my wife's sister, Kathy, gave me the other haircut that got mentioned in almost every review of my first album.. . .

I’m honored because when Kathy saw this guy with really cool hair in an airport -- a good fifteen years younger than me – she said to herself, “This haircut would be perfect for Shaun!” She snapped a photo of his hair and then flew to my house and told me not to run.

I didn't.

Bzzz

I’m both horrified and honored by what’s happened.  Horrified because the haircut Kathy has given me is much cooler than I actually am. 

Then there are the reactions of the kids. Twelve year-old boys say my new haircut is “rad” and “wicked.” Do I want my head to be a distressing mystery to small children and the envy of tween boys?

It feels good to be thought of by the really cool kids with the sheep shears.

WELCOME TO "MOHAWKS ROCK," SHAUN, WITH YOUR "RAD" MOHAWK.  YOU LOOK GREAT!!! BUT MOST OF ALL, THANKS SO MUCH FOR SHARING THAT REALLY GREAT STORY -- AND THOSE GREAT BOYHOOD PHOTOS THAT YOUR FUN-LOVING DAD SNAPPED -- WHICH ILLUSTRATE SO CHARMINGLY WHY SCHOOL OFFICIALS SHOULD JUST RELAX AND LET YOUNG BOYS ENJOY ONE OF THE MOST MEMORABLE RITES OF PASSAGE OF BOYHOOD . . . THAT PRICELESS MOMENT WHEN THE OLDER BOYS -- THE REALLY COOL KIDS -- WELCOME THEM TO MANHOOD WITH THEIR FIRST INITIATION HAIRCUT . . . JUST LIKE THEIR NFL HEROES WHOM THEY ADMIRE SO MUCH.

YEARS LATER . . . DECADES LATER . . . THEY'LL REMEMBER THAT PRICELESS MOMENT IN TIME WITH JUST AS MUCH PLEASURE AS SHAUN DID.  BRAVO!!!  

HEY, SHAUN -- I ESPECIALLY LIKE THAT EYE-CATCHING LITTLE TAIL THE COWBOYS LEFT ON THE BACK OF YOUR SCALP WHEN THEY SHAVED THE OTHER PARTS OF YOUR HEAD WITH THE SHEEP SHEARS.  PRICELESS!!!   I'LL BET THE HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS LOVED THE TAIL.    

 

HERE’S YET ANOTHER CLASSIC EXAMPLE OF A SCHOOL OVER-REACTING TO A HARMLESS FRESHMAN HAIRCUT:

 

In January of 2011, the Washington Post reported that a high school in suburban  Potomac, Maryland, fired their wrestling coach – who twice led his team to the state championship and was considered a local hero – and immediately had him escorted off of school property (although they later reinstated him to a demoted position).  His offense?  The Washington Post said as a team-bonding ritual, the coach shaved the heads of at least three of his young wrestlers in the team room after practice.

 

Two of the wrestlers signed written statements saying they didn’t mind the head-shaving at all – they thought it was “fun.”  And  the third bald-headed wrestler told a TV interviewer that he volunteered to be shaven.

 

So what’s the harm if all three victims actually enjoyed it?  Because two of the parents were upset at the sight of their bald-headed sons – despite the fact a father with two sons on that same wrestling team, in just two days, collected the signatures of 1,000 townspeople indicating they thought the head-shaving was harmless fun, and the firing was a gross over-reaction.

 

This firing is a perfect example of parental over-reaction in refusing to let their teenage sons have the fun of a harmless rite of passage. 

 

Anti-hazing reformers argue that even if initiation haircuts are largely harmless, they believe that haircut hazing can quickly get out of control and escalate into truly dangerous initiation practices like fatal alcohol poisoning or brutal beatings.  Nonsense.  That’s like arguing that people shouldn’t be allowed to drive cars, because it might lead to drunken driving.  

 

At the opposite end of the spectrum, examples abound of wise, tolerant high school principals who find that allowing the harmless fun of initiation haircuts creates enormous school ad team spirit – because the kids have the tremendous satisfaction of demonstrating their loyalty to the school or team by enduring a harmless and exciting ordeal.  Some of their encouraging stories are told elsewhere in this blog. 

 

DO FRESHMEN AND ROOKIE ATHLETES RESENT INITIATION HAIRCUTS?  HECK NO!!!  MOST OF THEM SAY THEY ACTUALLY ENJOY THE HEAD SHAVING FOR THE POWERFUL BONDING EXPERIENCE.  

 

Don’t believe me?  Just check out all the haircut initiation photos below, and notice how many of the happy victims have big grins on their faces.  Clearly, they don’t look like unhappy victims.

 

Again . . . and again . . . and again in the authentic, first-hand  accounts below, the grinning faces on victims of the initiation haircuts tell you that they thoroughly enjoyed the experience . . . in many cases actually sought it out . . . often standing in line to voluntarily receive their haircut initiation . . . sometimes even signing a legal contract agreeing to voluntarily accept any haircut the upperclassmen or team veterans want to inflict on them.  (Later in this article, I’ll show you a photo of one of those haircut contracts.) 

 

Are you listening, anti-hazing reformers?  Do you think just maybe you’re missing something important here?  

 

THEY TIED A HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PLAYER TO A CHAIR & SHAVED HIS HEAD –BUT HE ENJOYED IT:  

USA Today, in a story a number of years ago about hazing in high school sports, interviewed five high school athletes.  One of the five told the newspaper he thoroughly enjoyed his haircut initiation and wouldn’t have missed it for the world. 

“The older players tied me to a chair in the locker room and shaved my head and eyebrows.  I saw it all as fun.  We didn’t necessarily see it as violence.  It was like bonding.  Every freshman football player on the team got tied up and shaved, no matter what – so we all went through it together.”

 

He’s typical.  Despite what the hazing reformers would have you believe, again and again and again, in study after study, most high school and college students who endured initiation haircuts insist they actually enjoyed the once-in-a-lifetime experience as a delightful rite of passage into manhood.

 

BACK IN THE 1940s, THIS PENNSYLVANIA STEEL MILL TOWN CARRIED FOOTBALL HAIRCUT HAZING TO AN EXTREME THAT DEFINITELY WOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TODAY:

 

Do NOT try this at home!!!  It would likely violate most anti-hazing laws today.  But back in the days before anti-hazing laws, haircut initiations could get pretty extreme. 

 

Of all the haircut hazing stories I’ve heard over the years, the single most humiliating account came many years ago from a fraternity brother of mine– a star lineman on the football team at a small eastern church college.  It was a week before our own fraternity initiation was scheduled to begin, and we freshman pledges were bracing for the worst, fearing what was to come. 

 

 “Well,” said my friend, “whatever they do to us next week couldn’t possibly be any worse than the head shaving I endured when I was a high school football player.”  Boy, was he right about that!!!

 

The story he recounted happened prior to the enactment of today's anti-hazing laws.-- back when initiations could get rather wild.  Even after all these years, I remember it, because the shocking initiation story left me pretty stunned. 

 

“It was a tough little steel mill town in western Pennsylvania,” he said, “where Friday night high school football was the biggest thing in town.  And those tough steel workers’ sons were really good at dreaming up excruciatingly humiliating initiations for the high school letterman’s club. 

“They stripped all my clothes off, tied my hands behind my back, blindfolded me, and led me into the gym.  When they removed my blindfold, I was stunned to see a lot of adult guys in the bleachers.  A lot of the older guys in town who had once played football for the team – former lettermen -- had come to watch us younger players being initiated into the lettermen’s club.  They wanted to see how tough the younger guys were.

 

“Suddenly I heard the buzzing sound of hair clippers behind me.  They asked me where I wanted my hair parted – but I knew damn well what was coming.  Growing up in town, I had seen it happen to the older football players every year.  One by one, they shaved me and all the other initiates totally bald.  But then it got much worse.

 “As each guy was shaved, they collected our falling hair in little transparent bags.”  [It was similar to what happened to this professional wrestler who is being punished by having his head shaven in the ring.  The red circle shows the plastic bag in which the victim’s shaven hair is being collected.]

 

”Then they used string to tie the hair bags around our necks – and ordered us to wear the hair bags everywhere we went around town for the next week.  We had to keep 

the severed locks dangling outside our clothing so everyone could see them. 

 

“We weren’t even allowed to remove the bags of hair when we were at home at the dinner table with our parents, which really embarrassed me in front of Mom and Dad.  That was the most humiliating part of all – even though Dad was really proud of me for being tough enough to take it.  He had gone through the same initiation when he was younger, so he couldn’t wait to see his own son go through it.  It was a big tradition in football families in that little steel town..   

 

We even had to wear the bags of hair while sleeping.  The only time we were allowed to remove

 the bags was when showering.

 

  “Since the bags were transparent, you could plainly see the hair that had been stripped from our bald heads.  The purpose was to make it crystal clear to everyone in town that we had been forcibly shaven – that we were being initiated.  But it got even worse.

 

“They warned us that if we lost the bag with our severed locks, we’d have to go through the entire initiation all over again.  So all week long, the upperclass football players made a huge, sadistic game out of it – trying to snatch away our severed locks, just so they could have the fun of initiating us all over again – after our hair grew out.

 

“Well, sure enough, one of the older players managed to grab my hair shavings, breaking the string that held it around my neck.  So they ordered me to go without a haircut for the next four months, so they could have the fun of shaving me all over again.  I had to go through the whole, humiliating ordeal twice.  I spent most of the year with a shaven head – and everybody in town knew exactly what had been done to me.  Everywhere I went in town, people teased me mercilessly about it.

"Yes, it was embarrassing.  But I have to admit I kind of enjoyed it.  It was fun proving to ‘em that I was tough enough to take whatever they did to me.  That’s part of what football’s all about, right? . . . being tough.    Believe it or not, I still have that little transparent bag of my hair as a cherished memento of that tough initiation.  The second bag.  The older guys stole the first bag from me.

 

"Watching the humiliation of the newest crop of football lettermen was always one of the biggest events of the year in that little steel town – almost as big as the annual game with our biggest rivals."  

MOM'S COMPLAINT ABOUT HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL CAMP HEADSHAVE TOUCHES OFF MICHIGAN DEBATE ABOUT INITIATION HAIRCUTS, BUT TOWNSPEOPLE RUSH TO DEFEND THE FUN

In 2008, a Michigan newspaper reported that "what started out as a simple complaint about a football camp haircut turned into a raging debate that pitted one mom against dozens of area residents and Football coaches."  

The woman complained to the local board of education when her son came home from football camp with his head shaved.  But the football coaches and other teammates said all the players agreed to the haircuts and asked for them.  One area coach said many high school sports teams have some type of tradition -- but for solidarity, not as hazing.

"It's something the team does. It's kids being kids," said one varsity football coach at another local high school.  "My kids come back on a regular day with haircuts that look strange, and I know they did it to each other.  It's not hazing. It's something they enjoy, and they ask each other to do it."

Virtually ALL of the reader comments posted on the newspaper's Website strongly defended the initiation haircuts.  Here's a sample: 

"This is just an example of team unity and good clean fun,  It's parents like her that make good, respectable men and women hang up their whistles and quit coaching."

"She's going to ruin it for more boys who go to camp. It's hair, for crying out loud. It will grow back.  Be glad it was just shaving heads ... It could have been much worse."

"This is still an issue? The little benchwarmer's hair probably grew back by now."

"With such an overprotective mommy, getting his head shaved as a team player will be the least of his problems in high school - or life."

 

"If she's so concerned about her son's safety then why is he playing football? That seems far more dangerous to me than getting his head shaved."

"He consented to the haircut, so if there was no malice involved I don't see the problem. Her kid will get more flack from these articles than the haircut.  His hair will grow back in a matter of days. But he's forever gonna be known as the kid whose mom made a big stink about the incident."

"His mom is worrying about the wrong issues. His hair will grow back. If my guy's hair is the worst of my worries, than I really do have a wonderful son."

"Lay off the kid. He is probably humiliated beyond belief. Maybe he begged his mother not to complain but she did, regardless of his feelings. Feel sorry for him. Hopefully he'll be able to live this down."

"The earlier story said when the mom first saw her son, he had a towel or some other covering over his head. Maybe his only concern was what her reaction would be -- not that he had gone through with this fun-filled "rite of passage."

A SPORTSWRITER IN UPSTATE NY DEFENDS ROOKIE HAIRCUTS AS A POWERFUL TEAM-BUILDING RITUAL

In 2016, a young sportswriter for a newspaper in upstate New York wrote an excellent defense of rookie haircuts for high school athletes.  He explained beautifully why -- for a shy freshman athlete -- willingly submitting to an initiation haircut at the hands of older team veterans, and then proudly wearing that mutilated haircut around the campus for everyone to see, is such a powerful bonding ritual and such a truly satisfying rite of passage.  Here's how he explained it:

"There are two different types of hazing," he wrote.  "There are:innocent, playful initiations that are intended to bring the team closer together as a group, and there is the other kind of hazing with intentional malice.

"Well, I've been involved in both, and it's important to recognize the difference. . . . 

"I do not fall on the side that believes all types of initiation are bad. . . . In my experience as a high school athlete, the rookies were given haircuts by the upperclassmen.  We'd gather at one player's house and one by one, each rookie would sit down and receive a haircut by an older player.

"Now, we're not talking a buzz cut ... no, these haircuts were meant to be funny looking. The worst part? It was the rule that you had to walk around school the next day with whatever haircut you were given. Some guys just had chunks of hair taken off — I was gifted with the Friar Tuck look . . . .

"It was harmless fun that brought the team much closer together.  Except for the prized initiation haircut, a 14-year-old freshman would never otherwise get to interact with the big, intimidating seniors."  He said voluntarily submitting to the clippers being wielded by that big, intimidating senior "allowed the younger players to instantly bond with and deeply respect those who had gone through the same headshaving initiation before them.  We can't be afraid to let these kids bond and have some fun along the way."

Bravo!!!   Well said!!!

AN INITIATION HAIRCUT ISN'T ALWAYS THE RESULT OF AN INITIATION:

Sometimes a guy can end up with an initiation-style haircut without even going through a hazing. 

German professional soccer star Kevin Grosskreutz bet his hair on a team championship.  

As an incentive for the team to win. he promised his team that if they won the title, then he'd let the entire team shave his head any way they wanted to -- and he'd wear the results for awhile.

Well, they won . . . and he submitted, right there on the soccer field at the end of the game in front of the stadium.  Love it!!!

That haircut rivals anything an NFL rookie ever had to wear.

And this unexplained haircut butchery proudly flaunted for awhile by Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison is another alltime greatest initiation haircuts that apparently did NOT result from any initiation.

Reportedly he decided to chop off his long locks that were interfering with his baseball cap and batting helmet -- and he just decided to have some innocent fun with the clippers.  Wow!!!  I love it!!!  

Are these two haircuts on star athletes a sign that initiation haircuts are now getting so popular that you no longer have to endure an initiation to enjoy them?

 

WHY DO SO MANY GUYS ACTUALLY ENJOY INITIATION HAIRCUTS?  

Well, these next three football players pictured here may be able to provide one good answer to that question.

 

All three of these team members told reporters that at the beginning of every football season, the very first thing they did was drop by the barber shop and have their hair shaved into a Mohawk – an eye-catching haircut that they then retained for the entire football season . . . refusing to shave off the Mohawk until the season ended.

 

All three said it’s because, in their particular community, Mohawks usually meant football.  Their Mohawk haircuts let everyone who saw them know that they played for the local team -- made them walking billboards for the team. 

 

The high school team captain on the left told the local newspaper his football Mohawk actually generated new fans for the team and better attendance.  He told a reporter: “This older couple saw my Mohawk in the checkout line at the supermarket and asked me why I had it.  When I told them it was a commitment I made to the local football team, they vowed to buy season tickets and show up for the games.  That made my haircut worthwhile.”

 

It’s the same reason the player on the right and his entire high school football team used to allow their coach to shave them bald – and then kept their heads shaven for the entire season  – because everyone knew that their shaven heads meant they played football for the local team.. 

 

Well, guess what.  That’s exactly the same reason so many guys actually enjoy wearing an initiation haircut around town for a week or two.  It's the same reason they like to wear their team jerseys around town with their number on it.  Because it telegraphs to everyone who sees them that (A) they play for the local team, and (B) that this is what their fellow team members did to them to warmly welcome them to the team.  It’s a real pride thing.  Intense pride!!!

 

The highly visible haircuts are an exciting part of being on a team.  Don’t deny them that pleasure.

 

INITIATION HAIRCUTS DESCENDED FROM THE MOHAWK: 

Any Mohawk-lover who isn’t also intrigued by the growing popularity of initiation haircuts is missing half the fun.  Because initiation haircuts are essentially just . . . . . uh, well, mutilated Mohawks.

 

 

What makes a Mohawk so damned much fun?  It’s the shocking, eye-catching, but oddly fascinating contrast of that bristly tuft of hair protruding from a cleanly shaven skull.   It’s a stunning effect!!!

 

Well, that same shocking contrast between the shaven scalp and the remaining tufts of hair also defines an initiation haircut.  They’re first cousins.  .

An initiation haircut is just a Mohawk on steroids.  A Mohawk times twenty.

So if you like Mohawks, then you probably also like initiation haircuts.

THE MOHAWK BEGAN 240 YEARS AGO AS AN INITIATION HAIRCUT:  

A lot of folks will be surprised to hear that the Mohawk itself began as an initiation haircut.

 

Although invented by the Native Americans, the Mohawk first entered white culture 240 years ago as an initiation haircut inflicted on one of America’s all-time greatest heroes – the frontier explorer Daniel Boone.  Here’s Daniel showing off his initiation ‘do.  (I’ll tell you the fascinating but largely unknown story of his initiation a little later in this article.)

 

After Daniel’s hair grew back out, for the next 200 years, the Mohawk remained solely an initiation haircut – except for Mohawked American paratroopers during the D-Day invasion in World War Two.  But in the mid-1970s rock stars and the punk movement adopted that shocking haircut as their chosen trademark.  Thereupon, teenagers around the world fell in love with the Mohawk look and copied it by gleefully shaving their heads into scalp locks -- to the everlasting shock of their parents and school principals. 

 

That’s how the “initiation look” suddenly became the “in” fashion for teens.

 

Meantime, during and right after the Second World War, the Mohawk morphed into a huge variety of other types of initiation haircuts inflicted on countless freshmen & athletic team rookies:

 

Reverse Mohawks, bi-hawks, crossways Mohawks, block-letter Mohawks  &  lots of other bizarre haircuts to warmly welcome male freshmen & rookie athletes to the team . . . or  to the school . . . with a really fun experience for everyone. 

Here's a historic  circa 1965 photo of two upperclassmen holding down a grinning freshman at Harvey Mudd College in Southern California while a third upperclassman uses electric clippers to give him a mutilated freshman haircut..

Cruel?  Not really.  In those days before anti-hazing laws when it was traditional on so many campuses to shave the heads of freshmen, wearing a freshman haircut around the campus for a few days was seen by most of the victims as a highly visible sign of acceptance into the group.

As one 1960s freshman explained, "I knew it was the only time in my life when it was socially acceptable to have the fun of wearing a really weird haircut around town for a week or two and getting stared at.  It was lots of fun.  I loved it!!!"   

 

A VERY IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:  We are arguing that initiation haircuts, even if embarrassing, are totally harmless fun  – as long as the victim willingly submits to the head-shaving, as long as nobody gets hurt, and AS LONG AS THEY DON’T VIOLATE ANTI-HAZING LAWS IN YOUR STATE. 

 

But this does NOT mean that ALL types of initiations are harmless.  Inflicting serious physical injury is blatantly illegal, can lead to criminal charges – and is totally unacceptable. 

 

Worst of all, forcing an initiate to drink excessive amounts of alcohol is not only dangerous – it is often  fatal and can lead to prison for the perpetrators.  That’s a huge no-no.

 

ANTI-HAZING REFORMERS TEND TO GROSSLY OVER-REACT TO HARMLESS RITUAL HAIRCUTS – BUT THEY ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT TO BAN THE MORE  DANGEROUS INITIATIONS:   Obviously no high school or college student should ever be placed in danger of physical injury or death merely in order to join a school organization..  

These two historic photos illustrate initiation rituals that cross the line into forbidden territory.  In 1937, a major magazine published these two photos, showing young college students willingly submitting to a tough initiation into a sophomore honor society at one of the nation’s best-known colleges.  First their heads were shaved bald. OK so far, as long as it was voluntary.  . No one ever died from a shaven head, right?

 

Then the shaven pledges were paddled with wooden fraternity paddles that the initiates had been forced to carve in the college wood shop for use on their own buttocks – forced to carry the paddles everywhere they went for weeks so that everyone could see what was going to be inflicted on them.  They were forced to strip to their underwear for the initiation paddling so it would sting more and were required to hold each other’s hands to keep them from instinctively reaching  back to protect their buttocks.. 

The paddling could get them in significant legal trouble in many states -- although oddly enough, the big grins on the faces of all of the pledges suggest that they were actually enjoying the initiation at that point.  But things went swiftly downhill from there. .

 

Apparently what caused the college chancellor to ban the honor society was NOT the totally harmless head-shaving nor perhaps even the paddling, which was accepted practice on most college campuses back in the 1930s when these photos were taken.  ,  Instead, what apparently concerned the chancellor  from a safety aspect – quite wisely -- was the fact that the totally unconscious initiates in the photo at the left appeared to have been forced to consume dangerous amounts of alcohol that could easily have been fatal.  Upperclassmen had to carry away  the bodies of the unconscious initiates.

 

That 1937 college chancellor was absolutely right to be deeply concerned about potentially fatal alcohol poisoning shown in these photos..  So it's hard to believe that 80 years later, this lesson is still unlearned.  As I write this, numerous members of one of the nation’s oldest and best-known college fraternities are facing criminal charges of involuntary manslaughter and assault for forcing a pledge during a "hell night" ritual to consume potentially lethal amounts of alcohol (four times the legal limit) and then leaving his unconscious body for 12 hours while he lay dying without help after taking a drunken fall down the basement staircase.  

Almost every year, another high school or college freshman dies needlessly from acute alcohol poisoning during an initiation . . . involving incredibly stupid upperclassmen who somehow have failed to learn the elementary fact that too much alcohol can kill – and frequently does. 

 

The reformers need to stop getting their knickers in a knot over harmless haircuts – and use all that energy instead to FINALLY get the word out to youngsters that alcohol poisoning can kill.  It’s a desperately needed message that the reformers seem to have no interest whatsoever in spreading to school campuses.  They’d rather stop silly haircuts.  What’s wrong with this picture?   

 

Forget the haircuts and stop the killing!!!  Concentrate of the real danger -- not the harmless stuff.

Officials will never be able to completely eliminate initiations.  Young men will always crave some sort of meaningful rite of passage.  So let’s be realistic and concentrate instead on banning the really dangerous initiations – and openly welcome the truly harmless ones . . . like silly haircuts.  That’s exactly what the really smart school official do.

 

 

ANTI-HAZING REFORMERS ARE MAKING THE SAME MISTAKE WITH HAIRCUT INITIATIONS THAT ANTI-DRUG CRUSADERS MADE HALF A CENTURY AGO WITH MARIJUANA:

Most drug abuse experts today agree that their predecessors back in the 1960s made a terrible mistake by falsely equating marijuana with hard drugs, addictive drugs.  Anti-drug crusaders hawked a notorious and widely ridiculed propaganda film “Reefer Madness” that portrayed marijuana smokers as crazed drug fiends from hell.   Why was that a terrible mistake?  Because when the kids found out that marijuana actually isn’t addictive, that they had been lied to – then the kids decided maybe the anti-drug crusaders were likewise wrong about the really hard drugs like heroin.  Wrong.  The results were predictable – and disastrous.

 

Well, maybe the anti-hazing reformers are making the same mistake by trying to falsely equate totally harmless haircut initiation fun with the truly brutal and truly dangerous initiation abuses – like fatal alcohol poisonings, sodomy with broomsticks, and brutal beatings.  Too many kids figure that if the reformers are so horribly wrong about harmless haircut fun, then maybe they’re equally wrong about the really dangerous initiation rituals.  So the kids take their initiation rituals underground – again with predictable (and disastrous) results . . . and occasional fatalities.

 

But the really smart parents are the ones who avoid the “Reefer Madness” blunder by welcoming the kids’ harmless haircut initiations  into their own homes where parental supervision can ensure a fun day for everyone – ensuring that  the initiations are limited to just haircuts and that no one is shaved unless they really want to be shaved.  Way to go, parents!!!

 

And the really smart school officials encourage the parents to welcome the initiation fun into their homes, where it’s safe and sane – and fully consensual.  The really dumb school officials are the ones who then punish the kids when they show up at school with initiation haircuts that the parents have authorized, encouraged, and carefully supervised to guard against abuse.

 

 

(TO BE CONTINUED.  UNDER CONSTRUCTION.  CHECK BACK EVERY FEW DAYS FOR POSTINGS OF ADDITIONAL TEXT & PHOTOS.)

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