Monday, February 11, 2008


Man, this is an awesome topic. It takes some scene setting though. Go back to the mid 90's. I am living in a suburb of Seattle. Seattle is the Mecca of Grunge music scene of the time. I am in middle school at Harbor Ridge MS in Gig Harbor Washington. The grunge music era is in full swing. Nirvana is topping the charts with Pearl Jam, Greenday, Offspring and Blind Melon close on its heals. Large baggy dirty corduroy pants and flannels are all the fashion rage for men and boys. Also, flannels with sewed in hoods, sagging pants, airwalk skate shoes and the worst offense, jean shorts. Everyone at my school was sporting a variation of this attire, and if you were a boy, you had a heinous disgusting socially unacceptable haircut, the infamous and in retrospect embarrassing BOWL CUT.

The bowl cut derives from some unknown origin, probably from the lower class unable to afford a barber placing a bowl on the head and cutting around it, but it goes by many names including the beach cut, the pot cut, and or the chili bowl. It is popular among the Amish, was warn by Moe on the Three Stooges, and was the signature hairstyle of the late 80's to mid 90's teenage scenes.

It also is the haircut I wore for at least 4 straight years of my pathetic teen existence. The problem was really that I wasn't hardcore or grunge. I was a good kid, well behaved, and a athlete. But I also wanted to fit in and everyone had a bowl cut. It seemed that the cool kids had really extreme bowl cuts though. SO the question then becomes "What are the varying degrees of a bowl cut?"

Well lets examine the anatomy of the bowl cut. Basically you have three major factors that affect the appearance and delivery of the style of the cut. 1.) the length of the hanging hair bowled part of the cut (I will refer to this as the bowl). 2.) The length of the hair beneath bowl (this will be referred to as the shaving). and 3.) The degree of bowl overhang onto the shaving.

Now I found that the "coolest" kids and the most hardcore kids had a very long bowl length, wetted down and possibly greasy, a closely buzzed, if not shaved completely, shaved region underneath, and the shaved region possessed a very high degree of bowl over hang. As I wanted to be cooler I had to go through a sad and desperate negotiation with my mother every time I went to the barber. Unfortunately I didn't go to a barber, I usually went to "Hairmasters" or "Supercuts" or "TGIF Cutters." There over made up and permed thirty something stylists of failed dreams and sadness would work like conveyor belt workers turning out mediocre haircut after disappointing haircut, in between smoke breaks of course. It was there that the negotiation would come to a head (no pun intended). I would tell the plastic faced baboon lady proudly that I wanted a bowl cut. This would solicit a dashing glance to my mom who would wander over. I would pull the side of my hair up and say that I wanted it shaved up "so far," which was passed the allowable level and then I would state that I wanted the shaving to be a number 2 or 3 on the clipper scale. Those were my terms, stated clearly, my mom would then bring the overhang down about an inch, the clipper level up to a 4 and then imply that the bowl be shortened as well. I would try to counter with a rebuttle but that was usually futile. Hairdressers listen to mothers because mothers pay the hairdressers. If she turned me into a grunge freak my mom wouldn't give her a tip to buy yet another Screwdriver and pack of Pall Malls to suck down at the local dive bar and grill lounge as she slowly tried to medicate away her attachment to her failed reality. I would walk out of the glass and mirror Paul Mitchell hell hiding my shame. I would have to show my face at school the next day with a brand new wussy bowl cut where some real bowl cut wearers would eventually shove me down some stairs.

To help with the shame, I used to try and keep it wetted all the time and neatly parted strait down the middle, this gave the illusion that it might be greasy, upping the BOWL factor. It had little effect on my rep or popularity. Another factor that could up your bowl's level of hardcoreness was how much you had to flick your head to keep it out of your eyes. See all these kids today sport the indy cut that hides one eye, but we started the "I'm so misunderstood you can't see my eyes" hair cut long ago in the real generation of complaint and misery (the early 90's grunge era), today they are just posers who don't know their miserable roots and will be equally embarrassed of their stupid haircuts decades later as I am today here before you.

No matter how hardcore your bowl cut, you usually could never achieve the likes of Curt Cobain or Eddie Vedder, they ruled atop the roost-o-bowlcuts. Some of the high school kids who snuck into the woods to smoke pot during and after school had bowl cuts that were close though. Some of the most intense bowl cuts had to be tied in a pony tail or simply looked like a split mohawk on a vacation.

I don't remember when or where I stopped wearing the bowl cut. The fad eventually faded around the mid 90's and I went to high school. I would enter a whole new twisted and savage world of trying to fit in. But to hear that saga, you will have to figure out what the topic is from the next Reader's Choice Topic 5 it is, communally vote for it and then I can continue this sobering and embarrassing walk down memory lane.

Good day, and mommas, don't let your kids get stupid haircuts, they'll thank you in the end like I am now. Thanks Mom for not letting me cut my hair like a pot smoking loser and for always trying to keep me presentable to the public. Now I have earned the right to do whatever I want and I can choose to look like a freak if I want to. You've granted me that right.


halsky said...

Nice! I love the analysis of the fantastic sams worker and the battle between you and mom. classic.

Anonymous said...

you know what would make this post complete? A visual. I mean a genuiiiiine original from the mid/early nineties of you, the author, for us, the readers. Otherwise I just don't get it...

alisha said...

"Oh my god, Becky, look at his dots. Their like so big."

I certainly hope you know what song that's from. Dots is Africa? Europe? All over the midwest? You are officially the king of the dots, Kale. I will pass my coolness crown back to you now. :)
Wow! Did you know you had so many readers?

I agree with kt. Putting up an original shot of Kale the bowl cut wearer would be spectacular!

You did good by your mother at the end there. Isnt it wonderful how we can see it all with such clarity when we look back. You sent me down a little trip on memory lane as well...I cant begin to tell you the number of boys I had crushes on that had bowl haircuts. Too fun! What a great topic and what great writing. Kudos!

Anonymous said...

Another term for this cut is "wedge cut".

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