Identity, Part I: Hair and Body

Part One of three pieces: our identity is not neccesarily detirmined by what we wear, how our hair is or what we do to our skin but sometimes our unique personality qualities are shown in these specific fashions. Read on for part one of "Hair and Body."

By Aaris A. Schroeder
January 30, 2009

Our identity is unique and similar all at the same time.  Each person is one of a kind when it comes to their DNA, fingerprints and interesting character quirks.  Everybody also has characters that are simply human, such as showing how happy we are, getting angry or demonstrating fear.  Within these realms of diverse yet parallel qualities, come even more humanoid traits such as the instinct of being accepted by other humans.  Sometimes these specific behaviors are acted out in what humans like to call “‘our identity.”’  Our identity again has several unique and similar responses.  This story is about young people that are going through what some call an identity crisis.  Perhaps you do not even know that you are going through one. 

There will be several parts to this story, so get involved; leave comments because your opinion is important!  Part one is about hair and body, the history of each style and how it has evolved as well as how people wear it and why.


Mo-Hawk, Fo-Hawk or Hawkie as the English call them seem to be all the rage in several circles.  Let’s start with fo-hawk which is defined as a fake-Mohawk.  What makes one Mohawk real and another fake?  Where did Mohawks come from in the first place?  Mohawks are derived from tribal ancestry.  The Mahicans and Wyandot; a Native American tribe, Clonycavan Men of Dublin, Ireland all sported Mohawks, usually in time of war.  Even in World War II, 101st Allied Airborne Soldiers wore Mohawks when flying during war. 

Anarchists took to noticing this Mohawk fashion and utilized it in their hair styles much how modern Americans wear dread locks as way to rebel.  Of course, in the ‘80’s with the surge of Punk-Rock and Neo-Rock sub-cultures, people began wearing Mohawks as a way to rebel against the government.  I mean, who is going to hire you with a Mohawk, right?  More recently, Mohawks have become trendy and have infiltrated into hip-hop, emo, scene and other cultures.  This is probably where the term fo-hawk is derived from.



Dreadlocks, dreads or locks;– however way you want to say, it have been seen locally sported by different ethnicities as well as in different sub-cultures.  I have seen one long lock, several small ones; twisted and curled, several long ones, some people like it shoulder length others like it to their rear end.  I have seen different sizes, colors and shaped ones on the same head as well as natural locks caused to form on their own.  Some people like to get their locks cleaned up once a month where others never maintain them.  Wearing them can be a hassle in the summer because of the heat and sometimes people will not hire you for jobs if they are not kept up properly or the job requires a more clean-cut appearance. 



The history of locks goes way back to Hindy Shiva worshippers in India as well as wealthy Egyptians and pre-Christian Europeans.  Several other cultures and countries including Ethiopia, Greece and Aztecs wore locks mainly for religious and high-culture reasons. In nearer history and why many Americans and Europeans wear their hair in locks now is because of the Rastafari movement.  Rastifari was a sub-culture in Jamaica, started in the early ‘30’s where underprivileged citizens wore their hair in dread locks to say that they lived a ”dread-life”  or a “”life in which he feared God” because of leader Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia.  Rastifari is a term Jamaicans use to explain the young, black faith in their culture in the ‘50’s as well. 

There are many reasons why people wear dreadlocks such as a deep faith [following 77 commandments given by God], political statements against the government or system, ethnic pride or pride of country.  One thing is true, here in Sacramento, unless you are Jamaican, Rastafarian or maybe are into the culture’s music, you may be wearing locks simply for fashion. 


Modern Cut and Style

Current hair trends in America vary between long and short, bangs or no bangs, choppy cuts and blended curvy hair. Color also is an important factor in current hair fashion such as black and blonde or adding colors such as pink or purple, even where you dye your hair, the base of your hair or streaks, the top only – it can all get very confusing, so I researched a few modern magazines and this is what I found.

While the pencil-thin eyebrow is out, growing out your brows is definitely in, according to In Style Magazine, February ’09.  They also say that showing your roots is in [again].  Are we getting lazy here or just going back to basics? 

“Imperfection can be cool, provided roots are only a few shades away from your highlights.” Says Style Mag who also states that growing your hair out longer is becoming fabulous for 40+ women and of course flat-ironing your hair is a great staple for all ages, says In Style Magazine [just use lots of moisturizer or leave-in conditioner!] 

Elle Magazine totes hair styles that ranged in top-of-head tangled messes [Monique Lhullier and Fendi] to “imperfect curls” produced by a matte and undone look [Proenza Schouler], even split down the middle, highly conditioned natural hair [BCBG].  So many styles but this is true, looking amongst gridsters in Sacramento, there does seem to be an apparent look that 20-something and even 30-somethings are styling.  I see shorter, choppier hair with bangs down the forehead or side-swiped along the forehead and to the ear.  I come across guys with naturally curly or wavy hair growing it out into a ‘fro’ or long locks to their shoulders…with bangs.  I have also seen the messy look that seems to come from not having a place to shower but you see these same cats at indie rock and electronic DJ shows buying Pabst Blue Ribbon beer so who knows.




Guys seem to be going a-la-natural with color, mostly although some have been seen to dye it black, pink or some other off-color.  Girls are more into dying their strands, as I have observed.  Young women wear two different colors in their hair, mainly black and an off-color but some have decided to stay natural and grow it out long, including the bangs, of course.  Women have been toting messy pony tails, cute hats and beanies as well as colorful headbands.  As for female style, I would say that it can range all over the place to smooth and sleek to choppy, feathery and over-processed [or matte] to natural and wavy.  It seems that all of these different cuts and styles for local men and women are attached to their personality or perhaps they create a personality when they chop it up, add some color and blow-dry their hair into a perfectly desirable style for the public to awe over.



I have always been one of those people that never wanted to get my ears pierced.  I was only 8-years-old and my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Reffness came in with those huge hoops, pulling down on her ears back in ‘88.  Ah, those were the days, big jewelry, more piercings in places we never thought possible and several sub-cultures in America sporting out-of-this-world piercing preferences.  What is interesting is that now-a-days more and more people have piercings.  More people have their body pierced somewhere than people who have no piercings themselves, such as me.

The history of stretching earlobes goes back thousands of years to tribes in Asia, South America and Africa.  Substances such as wood, bone, stone, horn, antler, amber, silicone and glass are used, according to Wikapedia in ear stretching and earrings through out human history.  Piercing originally substantiated a servant or slave in a household.




Nose and ear piercings have remained the most popular and more recently in cultures across the world amongst women.  In the ‘80s and ‘90s gay men, punk-rockers, hippies and the sub-culture of gangsta rappers all were getting pierced.  People pierce for several different reasons, whether it is spiritual, political, trendy, for sexual sensitivity [the Prince Albert is popular with men where clitoral piercings are sexually appealing to women] and symbolism.  Many employers in western cultures find piercings distasteful and will not hire potential employees with them or will not permit them to wear them while working.

Locally, I have seen people with several types of piercings, mainly lips, eyebrow, multiple earlobe or cartilage piercings, ear gauging from 20 to 00, belly button, septum, tongue, nipples or neck.  Downtown, there are several salons offering piercings, whether they are nail shops, hair salons and especially tattoo parlors – everyone wants to get pierced. 


Tattoos and Brands

If there ever was a trend that used world-wide throughout history by tribal cultures, gypsies, pirates, bike riders and punk rockers, it would be tattoos.  I remember growing up and being in a Bible study with my parents and their friends.  We were discussing body mutilation which is an abomination against the Law of God in the Old Testament.

”Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoos on yourself for I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:28. 

I could not see why tattooing was a sin, maybe there was a little pressure and pain but it was granted by the person who offered it upon themselves.  I can see why cutting yourself would be considered bad but tattooing?  Well, so maybe it isn’t accepted by all cultures and religions out their but it is a lot more acceptable than its roots show.

China tattooed war heroes; some historic illustrations show full-body tattoos.  India and Egypt started the trend of Henna and Mehndi and is still used to this day worldwide.  The Philippines decorated their bodies because they felt tattoos offered magical value and the practice dates back to pre-Spanish colonization.  Europe tattooed their soldiers pre-Christianity and it was looked down-upon as traces of paganism once the church was established.  Japan tattooed their bodies to show their spiritual sides and just for body art.  The Middle-East cut their skin and rubbed ash into their wounds as a way to mourn the deceased.  Samoan tribes have been practicing a lengthy process of leg-tattooing for boys as a way of entry into manhood, dating back 2000 years.

Image of Travis of Gym Class Heroes. -Photo Borrowed from


Branding was done to animals and people who were enslaved or as punishment.  Slaves have been branded throughout human history since they can try to escape a lot easier than animals which could be stolen.  It would mark them so that they would be returned and punished for escaping.  American Puritans who emigrated here from Europe branded “A” on the chest of men and women for committing adultery.  In 1547 Vagabonds and Gypsies were branded with a “V” and brawlers with an “F” on their chests and run-away slaves received an “S” across their forehead or cheek in England.  Jews’ livelihood all together was stolen as they were branded with numbers when they entered the concentration camps during World War II.  Hindus brand also known as Taapa their bodies to show humility and adoration to Vishnu, Rama and Krishna.  More recently, street gangs, fraternities and voluntary branding [as apposed to tattooing] for fashion has been occurring across Northern America.

With such a history, it is no wonder that it is still around, accepted or not and you do not have to be a pirate or a bike rider to sport a tat, as they are referred to or a brand.  Although I have heard some locally saying that they would rather someone have no tattoos than just one or two – if you are going to get one, make it a lifestyle and keep getting them.

Mandel Davis gets branded to welcome his new son into the world
Mandel Davis gets branded to welcome his new son into the world


That wraps it up for hair and body!  I hope you enjoyed this piece and look forward to my second piece that will be about sub-culture clothing styles.

*Unless noted, sources come from Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia. 

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