When I was a kid, my dad took me to U.S. Army barbershops for my haircuts.
This may come as a shock to some of you, but in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Army barbers didn’t have a lot of experience with long hair on males. I had three basic styles from which to choose: short, very short and something called “the boot camp.”
I usually opted for short.
Even when I got into junior high and later into high school, at a time when long hair on males was all the rage, I still sported a short hairstyle. The reason for that was because I went to St. Xavier’s Catholic School and played sports. If you played sports at St. Xavier’s, you were expected to have short hair. I’m not sure that short hair actually helped us play better (judging by our win-loss record, it didn’t), but that wasn’t the point. The point was that Jim Westerhaus, athletic director at St. X, didn’t like long hair on his players.
My teammates and I hated having short hair. Most of my teammates and I thought our hair made us look like “dorks.” And if you added a pair of black, horn-rimmed glasses that were held securely on our (my) head by one of those black straps, we (I) looked like a “major dork.”
Today, hairstyles tend to be all over the place. Some folks go for short hair, some folks go for long hair, and some folks go for no hair at all. Schools today also tend to be less uptight about the way kids wear their hair. In most schools, the attitude seems to be “as long as it’s not a distraction” you can do whatever you want to your hair.
I think that having a good haircut — a style a kid is comfortable with — might be important. I was pretty self-conscious as an elementary student. Looking back, I’m not really sure what I was self-conscious about. But, I think when you’re a kid, it doesn’t take much of anything to make you feel self-conscious.
Liz Scheurich, with the Joplin Family YMCA, said the staff members at the Y were thinking about that elementary school self-conscious feeling when they decided to offer free back-to-school haircuts for elementary school students.
“There is a Y in St. Louis that does it (offers free back-to-school haircuts), and it has been a great success,” she said. “It’s a way to give the kids a bit of self-confidence before school starts.”
The Joplin Family Y’s free back-to-school haircuts will be given from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Y’s south branch, 3404 W. McIntosh Circle Drive. The nice folks from New Dimensions School of Hair Design will provide the haircuts, and Liz said any extra expenses for supplies will be covered by the Y’s allocation from the United Way of Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas.
Free haircuts will be given to students from kindergarten through sixth grade. The Y asks that parents or guardians make sure that their child’s hair has been washed before the haircut.
Boosting the self-esteem of young people has always been a goal of the Y, and it’s something on which the Joplin Family Y has especially concentrated in the past year.
“Since the tornado, we have seen a lot of issues come up relating to kids’ self-confidence, and we realized that we needed to step in and do other things,” Liz said.
And the best thing is that there will be no Army barbers giving haircuts.
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