Tom Purcell, 1/6/2020 [Archive]

A Cut Above: Update Hairstyle, Update Outlook

A Cut Above: Update Hairstyle, Update Outlook

By Tom Purcell

My father and I still regret the first and only time I dabbled in the world of high fashion.

According to Yahoo! Lifestyle, retro fashions from the '60s, '70s and '80s are making a comeback this year. reports that 16 throwback hairstyles from the '70s are "back and better than ever!"

While these playful trends are good for our country - more on that later - I have my misgivings.

Because I'm still upset about the David Cassidy shag haircut my sisters made me get in 1973, when I was 11.

Cassidy, the heartthrob star of TV's "The Partridge Family," was all the rage then. Like millions of teenage girls, my sisters had major crushes on him.

They told me I'd be the first kid in St. Germaine School to part my hair down the middle and feather it over my ears. They told me I'd be popular with the girls.

So I did the unthinkable. I pedaled my bike three miles to the unisex hair salon behind Murphy Mart. I set my crumpled bills and coins on the counter.

"Make me look like David Cassidy," I said to the lady, a smoldering Marlboro Light dangling from her lips.

She clipped, cut, styled and set. She applied goops and sprays. When she turned the chair around so I could see myself in the mirror, I was horrified.

I didn't look like David Cassidy. I looked like Danny Bonaduce, Cassidy's TV little brother.

The rest of that day, I hid in my room - until my father demanded I join the family for supper.

I took my seat to his right. He sensed something was off immediately.

Washing his burger down with gulps of Pabst Blue Ribbon, he kept looking at me.

'What the heck happened to your hair?" he finally said.

"I got it cut."

"But it's parted down the middle."

I nodded.

"Why would anyone part his hair down the middle?!"

I had no answer for him then. But today, psychologists offer interesting insight into fashion's deeper meaning.

Clothing and style reflect what's going on in our culture. In a strong economy, dress is more playful, colorful and bold. That's what current trends suggest - and it's a positive.

"Clothing affects our mental processes and perceptions which can change our minds and the way we think," according to research by Karen Pine, a University of Hertfordshire professor.

In her book "Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion," Pine "shows how people's mental processes and perceptions can be primed by clothing, as they internalize the symbolic meaning of their outer layers."

In other words, playful retro fashion trends just might be beneficial to our national psyche. Can they help us loosen up rigid mental processes and perceptions, and maybe even change how we relate to people with whom we vehemently disagree?

Hey, it's a small step but it's worth a shot.

Which brings us back to my David Cassidy haircut. It wasn't until my mid-20s that I got rid of that long-out-of-fashion style.

I asked for something modern and trendy. The hairdresser cut my hair short and slicked it straight back with greasy goop.

"What the heck happened to your hair?" said my father.

"I got it cut."

"You look like Eddie Munster!" he said.


Coyright 2020 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of "Misadventures of a 1970's Childhood," a humorous memoir available at, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at

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