The aesthetics of football

The hair-cut is an often unappreciated barometer of social development. Whereas only 20 years ago, before the wholesale professionalisation of football, footballers sported the most unfashionable hair-cuts in our society, today they are at the absolute cutting edge of fashion.

No successful footballer today can claim to have reached the upper reaches of excellence unless they have established their own t-shirt label and sport a radical hairdo.

You won’t find any self-respecting footballer today with a mullet, rummaging through the aisles of Dimmey’s for an extra large bonds T and a pair of Staggers. Staggers – unless they are thrown together ironically with a chic hairdo, pair of ugg-boots, a rippling physique and a fistful of dollars – will not get you past the doorman in Toorak Road.

There are, of course, some exceptions to the rule. Country lads like Jonathan Brown retain their daggy hairstyles, resisting the couture trappings of the big-smoke, and, sagely, the emergence of the Kojak cut.

In an age when baldness cures are invading our late-night, free-to-air psyches, and when wealthy sporting gods are laying their shame on the table and imploring other wealthy baldies to cover up their shameful shiny pates, how is this trend possible? It defies all aesthetic computations.

Like the Cometti comb-over the shaved pineapple used to be the last refuge of the desperate baldy but today is, astoundingly, a hair-style of choice.

Tracing this sadistic looking, bald trend to its roots, a watchful spectator will discover that it was the prematurely balding Judd, Chappy and Baby Jesus who first sported this radical, follicle abomination. In very short order, and against all aesthetic rules, early adopters bobbed up – Murphy, Gibbs, Johnson, Kelly.

Perhaps this trend is not as strange as it first seems. If you were at the fringe of the best 22, would it not be an advantage? Your team mates might mistake you for Chappy and kick the ball in your direction for a decisive bomb from the 50 metre line. And with 1%ers at a premium, could not a bald dome reduce wind friction at a critical juncture?

As Oscar Wilde once observed ‘it is only the shallow people who do not judge by appearances’, and it would appear that in the world of football haircuts, he is vindicated.

About Dave Latham

Dave Latham has recently finished a history thesis on class and Australian Rules football in Melbourne between the years 1870 and 1920.

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