In my youth, many if not most budding musicians had to fight their way through a lot of opposition, such as parents or other authority figures urging them to stop this nonsense and get a real job — and for Christ’s sake, get a goddamn haircut!
Classical music, as you surely recall, used to be called “longhair music,” as many orchestra conductors failed to make regular visits to the barber, and there was no one demanding or requiring that they do so. When Elvis appeared on TV in the 50’s, my father nearly had a stroke over the hairdo. “Goddamn Duck’s Ass!” and worse, sideburns! Presley's hairstyle infuriated him, which meant it pissed off lots of other people, too.
Haircut bigotry was rampant back then. My high school gym teacher said that “any boy with enough hair to grab with your hand is a fairy.” Why?
Another 50s thing: shirt collars worn turned up. This tiny, harmless style statement was nonetheless not the norm, and pegged us as bad kids.
And then, the Beatles. My God, their hair was hanging over their ears and collars! The minute I saw them on Ed Sullivan I stopped going to the barber. These four Brits had suddenly somehow made it okay to not get a haircut. Of course I justified this with my burgeoning career as a rock and roll guitar player. All the squares out there would have to keep getting their white-sidewall and flat-top haircuts, but I, we, the bands, did not.
In the beginning, we were ridiculed for defying the dominant haircut paradigm. Some were threatened, and beaten up. How fiercely some people defended their ordinariness. And at first that’s how it was. But then, bit by bit, other facets of 60s upheaval came into play. Non-musicians, stoned on the marijuana that had somehow emerged from the ghettoes and jazz clubs into the white mainstream, also began to grow their hair. And they found that it could get them laid, for one thing. The squares and redneck types who called them faggots had no clue.
By the mid-late 70s, men with long hair were acting on TV and even Dan Rather had cultivated a bit of a mop. Before you knew it, good ole boys in pickups with lots of hair under the cowboy hats were a common sight. And that's where the ponytails first started showing up. A ponytail indicates a lack of imagination (what does one do with all that hair?). Problem is, long hair as rebellion or statement was over.
Yuppie/business types, the personification of Status Quo, wearing polo shirts began putting their collars up. This was “cool” and even more so with a ponytail. Never mind that these were the people who had ridiculed us in 50s for collars up, and in the 60s for long hair. And now, we see them everywhere, mostly bald, but enough hair in back to tie into a ponytail. Forty years after the fact. As I may have said before, too late, fellas.