Venture back into the 1980’s and the image of a man with a shaven head is one deeply associated with that of racially fuelled hate crimes and general disorder. This stems from when ‘skin heads’ were, often rightly, feared by the majority of the population. The negative stereotype connected to the image of young men having shaven heads is now one that has regrettably stuck: almost instantaneously labelled with connotations of football hooliganism and crime.
Recently 6 close friends and myself had our heads shaved in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust; in total we incredibly raised over two thousand pounds for the charity. Our transformation in appearance is understandably quite a shock. Having all had medium/long hair before our campaign, the difference now is not one that cannot go unnoticed. We all have the same group of friends, our peers see us in school every day and our teachers are all aware of the charity efforts. However, we all spend time in varying environments outside of school. Whether it is at our personal sports teams, behind the bar in a pub, working as a lifeguard or at a major shopping outlet in our city – we all have had to be seen alone by the general public, unaware of the reasons behind our head shave. For me, this raised the question of whether people’s perceptions and attitudes towards us as individuals changed with our change in appearance.
I went to the gym with two of my mates who had also given up their hair in the name of charity just 3 hours after the actual event, and one of the first things my friend said to me was, “Some people gave me a right dodgy look earlier.” In a matter of a couple of hours why were we now being negatively judged without good reason other than the length of our hair? The change in perceptions came almost instantly once we had been split up and taken out of our school surroundings.
The next I noticed came when I went to buy myself beers for a party. Having always used this shop, the same man that usually greeted me with a smile on purchase asked to see my identification. He seemed wary from the moment I stepped into the shop and asked me to prove my age for the first time in about a year. (Admittedly he should have been asking!)
So within days, however trivial the incidents may seem, we could notice differences in people’s attitudes towards us – all for raising a serious amount of money for a worthy cause. Is a severe hair cut all it takes to be treated entirely differently?
I don’t deny I may have had the same attitude towards people of my age with shaven heads previously to our charity efforts. However I now realise how it may often be unjustified. We as a country need to change our perceptions and stereotyping of people simply on the foundations of a glance. You never know the reasons behind why a person looks like they do, so let’s not be quick in judging anyone.