MY FAVORITE HAIRCUT (Not Quite Random Favorites….In No Particular Order)

jfonda1It was called a “shag.” Some prefer “hairstyle” but don’t worry. Either way it’s nothing I ever had. This is not about me. Just about what I like.

There having been only three famous women who ever truly rocked it above and beyond the call of duty, I was just going to post some pictures of them. (I’m sure some of the many men who wore it, David Cassidy, Rod Stewart, et al, touched the souls of those of other persuasions, male and female. If so, peace be upon you. As for me, I am what I am and make no apologies.) But, in doing a little research, I found out my favorite haircut had a specific and pretty inspiring history.

To the extent such things can be spiritually copyrighted, it was invented by a Hollywood hairdresser named Paul McGregor for Jane Fonda’s character in 1971’s Klute. I encourage you to read the full story at the link, where, among other things, I learned that Warren Beatty, much to McGregor’s bemusement, claimed he modeled the lead character in Shampoo after him.

That might be another story for another day when I write about movies that defined the seventies. Klute and Shampoo will definitely be on the short list for consideration.

(And whether that was really where the shag began I don’t profess to know. Not my bailiwick. You got other ideas, feel free to share.)

For now, the part that interests me most is Fonda’s own reaction to the cut. Again, you can read the whole thing at the link, but basically, she saw it as a path to freedom, specifically freedom from her super-controlling husband/director Roger Vadim, who liked for her to wear hairstyles he approved.

I’ll buy that.

And, if so, it was not just mine and a lot of other people’s favorite haircut but maybe one of the more important cultural statements in modern history.

The Fonda who was perpetually cowed by men like Vadim could never have become Hanoi Jane. which, in itself, might have been a blessing. However pure her intentions, she did no worthy cause any favors in the role. And the less said about her eighties-era aerobics empire, the better. (Okay, I’ll say this much: those workout videos were as emblematic of Reagan-era ethics as visiting Hanoi was of counterculture ethics half a generation earlier–once unleashed, Jane got around.)

But she also never could have become, for a decade or so, starting with Klute itself, the bravest actress in Hollywood, a place where genuine bravery is always in short supply. She didn’t keep it up, but, while she was in flight, she went places nobody went before, at least not in big Hollywood productions that reached far outside the art-house circuit.

(For how far outside that circuit a Hollywood star can have an impact, I’ll just repeat something my mother told a woman on the phone who was going on about Jane’s political shortcomings right after we had seen 1978’s California Suite: “Well honey that may be true, but I’ll tell you one thing. She’s forty years old and she came out wearing a bikini and there was not one ounce of fat on her.” In our world, you always got credit for being a trouper. Next to that, being a commie didn’t seem so bad.)

For all the best and worst of it, out of Fonda’s own mouth, we can thank the shag.

Which leaves the real question hanging.

Did she who rocked it first rock it best?


Let me first say that, when it comes to haircuts, “shag” has developed a very fluid definition. So fluid it basically includes every shoulder length hairstyle you can think of, including the most famous post-shag hairstyle of ’em all “The Rachel.”

Nothing against the Rachel, but no matter how many millions donned it, it only ever really belonged to one person–and she hated it. Too much trouble. I’ve expressed my admiration for Jennifer Aniston plenty here before, but the Rachel is not a shag, let alone the shag.

The true shag, as befitting its source and inspiration, was both bold and democratic. If I’m giving it the strictest definition, I’m saying if I didn’t see it in the halls of my high school, circa 1974, it ain’t a shag.

Which brings me to Fonda’s competition.

Until recently (meaning this week) I always considered this competition to consist of one woman and one woman only–a woman who was really famous in England in 1974, but was completely unknown in my rural southern high school until she showed up on Happy Days a few years later.

That would be this woman:


..who did not even cause a buzz in my part of the world when she made the cover of Rolling Stone in January, 1975. Believe me, if anybody had seen this, word would have gotten all the way around:


So if nobody liked Jane, nobody had heard of Suzi, and nobody else wore the cut with sufficient flair to inspire imitation, why were so many girls sporting one? Utility maybe, but, in high school, that ain’t enough. In high school, at least for it to spread like that, somebody has to make it cool.

And, until this week, when I was searching around Pinterest on an unrelated topic, I had somehow completely forgotten who made the shag cool in my part of world in 1974. Then I happened across a few key photos that unlocked the memory gate.

Everybody in my high school knew who this woman was. And everybody liked her. Girls especially. Working class girls most especially. There was a reason she was the Country Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year for 1974. Country girls were her first major audience. And they didn’t just like her music.


For the record: The girls in my part of the world kept on copying Olivia Newton-John’s hairstyles for the rest of the seventies.

Farrah Fawcett’s soon-to-be legendary do?

Never saw one anywhere but on television.

Now, as to who was the absolute best?

Come on. You think I’m gonna make that pick?

I’m country. Sort of.

I’m a lot of things. Sort of.

I ain’t stupid.

Kudos, though, to Suzi, for pretty much sticking with it, decade after decade.

And for always being a reminder that a thing of joy is beautiful forever.


39 thoughts on “MY FAVORITE HAIRCUT (Not Quite Random Favorites….In No Particular Order)

  1. NDJ

    Personally, I hated Ms Fonda’s shaggy do, as I do most short cuts on most women. But tastes is tastes.

    On a much more interesting topic: “However pure her intentions, she did no worthy cause any favors in the role.”

    I don’t have enough time in this life to address how wrong that statement is. Suffice to say, for you younger readers, virtually every single thing that the US government, the US military, the US intelligence community, and the US media told us about Vietnam was an exaggeration, misinformation, disingenuous, or an outright lie.

    This included why we were there (Gulf of Tonkin Resolution vs feeding the military-industrial complex), who we were fighting (“Viet Cong” was a name we made up to make the resistance to French and American imperialism seem evil), how we were doing )we were ALWAYS winning, especially when we were losing), ad infinitum.

    Those of us who opposed the war saw Fonda’s fact-finding mission courageous. (She was investigating illegal bombing of Vietnamese dikes, which we were doing, which we still officially deny.) Many of us still admire her ballsiness and are sorry that she has had to apologize so many times to the very bastards that created and/or maintained that war the endless wars since.

    Yada yoda blah blah and I guess you had to be there (then).


    PS: Vadim may have been a control-freak arsewhole (there’s a redundancy), but if he was responsible for this look, the bless him for BARBARELLA (her look, not the movie) I(and there’s one for you to review) (with a straight face) . . .

    PS: Propaganda works best when people believe they’re not at war.

    • I’ve heard from a lot of women that men generally don’t like short hair. I guess I’m the exception (though I don’t consider a shag “short,” more medium length). I guess if you put a gun to my head and asked me to choose between the Barbarella look and the Klute look, I’d say you can’t go wrong, as long as they’re on Jane Fonda…But I think you might have misread that part. Vadim HATED the look. Probably worse than you! Her hairdresser was responsible for it and evidently keeping it was the first time she really stood up to Vadim or anyone else.

      As for he manner of protest: I’m sure she meant well. I’m sure what she did took some courage. That didn’t make it smart. I don’t think it either shortened or extended the war she was resisting (though the protests of people in general, especially right here in the good old U.S. of A., certainly shortened it…without that, we’d be there yet, as the people of the Middle East can now certainly attest). But she handed the post-war right a really powerful shorthand image for “protest” being the provence of the children of privilege. However sincere she was, there was no way she could look like anything but a poseur unless she started giving her life to good works. Which she didn’t.

      And symbols are handy. Much handier for the controllers and propagandists serving power structures (who are in the best position to turn them into gifts that keep on giving…for their side) than for any who oppose them. In the short run. Fonda got to feel good about herself–and I say short run because I assume her endless apologies mean she’s had second thoughts (not sure why she has “had to apologize” otherwise, why apologize for being right?).

      In the long run we’re still fighting stupid wars and still losing them….and the point was (or should have been) to make that stop. Especially since, in the wake of Viet Nam, the only way to stop losing the kind of wars we now prefer is to stop fighting them.

      That said, she may not have done any harm. The overlords could have found other “symbols,” though they’d have been hard-pressed to find one so perfectly concise. But I can’t agree she did any good. Eyes on the prize and all that. The prize of a sane world looks further away than ever to me.

      Then again, I think modern America is in a lot worse shape than most people do. It feels like the proverbial house of cards. We’ll be just fine, unless the wind blows. History says the wind will blow. We’ll be debating something more than shag haircuts when that day comes so I’m gonna have as much fun as I can the meanwhile!

  2. Agreed on Ms Fonda: she just has to be there. I am just a sucker for women with long hair cascading down their backs and shoulders and . . .

    Did Fonda’s trip to Nam help end the war?

    Did massive protests around the world help end the war?

    Did young American men leaving the country help end the war?

    Did young American men burning their draft cards and going to prison help end the war?


    We will never know, but that war ended and Grommett bless all who were anyway responsible, no matter how tiny their input.

    What we do know is that modern America has accepted permanent-mini-war status and the slaughter of hundreds of thousands (millions?) of civilians over the past 30 years as the “normal” way of life in these here United States. As acceptable.

    Which many of us did not do then.

    Including Fonda.

    And this normal way of American life now more or less passively accepts mass-shootings of unarmed citizens by civilians and the individual shootings of unarmed citizens by police as another new “normal.”

    Seems to me like we could use a few Hanoi Janes right about now.


    PS: Didn’t mean to sound like I was misinterpreting you or coming down hard on you, but Jane Fonda’s trip to Viet Nam was seen as important and heroic to those of us who did burn our draft cards (and still have FBI files 50-60 years later!), go to prison, leave the country, protest, etc. It’s the same rightwingnut bastids that continually shame her that have made Donal Trump a phenomenon . . .

    • No problem with coming down hard for your side. Debate is good! And I agree with most of your points. Of course all those other things you mention collectively helped end the war. Except about Fonda’s moment I can’t be so sure.

      I can’t speak to her impact in the moment. Too young (though only by a little). I’m only looking at it through the cold eye of the decades that have passed since, which I was observing first hand. Can’t see that she did much good there. The MCI is still standing and more firmly in control than ever. You say we need her kind now and that ‘s a good point. But isn’t she still alive? Along with a lot of others? Where is everybody? What’s stopping them? Are these recent mini-wars cool–or at least not worth taking to the streets to protest–because people like Hillary Cinton consistently voted for and supported every single one of them? I don’t know the answers but these seem like fair questions.

      You know my bleak view. We never walked away from ’68 and 1980 represented the end of politics. The MCI took total control and have never come close to relinquishing it.

      Funny enough, I recognized the futility of it all in 1984 and didn’t vote. Two wings–one party and all that. Why bother? But I voted every election since (usually write-ins or third parties, though I threw in a Dem or two). Now I’m coming the conclusion that I was right the first time. So I spend my time trying to focus on where things went wrong–the path not taken as some wise soul said.I’d love to be proven wrong but I’m not holding my breath.

  3. NDJ

    Two-wings, one party? I could make the usual list for Dems that starts with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, minimum wage, etc., but instead will go with this three-minute talk:

    Then I could end by saying that 30% of Americans vote Rep*blican; they’re not the problem.

    30% of Americans vote Democrat; they’re not the problem.

    40% of Americans don’t vote!

    Guess what they are . . .


    • Yeah, well I’ve voted consistently since 1986. And that’s made me feel like part of the problem. Could be this is just a bad patch and I will recover my cynical optimism even before election day, or perhaps shortly thereafter. I’m only saying how I feel in the moment. Perspective is everything.

      Regarding the Federal government, my only concerns are war and peace and management of the budget. On those matters, all disagreements between the two parties, post 1980, are window dressing. And the lockstep has failed all around. Once the economy can find no more bubbles to ride and/or we lose one too many wars (by poking one too many hornets’ nests), all other matters, including those you speak of, will be dust in the wind.

  4. NDJ

    Ol’ Ike warned of the MIC and there’s NOTHING we can do about it now. Too late. Way too late. If we elected a Sanders/Warren ticket and they appointed Kucinich Secretary of Peace, maybe, just maybe something might change.

    A little.

    But the monster would have to be fed and unless someone is willing to tax the bejeezus outta the wealthy and the corporations, illegalize offshore accounts, tax the hell outta companies that move plants and jobs outta the States, yada yoda blah blah, it CANNOT change.

    I do believe that if we had elected nothing but Dems since Nixon, then the arguments we would be having now would be about which progressive candidates to vote for. But everyone says I am too damn optimistic.


    PS: A few years from now, when you and everyone you know will be hobbling to the mailbox to get their SS checks, foodstamps, etc., to pay their bills, remember this conversation.

  5. Well, you sound like you think it can’t change. I think it can, but it’s gonna take the 40% who don’t vote to vote first Dem then Progressive and Green and then we will have change.

    Needless to say, I am not holding my breath in anticipation . . .

  6. Well, here’s that two-wings/one-party thing again that just ain’t so: the GOP does everything in its power to keep people from voting, while the Dems do whatever they can to encourage it.

    In fact, I’ll bet I can say with impunity that every law passed in this country in the last 100 years that impedes voting was passed by the Rep*blicans …

    • Better not go back a hundred years. That’s getting deep into Jim Crow which was sustained almost entirely by Democrats.

      And I didn’t say they were exactly alike on everything, only that there is no meaningful difference on the two issues I think are existential. (Can the economy survive? Can we develop a sane military policy? No and No. Unless, as you said earlier, there is a massive change. Which is not being contemplated by either party at present.)

  7. You are correct: I keep forgetting about the Southern Dems. I don’t think of them as “us”; never have. My mistake.

    Can the economy survive? Of course, but it could get better faster if we ran this country like we did in the ’50s and ’60s.

    Can we develop a sane military policy? The two are the same and this, too, can be fixed—despite the psychos in camouflage at Trump rallies.

    • So we disagree on whether the economy can survive. You say “of course.” I say no way. We agree (I think) that without that, sane military policy is basically impossible.

      I don’t see any evidence that either party wants to implement even one policy that would help us reverse course and avoid collapse. I don’t see things getting better in my lifetime. If you do, I genuinely envy you. I mean, I used to not be nearly this grumpy!

  8. Of course the economy CAN improve. Hell, it can improve miraculously!

    Will it? As long as the GOP can convince 65,000,000 voters that black people cheating on welfare, brown people sneaking across the border, pregnant people having abortions, gay people getting married, rich people not paying taxes, etcetera etcetera etcetera (did I mention evolution and prayer in school?) are MORE important than their own financial well-being, it’s doubtful that we will be seeing any miracles happening before it all falls down …

    Grumpy at 55; curmudgeon at 65.

  9. Sorry: the caffeine hasn’t kicked in yet and I pressed Post Comment too early. Read that lust: it’s actual accomplishments, not opinions. Then consider:

    What coulda happened in the last eight years if there had been a Dem Congress and Senate behind him.

    It coulda been miraculous …

  10. I will agree that all Obama ever did was “keep a steady hand on the wheel” AFTER he saved the car from going over the cliff that Bush was intent on driving that car over …

  11. While I do believe you under-estimate how far down that cliff might have been (ergo under-estimating Obama and the Dems), I do believe that you don’t over-estimate how far down those future cliff(s) could be …

  12. To the former point, I will say I’m glad we didn’t have to find out (even if it meant leaving all those “bankers” free). To the latter, I can only repeat that I genuinely hope I’m wrong. I just call ’em like I see ’em.

  13. The DOJ should have picked 1,000 Wall Streeters at random and investigated them individually. Prosecution and prison time following law-breakers. Then announce that they might do that every few years (a thousand a random) from now on. A lot of investors would suddenly think increased personal profits wasn’t all that necessary.

    As for the “latter”: if it’s as bad as I my worst fears, we might wish for a zombie apocalypse instead…

  14. NDJ

    Speaking of zombie apocalypses, my 27-year-old daughter is pregnant with my first grandchild. She is as emotionally stable as ever and has no weird food cravings, but she does crave something . . .

    Horror movies.

    She calls me and asks me to recommend older films we didn’t watch when she was a kid.

    A personal fave when she was knee-high to a Barbie doll was KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE. I have recommended she not see it again (it’s lame) and enjoy the childhood memories.

    On the other hand, it’s always a good time to rewatch PUMPKINHEAD.

    As for zombies, we recently saw 28 DAYS again and it’s still an intense view.

    Also enjoyed WORLD WAR Z, if only for introducing me to the Tenth Man Theory.

    Finally, did you suggest BONE TOMAHAWK to me?


  15. 2015. Western horror. Weird cave-dwelling Injuns that even other Injuns are afeared of. Good cast: Kurt Russell (not Keri’s father), Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, and an unrecognizable Richard Jenkins. So-so movie. If not you, then who the hell else would suggest a western of any kind to me?

    PS: Do you know VALLEY OF THE GWANJI?

  16. Goodgollymissmolly! You haven’t seen VALLEY OF THE GWANJI, the first cowboys-and-dinosaurs movie?!!? It has stop-motion animation of the thunder lizards by the incomparable Ray Harryhausen. Add it to your list of must-see-this-before-the-existential-collapse-of-greedy/corrupt/runningdog-American-capitalism!

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