January 2000
s m u g
by Bob Van Pelt

Sweet Hair

The year is 1979. I am 12 years old and I'm looking into the bathroom mirror. There's a carnival party tomorrow night and I'm trying out my costume. I am wearing jeans, a white T-shirt and an American style college cardigan with the letter B embroidered on it. I am a greaser. I am Danny Zuko. I am cool. All I need is a pompadour and I will be perfect. Sandy will be mine tomorrow night. Except, I have no idea how to do my hair. I grab my mother's bottle of hairspray and go for it. Within seconds I have created a mess. All I've done, it seems, is make my hair very sticky. I wash my hair, run downstairs and consult the folks. They were young in the Fifties, they'll know what to do. My dad explains that in America mechanics used to put axle grease in their hair. I'm not planning on doing that, so we go out and get an alternative: some brilliantine hair product I have only seen used by men over 75. As I am putting the stuff in my hair I already know it's not going to have the desired effect. All it does is make my hair lay flat on my forehead and, well, greasy. I add some hair spray. Nothing. Who am I kidding anyway? Rydell High in rural Belgium. I lie down on my bed and stare at the posters of John Travolta and The Fonz. How the hell do they do it? Maybe I should bail and go as a pirate instead.

The year is 1982. I am standing in front of the mirror again. It is Saturday evening and I am getting ready to go to an important high school party and I'm giving my hair another try. I haven't done this since 1979 but this time I'm going to get it right. This time, I want a spiky hairdo, just like Limahl. It's the Eighties, damnit, and I'm gonna be in style! As my tape recorder plays a mix of Kajagoogoo, Adam and the Ants and Duran Duran, I get ready to use my two new secret weapons: a can of mousse and a jar of bright pink, blubbery gel from the discount drugstore. I apply liberal amounts of the goop. It feels like cold jelly on my scalp and it does nothing. I add some mousse. Nothing. I add some of my mother's hairspray and my hair is now a blubbery wet and gluey mess with no shape at all, not even one Kajagoogoo-ish spike.

As you may have guessed by now, I have very thin hair. I'm not bald, it's just that my hair has no natural texture, and until recently I wasn't able to sculpt or mold my hair at all, which I found, uh, restricting. But thanks to Jenny, my hair dresser, I discovered American Crew for men. Their two products "pomade" and "fiber" (pliable molding creme) are the stuff I should have had all those years ago. The very thick pomade is great for sculpting or slicking down short or half-long hair. It has a very light but non-offensive smell, gives your hair a natural shine, and keeps it in any position you want for an entire day, even if you have ultra thin hair. Also important is the fact that it leaves no ugly residue in your hair. The smell and consistency of the fiber, excellent for spiking up a short do, are a little weird at first, but you'll get used to it quickly, for it does wonders to your thin, stringy or curly hair, giving it good texture and a matte finish that remains pliable throughout the day. Both products need very little application, cost $12.95 per jar but last forever. The American Crew line uses among some natural ingredients (such as ginseng, sage, soy sterol, beeswax, caramel and coconut) a lot of stuff with very long names ending in "-yl," "-ate," "-ine," "-ol," "-el," "-um" and "-ben," but I guess that's not harmful and oh yeah, it's flammable but hey, it keeps your hair up! And ladies, though it says "for men" on the label, I'm pretty sure it works for you as well!

The night of my high school party in '82, I reluctantly gave in to what was going to be my very last resort. I did know what would spike up my hair. I had once overheard two post-punk/new wave/goth guys in my school talk about it. So I deluded a cup of sugar in water, added some lain old hand soap, and sprinkled the concoction onto my hair. It worked. My hair was totally Eighties and I will forever be known to my ex-classmates as "Sweet Hair."



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