A new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center explores the numerous white nationalist groups attempting to gain footing in colleges around the country. These dapper, organized, and optics-optimized hate groups are the fresh, young faces of fascism, and their message of hate is one they purport as a rational and sober championing of "nationalism" or "cultural identity." Aghast pearl clutching and "um, actuallys" usually await anyone naïve enough to wander into their digital domains bandying about terms like "racist" or "Nazi."
As I visited the sites of Identity Evropa, American Vanguard, and the other groups of shook white men mentioned in the SPLC piece, I was forced to finally grapple with a hard truth that's been hounding me for months: All these guys have my haircut, and I need to figure out what I'm going to do about that.
For most people, there are one—maybe two—haircuts an era that allow them to look like a presentable human being, if not semi-attractive in the hands of a skilled barber or stylist. For me, the undercut has been that hairstyle. It's been my main for the 20-teens, with some experimentations and fluctuations to height and tightness over the years.
Sometimes, I would jokingly refer to my cut as a "Hitler Youth," still blissfully unaware of the real neo–Hitler Youth movements burbling up in message boards and economically depressed towns around the country.
The clean, crisp look complemented my burgeoning minimalist aesthetic, required little upkeep, and was hard to really fuck up. This last feature of the cut was particularly helpful as I moved around a lot, so shopping around for a primary haircut provider or getting a cleanup when they were overbooked was never too much of a dice roll.
This isn't to say that my time sporting the undercut has been an entirely conflict-free experience. Before the ascent of the Fourth Reich, my haircut was pegged to another group of deplorables: hipsters.
The definition of a "hipster" is an entirely different conversation and one that has been explored to death, but before "millennial" replaced it as the de jure blanket insult, hipster haters typically pointed to this haircut—MY haircut—as proof positive of one's hipsterdom. Now, I'm sure the very nature of this platform is enough needed for many of you to sign off on poking me with a "HIPSTER" branding iron, but that misses the point. Where I fall on the hipster spectrum is neither here nor there. What is important is that my haircut and I weathered the storm until the style became so ubiquitous that assumptions about the type of person its owner might be became pointless.
As Trump's popularity grew in the latter half of 2016 and more of his prominent undercut-sporting alt-right underlings gained notoriety, my beloved haircut was once again under attack. This time, things were different. Where hipsters are relatively harmless, passive annoyances, here we had people championing for "peaceful ethnic cleansing," or worse, while rocking my unimpeachable, TV-ready cut for their evil machinations.
This new racist wrinkle wasn't just happening in America, either. Cabals of hard-right nationalists had been popping up like weeds across Europe during the same time period, most sporting variations on my undercut.
My haircut dilemma wasn't as simple as the New Balance brouhaha, where I could simply stop supporting the retailer with my money and instead wear products from one of the many other shoe companies out there. (New Balance has explicitly denounced white supremacy, by the way.) By the very nature of it being attached to us, a haircut can be simultaneously both as utilitarian as a pair of socks and as intimate as a tattoo. It's the primary convergence of our given bodies and chosen identities. And with these Nazis biting my shit, I have spent the past few months feeling societal pressure to change how I present myself to the world.
Reading the SPLC's report finally crystalized things for me. After months of hemming and hawing, I realized that to cave and change my haircut simply because I don't want to be associated with white supremacists is to forever cede the undercut to the enemy. The Nazis stole and forever stained the beautifully geometric Hindu swastika and then they co-opted the whimsical and peaceful Pepe. They have no birthright claim to a cut their forbearers had originally plucked from the Edwardian era. I'm not going to just roll over and let them attempt to reclaim this haircut simply because they want it.
This goes beyond digging your heels in and refusing to let the enemy take from you. These white supremacists foolishly believe that, once the global race war they so clearly want kicks off, the sides will be easily identifiable. After all, surplus melanin is all it takes to make one an enemy combatant in their reality. Should such a dystopian hypothetical ever manifest (and it won't), that bias would be their undoing as droves of guys in haircuts like mine preyed on their assumptions of "race loyalty" and undermined their efforts from within. I'm not forever marrying myself to this haircut. My style has changed over the years, and I reckon it will continue to morph and evolve with the times. But when it does change, it will be on my terms, and not because some bigot shit-poster has graduated from a complete disregard for personal hygiene to pomade.
I encourage those of you like me out there—few other coif options, but an aversion to being lumped in with neo-Nazis—to soldier on, keep your cut, and fight bigotry wherever you see it, drawing power from the confidence that comes with knowing you're looking your most sharp.
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