Fashion Bytes

On 15 November, the New York Times reported on a new trend amongst young men in the West Village for a 1930s-style haircut, similar to the one worn by Michael Pitt (above) in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. The article, though, explains that when many of these young men go in to the barber, they ask for a ‘Hitler Youth’, referring largely to the Nazi propaganda film ‘Triumph of the Will’, and to any images of Hitler himself, who wore the haircut. The barber shop owners say they avoid the term, and while not saying so in so many words, would clearly prefer their clientèle did as well.

But a look at many men of the 1930s, such as the photographs of Ernest Hemmingway and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald below, shows that Hitler did not invent or popularise the haircut, but was actually conforming to the vogue himself. Further evidence can be seen of the style’s popularity through a simple perusal of 1930s actors over at the Internet Movie Database: James Cagney, Clark Gable, William Powell, James Stewart, Cary Grant… and so on.

As Mellissa addressed a few weeks ago, there seems to be a vintage-revival going on in fashion, particularly around the 1920s and 30s. This might explain the revival of interest in men’s tailoring — a good thing, considering the way the industry has been suffering in recent years — but it might also explain the sudden revival of the haircut discussed in the NYT article.

What are your thoughts on the revival? Is it the vogue for vintage crossing the gender line, or is it a repulsive imitation of a genocidal dictator? Is the problem that young men are not well-educated enough in fashion history to call it something less controversial? Are the young men asking for the haircut trying to get attention by upsetting people? Is vintage clothing, or vintage-inspired clothing, somehow more acceptable for women, and thus the comparisons to Hitler Youth are a way to try and make men ‘conform’ to what the mainstream society expects of them?

Please share your thoughts.

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1 Comment

  • Arianna December 05, 2011 04.00 am

    This is such a great question.

    What I think is significant is that no one is willing to ask for “The Hitler”–or that has been reported, anyways–what is it about the Hitler Youth that makes these boys feel like it’s okay? It seems like maybe it’s just shocking enough?

    There was such a hullabaloo about 1890s mustaches a few years back (and I’m sure many others I’ve missed) that I feel like this is less about wanting to adopt a “vintage” style and seems more of a misplaced masculinity…I would totally agree with the idea of it being, say, more acceptable for women to ask for a Joan or a Peggy than a man to ask for a Jimmy.

    It’s a super-popular haircut here in Sweden–for both sexes. I wonder what they ask for?


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