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An Ode to Hair

Hey, come and check out this bowl cut.

Oh, the hairstyles of Asian American boys: often imitated, commonly duplicated. Yet, with the amount of meticulous detailing, frequent trimming, and fortunes spent on hair product, the hair of an Asian boy remains a treasured possession of our physical expression. In this article, we take a look at some of our favorites over the last decades.

"Retro" Hairstyles (c. 1990s)

Let's make our start in childhood. As kids, we haven't yet succumbed to vanity and our biggest priorities are the lunchtime food trade, winning the tetherball face off, or not getting picked last for the pickup basketball game every time (this last example may have been specific to me… bleh). A boy's hairstyling is also not a priority to the parent, either. While some boys would get the "royal" treatment of being taken to Supercuts or Fantastic Sam's (90s reference), most would receive the iconic bowl cut, or as my Japanese American friends would call it, the "chawan" (chawan means bowl in Japanese and at least 75% of us had this haircut - see for yourself).

I count one, two, three, four, five, six, SEVEN of my teammates with a bowl cut.

Instructions: place bowl on head, trim all excess hair extending out from bowl. Seems like the least trendy thing possible right? WRONG. If I had just been patient and waited 12 years, I would have been at the cutting edge of male iconography.

But the sandbox days do come to an end, and one day vanity sets in. The boy all of a sudden begins to value their self esteem based on the perceptions of others. This is a common problem amongst youth that we'll save as the topic for another article, but the point is: clothes, shoes, HAIR... all of a sudden, they matter. So middle school Craig has a great idea. Why not just put a part in the middle of the bowl cut with a little bit of mousse? Voila: the middle part.

While not the best phase of my life for hair, a friend of mine did express that he always felt that the middle part was a symbol of great leadership. At first I had a hard time seeing it, and then I saw this.

One of these guys was Senior Patrol Leader of OCBC Troop 578 - can you guess which one?

Next up, one of the most iconic styles of the 90s and early 2000s: the spike.

Simple, easy to style, clean, and totally bitch'n. With the addition of bleached tips, it became like a golden crown for an Asian adolescent boy's head. This style was so iconic that I think rocked it for over a decade (well, more accurately, I kept it for over a decade. Many would probably disagree that I was "rock'n" anything).

Modern Times

Hair styles have really evolved since those dark ages. But though new, each seems to hold some essence of old. There is this forward leaning crew cut, a seeming derivative of the spike now with a forward leaning attitude.

Yo! Magazine author Eric Komatsu there on the right.

There's also the classic side part. Clean, scholarly, and with a nice bit of volume on top.

Yo! Magazine author Timothy Chuman there on the right.

But wait, upon closer look, there are clearly some historical roots to this style as well. Sure, there's the early 1990s with little Craig, but actually we can take it back even further... is that Fred Korematsu?

Some guys like to grow it out a bit. Here's a modified version of the side part that I call "the Matthew Patel" in honor of Scott Pilgrim v. The World.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Takahashi

If you so choose, you can grow it out even more. Take it back to the feudal days with the top knot. Some of the bravest men in both fact and fiction have rocked this style.

Honorable Mentions

When I had first starting writing this article, the goal was to capture popular hairstyles of Asian American boys. But as you have now read, it quickly devolved into "how many side-by-side photos can you find that look the same?" So, in honor of this revised article direction, I give you the honorable mentions.

Yo! Magazine author Philip Hirose

And we're going to put a happy little tree over here...

Yo! Magazine author Scott Shima

Keep it rock'n, boys.

Article featured in this issue:
January 2021
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