100 Years of Hair for Men at LSU
by Julianna Cannamela, Grant Forestier, Joyce Johnson, Meghan Stemke, and Whitney Allen
Throughout the centuries, male students at Louisiana State University have had several different hairstyles. In the beginning, when LSU was a military school, men’s hairstyles were very strict: see, for example, the 1912 LSU Gumbo Junior Class photo above. As the years go on, the hairstyles became more lenient. The rules were different depending upon what class a student was in. It became a tradition where the freshmen were to shave their heads because they had to join ROTC. From the early 1900s to present day, rules and regulations were much different, and men today are freer to express themselves however they please.
During the 1910s and 1920s at Louisiana State University (LSU), the hairstyles for men did not change much at all. During these two time periods, LSU was still in the midst of WWI and was a military college, so the men had to keep a short and clean kept haircut. The two main hairstyles that you would typically find most men wearing around campus were a simple slick-back or a pompadour style (1920s). Both styles look sort of like what we would call “hat hair” today; the look was for flat, slicked, and shiny medium length hair. The slick-back style involved using a large amount of hair gel and slicking the hair back from a part in the hair to either side of the head. The pompadour style involves slicking the hair forward with a smaller amount of gel and then pulling the hair on top of the head back and up, creating more volume. The only other hairstyle that you would see around campus would be the shaved head worn by the freshmen. In 1911, a requirement was established in which the upperclassmen would shave all incoming freshmen’s heads (Gabriel). This served to clearly identify members the freshman class. Beanies were also worn by all freshmen to cover their heads and to signal their status.
From the 1930s to the 1940s, men’s hairstyles at LSU began to transition from this clean, short and slicked back style to something less uniform. As it was in the 1910s and 1920s, in the 1930s at LSU, men’s fashion was more conservative, which does not come as a surprise, since LSU was still a military school. Men enrolled in the ROTC and were required to follow strict regulations in regard to their uniforms, behaviors, and living arrangements. The common hairstyle still consisted of short hair that was slicked back so that the whole face was visible. Hair was trimmed neat and tight above the ears. Some men still styled their hair slicked with a part, as they did in the 1910s and 1920s. Other men started to keep the top part of their hair slightly longer in length and slicked it straight back, eliminating the part. This short, conservative style is still a common among young men today. However, during the 1940s, men’s hair started to move into a more relaxed direction. Many men still enrolled in the ROTC, and those that did had to adhere to the cadet regulations, so hair was still kept short but, instead of slicking back all the hair, some decided to let the front part curl forward or wave. Still, many men kept with the same hair style as in the 1930s, short and conservative. Nevertheless, the style, while still conservative, moved toward a less uniform look in the 1940s.
During the 1950s, the shaving of incoming male freshmen heads started to move from requirement to tradition. It was during this time some male freshmen began to reject some of the seemingly unnecessary things required of them. Shaving their heads was one of those things. While some rejected the head shaving of incoming male freshmen, others embraced it as tradition. By the late 1950s it was written in the L Books, “Hair cutting for first semester [male] freshmen is considered a tradition on the LSU campus; however, charging a fee for the cutting of hair is considered hazing” (L Book 1957 – 1959). Hairstyles for men on campus, besides freshmen, were still relatively conservative because LSU continued to be a military institution where males were required to join ROTC for at least their first two years. The image above, a 1953 Comparison of underclassmen and upperclassmen, shows how styles changed after the first two years. All this was in contrast to the bigger, more styled hair becoming mainstreamed by the male pop/rock stars of the time like Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry. These influences can start to be seen in some of the hairstyles of the upperclassmen, especially those in fraternities, see the 1958 LSU PI Kappa Alpha image below.
The 1960s brought changes. One such change was the wording of the policy on shaving incoming male freshmen heads. The 1965 L Book was slightly revised to say, “Haircutting for first semester freshmen is a tradition on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge; students who charge a fee to cut another student’s hair or who use physical force to coerce a student to cut his hair are in violation of the hazing rules” (L Book 1965 – 1967). This iteration of the head shaving policy, in comparison to the one in the previous decade, suggests that during this time the divide between those students who wanted to keep this tradition and those who rejected it may have been growing. It also serves to make a clarification. The LSU campuses at Alexandria, Eunice, and Shreveport had recently opened. This leads one to think “campus in Baton Rouge” was mentioned in the policy to clarify that this is the only campus on which this tradition was practiced. One other major change was that ROTC became voluntary for all LSU men instead of being required for some in 1969. This, coupled with the growing rejection of male freshmen head shaving, resulted in men on campus wearing longer, less styled hair. Examples can be seen in the 1969 LSU yearbook image above and the 1969 LSU Cheerleaders image below.
The 1970s and 1980s were two decades equally known for their trending hairstyles, particularly for men. Some popular hair that men wore during this time period were the shag, afros, layered hair, mullets, punk hair, and surfer hair. At LSU, in the 1970s and 1980s, we saw a lot of these trends as well. ‘Hippies’ definitely had a heavy influence during these time periods, which made long, unkempt hair more popular. In the early 70s, there were still traces of the 1960s hairstyles left in LSU’s culture. Despite the abolition of the mandatory head shaving rule for freshmen, most men still had their hair cut short above their collars. Although the dress code at LSU became more lenient, most men still preferred shorter, traditional hair. As the 70s progressed, men wore their hair longer and wilder, creating variations in hairstyles among men.
As mentioned, in the early 1900s, LSU used to be a military school. So, all the freshman males had no choice but to shave their heads. That way everyone could tell who the freshmen were. Today, things are a little different; things are a bit freer. Walking around LSU’s campus you will see males with all kinds of hair, from different colors to different lengths and styles. The only reason you will see someone with his head shaved is if he wanted it shaved or he is a freshman on the baseball team. The baseball team has kept that tradition of shaving freshmen’s heads for a long time. They are the only team on campus that has kept the tradition. In the images below you can see the freshman from the year 2015 and the freshman from last year, 2016. The baseball team has a huge party when all the freshmen shave their heads. Most people will call this hazing, but they just kept the tradition that they had in the early 1900s.
“1920s Mens Hairstyles and Products History.” VintageDancer.com. N.p., 20 May 2017. Web. 21 July 2017.
Chuck Berry Photo. http://www.alamy.com/stock-photo/chuck-berry-1950s.html
Elvis Presley Photo. http://www.elvis.com/about/photos
Gabriel, Walter. “University Customs Change throughout the Years.” LSUNow.com. N.p., 30 Oct. 2003. Web. 21 July 2017.
“Gumbo Yearbook, Class of 1912” (1912). Gumbo Yearbook. 46.
“Gumbo Yearbook, Class of 1932” (1932). Gumbo Yearbook. 37.
“Gumbo Yearbook, Class of 1943” (1943). Gumbo Yearbook. 45.
“Gumbo Yearbook, Class of 1953” (1953). Gumbo Yearbook. 97.
“Gumbo Yearbook, Class of 1958” (1958). Gumbo Yearbook. 297.
“Gumbo Yearbook, Class of 1969” (1969). Gumbo Yearbook. 246.
“Gumbo Yearbook, Class of 1970” (1970). Gumbo Yearbook.
“Gumbo Yearbook, Class of 1975” (1975). Gumbo Yearbook. 332.
“Gumbo Yearbook, Class of 1980” (1980). Gumbo Yearbook. 31.
“Gumbo Yearbook, Class of 1985” (1985). Gumbo Yearbook.
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L Book: Official Handbook of Student Life 1938-1944
L Book: Official Handbook of Student Life 1957-1959
L Book: Official Handbook of Student Life 1965-1967