Give them the hairdryer treatment

by Colin McIntosh

beckhamFootballers have a lot to answer for when it comes to men’s hairstyles. That’s soccer players, not American football players, who at least have the advantage of wearing a helmet. Gone are the days when all footballers, or at least all British footballers had the same barnet (hair or hairstyle, in informal British English): a poodle-like curly perm, often accompanied by a tash (a moustache). Similarly departed is the comb-over, sported by all football managers to hide their bald patch.

When David Beckham cut off his floppy blond fringe and appeared on the pitch with a moody skinhead, millions of boys copied him, and other footballers realized the psychological importance of hair in gaining an advantage over your opponent – by scaring him. In this way they follow American football players with their intimidating face paint and shoulder pads, and rugby players with their huge bulk and tattoos.

When you go to get your hair cut, it helps to know what to ask the barber for if you want to achieve the desired footballer hairstyle. You could ask for a Beckham, a Neymar, or a Cristiano Ronaldo, but this is risky given their quick turnaround in styles. In order to help you, the Cambridge dictionary has added a batch of new haircut words.

The variety is now dazzling. With styles ranging from dreads (dreadlocks) to whitewalls (shaved sides), there is no longer a football “uniform”. Many have a tribal inspiration, perhaps following the idea that anything you can do to disconcert your opponent is good. The fauxhawk was popular for a while (where a central strip of hair stands up from the head, and the hair at the sides is shorter but not shaved), but this has now been ousted by the disconnected undercut (where the sides have been cut very short and the hair on top is much longer). Also popular is the pomp, or pompadour. In British English this used to be called a quiff, but the American term is now frequently used. Here the hair at the front of the head is brushed up and back to create height above the forehead. Some of these more architectural styles require the use of a pomade (an old word that has recently made a comeback) to keep them in place.

When the manager gives the team the hairdryer treatment, contrary to what you might think, he is not making sure they’re looking their best when they step out onto the pitch. This cliché from sports journalism actually means that the manager shouts angrily at the team, making them feel as though they’re being blasted with a hot hairdryer, in the manner of Sir Alex Ferguson. Sir Alex, formerly of Manchester United, was famous for his somewhat forceful way of encouraging his players, and also for his scathing views of footballers who were too preoccupied with their hair.

4 thoughts on “Give them the hairdryer treatment

  1. Guy

    Rubbish.
    NFL players wear crewcuts, shaven heads, dreadlocks, Mohawks and more.
    I can remember players who have had hair a third of the way down their back.
    A little bit research would have gone a long way to making this blog accurate.
    Have you taken a good look at the fashion of NFL players?

  2. Pingback: Give them the hairdryer treatment – englishmoreformal

  3. Pingback: Give them the hairdryer treatment | 21st-century words

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