Weekly Write-In: My Hard Hat of Hair

*In this essay, I reflect on my hairstyle and its journey over the years, as well as explore the real reasons why I gel my hair. I am a mere amateur when it comes to writing, but I hope you enjoy learning a bit about my personality through this piece. (Note: This is a college admissions essay.)*

My Hard Hat of Hair

“Why do you gel your hair?” I cannot begin to count the number of times someone has asked me that question. This simple interrogative statement reverberated through my elementary school years like an unrelenting echo. Going into fourth grade, I had transferred to a program at a new school with only a handful of old friends. Being plunged into a new environment with a bunch of curious eight year olds, it is no wonder this question came up. Every day of my school career, I showed up in my uniform of blue or khaki long pants and a polo shirt (with the top button buttoned, of course). I seemed like any other student-until you looked at my hair. Its dark brown strands were combed sharply on my head from left to right, glistening with the shine of hair product. The hair appeared plastered to my head, even refusing to budge for gusting wind. If you touched the top of my head, you would feel the crisp strands, rigid as a hard hat covering my skull.

Invariably, someone would ask in the hallway before class, “Why do you gel your hair?” I would reply blankly, “I don’t know, I just do,” as moisture formed on my palms and my cheeks flushed with warm color. In reality, the process began in second grade, when one day, my dad saw my ferocious bedhead and decided to take action. My hair was always particularly stubborn, and a large piece on the top of my head would stick up like the horn of a mythical beast. My father apparently decided it was no longer acceptable to go out in public with this untamed hair, so he pulled out his comb and showed me how to part my hair and hold it in place with mousse (not gel like everyone assumed). From that day, the routine of combing my hair grew from an occasional practice to a daily ritual by the time I entered fourth grade.

I carried out the same five minute process in front of my bathroom mirror every morning without realizing the magnitude of what I had created, or allowed others to create. My strange hair became more than just a style: it became a part of my identity. My classmates associated me with my hair, as if it was my defining feature. Even some of my teachers commented on its seemingly perfect composition. “Not a hair out of place,” was one teacher’s favorite expression. All this attention made my stomach churn, but for some reason I never stopped combing my hair. I could have easily removed the mousse from the process and simply combed my locks, or even let them remain haphazard. But I never did. Why? The truth was, in an odd way, I liked it. People labelled me as rigid and studious because of my hair, and I accepted their definition. My hair did match my meticulous and serious nature with uncanny accuracy. The figurative hard hat of hair on my head also paralleled a sheltered personality. I covered myself like a turtle, trying to avoid the social minefield of my school environment.

In my quest for acceptance, my hair provided a persona for me to fit into- the rigid, proper, nerd. I never faked my personality, but the way people saw me did affect the way I wanted to portray myself. I let the perception of others influence me. All based on an insignificant, lifeless extremity. I still wear my hair the exact same way as I did all those years ago, with one major exception: I now comb my hair for my own satisfaction. I cannot change my traits, the same way I cannot change my hair: they are a part of me. So while I still seek acceptance, I wear the hair shaped for me by others as my own style.


About the author:
My name is Jerome and I am a senior in high school from Connecticut. I enjoy swimming, playing with my dog, Buddy, and discussing philosophy with friends. I have always been a nerdy kid, and since I was in elementary school, I would comb my hair and make it stiff with product. It became my signature look and I have kept it ever since.