Start Here: Style Unconscious

By Joe Parkin
Photo by Bruno Long

So there I was standing in line at the convenience store, right hand fishing into my pocket in search of the five-dollar bill that I'd swiped from the kitchen counter earlier in the day. In front of me was a couple that'd obviously been seriously imbibing--he considerably more than she. They apparently were back at the store to stock up for the long night ahead.

Recognizing the overly gregarious, loud-talking nature of the dude as a giant red flag, I attempted to make myself invisible, much like a cat does when a toddling two-year-old enters the sanctuary of its home. But, unlike a house cat, I had neither floor-length curtains nor couch to hide behind, and so the exchange began.

"Where do you surf?" he asked.

Luckily, I learned long ago that the 'always tell the truth' lessons learned in childhood have absolutely no place in the playbook when it comes to dealing with heavily intoxicated individuals. So, I alluded to the fact that I am new to the beach town of San Clemente, California--all the while keeping from him the fact that I don't actually surf.

After some back-and-forth banter that was mostly meaningless, the man assured me that he would always have my back--that should anyone in this town or in the water ever give me any problems, all I had to do was mention his name.

After a few-dozen handshakes and countless utterances of the word 'serious,' he climbed into the passenger seat of the car and the couple drove off. I squeezed one of my ice cream sandwich wrappers, wondering if I would have to re-refreeze them before they could be enjoyed.

This scenario has happened to me quite a few times, though not each one having been fueled by some form of intoxicating substance. To blame, I think, is my reluctance to visit the barbershop on a regular basis, and a close proximity to beaches and bright sunshine. In other words, I had basically been welcomed into another enthusiast culture because of my sometimes
surfer-esque hair.

So I started thinking about hairstyles and their ability to define, even unite, groups of people. Then I wondered if mountain biking lacks a defining look. Other than the battle scars of scrapes and bruises that are the inevitable badges of experience for off-road riders, we don't have a lot that marks us as mountain bikers.

And then I thought about helmet hair. Yes, I'm talking about the much-maligned tri-, cuatro- or cinco-hawk that is formed when a person wears a helmet for an extended period of time. Despite the fact that advertising agencies love mountain bikes for selling their clients' products, neither the alternative, nor mainstream, fashion world has glommed onto our signature hairstyle. Remember the mullet, gladiator hair and the fauxhawk? How could helmet hair possibly be any worse?

Next time you finish a ride and someone points out your awesome helmet hair, leave it alone. Keep your hands and combs away from that 'do. Tell your riding buddies, the teller at the bank, your boss, your coworkers and the person looking sideways at you in line at the grocery store that you know your hair has formed itself into ridges--you've done it on purpose. Rock that messed-up coif loud and proud. It's time to start a movement.