It was a long day. I was exhausted by another Laker loss and the whole Manny ordeal. What better way to unwind than… get a haircut? That sounds silly, right? Haven’t you been paying attention? Getting your haircut has become a masculine activity and moreover, an athletic activity.
My stylist Tony knew exactly what I wanted. Yes, I have a stylist, Tony over at Hollywood Hair. Before you judge any further, just know that Tony hooked me with his “Recession Proof Haircut,” which is your first cut for three dollars. I’m going back to the faux-hawk. It’s not quite short enough to be an official Mohawk, but not quite long enough to be anything else. Not quite Mr. T. Not quite Drew Carey.
“You know, I saw a basketball player the other evening with a Mohawk,” Tony said. “He had all these crazy designs on both sides, but they didn’t match,” he continued. “I’d never seen anything like that before.”
“Ron Artest,” I replied. “It was Ron Artest and one side was the Houston Rockets logo,” I followed. “The other was just a series of crazy designs.”
Ron Artest has sported a Mohawk this postseason. It is subtle (short in length), yet fierce (original design). Because of the hair, the Rockets have the series (Western Conference Semifinals with the Lakers) notched at 2-2. Maybe it’s not the hair. However, when a player comes out with the cut, they are making a statement. They are looking to prove themselves. The Mohawk is bold and captures attention immediately. If a player flops, criticism will not follow the play, but the inability to back up the ‘hawk.’
Artest’s stylish counterpart might argue either way. Houston’s Von Wafer also has a Mohawk this postseason. However, this is nothing new in the NBA. Other NBA players to have sported the ‘do’ include former Cavs center Scott Pollard (known namely for his antics and unique looks), the 76ers’ Samuel Dalembert and Washington’s DeShawn Stevenson (when the Wizards were swept by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2006 postseason.)
The Mohawk has made an impact in other sports as well. John Riggins might be considered the pioneer of the pigskin Mohawk. The former NY Jet and (ironically) Washington Redskins running back wore a hawk back in the 70’s. He has paved the way for today’s players. Other notable “hawks” include Ocho Cinco’s (Chad Johnson) short blond strip and both Shawne Merriman’s subtle and extreme looks.
In the last few seasons, college football players have entered the movement. Universities nationwide have been wowed by the hairstyle. Even mascots have jumped onboard (Rocky the Bull, University of Southern Florida’s mascot came out with a Mohawk in the school’s 2007 contest against Cincinnati.)
It would seem the Mohawk has become a source of motivation as well as inspiration. It has become the new “rally cap,” as we saw with the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays who won the American League Championship before losing to Philadelphia in the World Series. Nearly half of the team sported the racy ‘do’ in the postseason.
Perhaps the style’s prevalence in sports is due to the fact that players are so constrained by uniform regulations their hair has become one of the few areas they can control. League associations institute fines and other sanctions if players are found to be outside of permitted attire.
However, how often have we seen athletes etch out that middle stripe when facing harder or more meaningful competition? How often have we pulled for the guy with the ‘hawk’ merely because we want to see him prove his athletic prowess?
Enter hip-hop mogul P Diddy (formerly Puff Daddy, Puffy and Diddy). Diddy was never renowned for his athletic capabilities. Yet, he captured mass attention when he supported the Mohawk movement. While he sported a ‘hawk,’ Diddy tackled the New York City marathon (in an effort to inspire young people to vote.) People were inspired by his feat, finish time and message, but captivated by the hair on his head.
This growing ritual reflects the early days of the ‘do’ when certain Native American tribes would cut their hair in this fashion before entering battle. Today, another, less gruesome, more entertaining battle ensues.