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How the Hair was Honed
(written Oct 1998)

I maintained a full head of conservatively styled blond hair, parted on the side, of course, for a quarter century while growing up in Kansas City, MO.

Near the end of my first 25 years, I began to broaden my hair horizons. During the day, while working as an accountant, my side-parted style began to look even more conservative as my hair length became shorter than ever. Some may have perceived this as increased conservatism since I had begun climbing the corporate ladder. A misperception indeed, the shorter hair allowed me to develop a spiked-up style for after hours.

This hairstyle transition period was invigorated by my move to San Francisco, CA and residence in the fabled Haight-Ashbury district. Exposure to unreal hair colors, rather than the mere reality based hair coloring used by women, was now a daily part of my life. Gradually my interest in outrageous hair color increased and my interest in continuing my corporate career with GE decreased. But I still had to progress through a few significant follicle phases before reaching the pinnacle follicle fantasy of pattern within pattern, color upon color, follicle fluidity I now maintain.

Another impact of my move to San Francisco was that the intervals between hair cuts increased since I couldn't see my personal hair stylist (e.g. my mother) as frequently. The result was that my hair reached lengths I hadn't experienced since a brief interlude in the 1970's. Each time I saw my mother she would restore my hair to more corporate lengths. In the early 1990's I decided to venture out to a real hairstylist - heck, I had a good corporate job - I could afford a professional hair cut. The stylist didn't offer the same loving care as dear ol' mom, but she was a bit more adventurous.

My locks were transformed into a two-layer style - longer hair from the top of my head dropping over the closely cut sides and falling to my ears. It was a fairly common style, relatively conservatively, though not necessarily corporate. After about five expensive hair cuts, I realized I could maintain the same style with my own hands. I guess it was a genetic hairstyling trait passed down from my mother. This discovery was one of many significant hairstorical milestones.

I kept the sides tight, but soon decided to let the length increase. A brief below the ear bob-like phase ensued. Additionally, I cultivated a goatee during this phase.

Still, I wanted it longer, so my hair eventually touched my shoulders, then crept a few inches down my back. While sitting at my corporate cubicle the hair was restrained into a ponytail, but after hours it was free-flowing. Eventually I also let it flow while working at my 23rd floor perch. And, believe it or not, I was still climbing the corporate ladder. My business analyst role didn't require much interaction with customers and management seemed to respect my ability to maintain a strong sense of teamwork while simultaneously expressing my personal individualism.

During my long hair phase I did a couple notable things that can only be done properly with long hair. I cruised on a Harley over the windy roads of Maui with my blonde locks flowing freely in the wind and a babe on the back. I temporarily shaved off my facial hair and did drag for Halloween with my own blonde locks styled for sassiness.

Soon I began to ponder my next phase. Let it keep getting longer? Maintain it at some length below my shoulders? Go back to a shorter style? Then it hit me - shave it all off! Why not, I had had every length in between; shaved heads were reasonably prevalent; and if involuntary baldness was in my genes, I wanted to find out how my bare head was shaped rather than waiting too long and taking desperate measures to hang on to a hairy head.

Going "under the knife", so to speak, was a tenuous moment. Would it reveal a lopsided cranium or embarrassing bumps and skin rolls? Would I suffer a fate similar to that of Sampson? Would it ever grow back? These and other question rumbled through my cranium as the first stroke of my razor buzzed over my scalp. I did the deed by myself, in the middle of the night, with the hope that if my cranial fears were realized I could wake up in the morning and it would have only been a nightmare. The first stroke was scary, the second stroke was liberating, and the third stroke was exhilarating, a few minutes later my dome shone like chrome. The next morning I got the thumbs up from a couple friends. Goldie locks, or blondie, as one friend called me, was now baldy locks. It was an extreme change, but to the friends and co-workers who only knew me with long hair it was less startling than if I would have gone back to a conservative side-parted style.

I maintained the slick dome for about six months, doing a few pop-up hair designs on occasional weekends. Then another hairstoric moment - I decided to emulate a soccer ball pattern. After a couple less than adequate attempts, the second being so bad that I scrapped the work in progress, I had arrived. In September 1996, using black thread and a yellow string marked every 42 millimeters, I crafted a net-like serious of pentagons and hexagons. I then draped the contraption over head and used it as a guide to carve out my 2 millimeter long hair. Soon I was left with six patches of hair resembling pentagons, interconnected by ten strips of hair approximately three millimeters wide. When comparing my soccer head to a soccer ball, my pentagonal patches of hair represent the traditionally black panels, strips of hair represent the seams and the shaved hexagonal patches represent the panels which are traditionally white.

The style was an instant hit. And this time I was brazen enough to keep the style when my corporate duties resumed on Monday morning. I knew I could always shave it off it I got too much flack, but on the other hand, could they really terminate me for such a "clean cut" style? - my lines were crisp and my hair didn't need to be combed. Much to my surprise, I not only "got away with it", I actually received complements. I went to an important meeting with top management, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, but the president of the GE business unit for which I worked chose to sit beside me. There was no avoiding it now, my hair issue had just been added to the agenda. The first words out of his mouth weren't "Good Afternoon", rather something like "I heard you had a soccer ball head, (pause) that's pretty cool". Yes! I was in there!

Six months later I blackened the pentagonal panels, the president even liked that. Then I really went wild, on a three week business trip to Philadelphia, Amsterdam and Paris I transitioned my hair from blackened, to bleached, to multicolored. During the trip I interacted with GE employees, mostly peers, from around the world - the reactions were generally favorable among my co-workers. People I met outside of the work environment reacted even more favorably - at one point I found myself signing autographs for about fifteen Dutch kids in Amsterdam.

Then I arrived back to my office in San Francisco. How would the colors go over at headquarters? It didn't take long to get an answer, the Vice President of Finance laughed cheerfully and said something like "that's creative, we need creativity in the company". Unbelievable!

At this point I have had my soccer head, every day, for over two years (now four years as of Sep 2000). I change the color combinations every two or three weeks. In December 1997 I had the outline of the soccer ball pattern tattooed on my scalp to make the style easier to maintain. In January 1998 I left GE on very good terms, including an open invitation to come back.

The soccer head style was originally intended to be a fun weekend endeavor to mark a milestone in RollerSoccer history. After the first attempt, I was compelled to do it better. After the painstaking work to get it right, I didn't want to get rid of it. After recognizing its marketing potential, I was willing to maintain it. After too long with the same pattern, I colorized it. After a year, I tattooed it. I even colorize my goatee and eyebrows. Now it takes more time to derive a new color scheme than to implement one.

Are there any key individuals who influenced my hairvolution? Besides my mother's influence on the more conservative styles, not really. People in the public eye have brought various hairstyles into public prominence. Long hair can be attributed to a long list of artist, actors and activist. Athletes might be most notable for shaved heads. And, yes, it seems that Dennis Rodman is most notable for multi-colored hair. I've never watched too much basketball, so I don't think I was really influenced by Dennis Rodman - although I've often been compared to him via comments like "Rodman ain't got nothin' on that." Where do all these hair styles start? They start with the millions of men and women who want to express they're individuality and the stylists who want to try funky stuff on other people's hair - those are the people who have really influenced me.

This "Hairstory" was originally written for a wonderful man whom I randomly met in an airport. He's probably about 70 years old, but has the vitality of a man in his 20's and a great sense of humor. One day he sent me an email asking for "an abbreviated history of heartwork from Rodman to Zack, subtitled hairy works from Chicago to the San Francisco Bay." He must have asked me at an introspective time, because the story I wrote was not too abbreviated. His response, "I really had not expected such a courteous and lengthy reply from inside a soccerball head as a result of a casual and rapid contact at the Dallas-Ft Worth airport. Aint it great?", made it all worthwhile.

I hope you enjoyed it too,

What's Next
- Photos from the hairstyle phases mentioned in the hairstory, plus updates from 1998 'til now TM
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