Back in High School, and for some time thereafter, off and on, I sported a sort of abbreviated version of Liberty Spikes, colored in a shade of purply-red called “Bodacious Burgundy.” The effect was somewhat subtle, alternating between preppy and mildly punk, just enough to get occasional looks of curiosity or disdain, but not enough to get kicked out of school like my cousin, when he showed up one day sporting blonde bifins. Many of my friends at the time rocked more impressive hairdos, spiked with gel and hairspray, or egg whites and glue. They constituted the small groups of hardcore punk outcasts and misfits, and I gravitated to them, while also keeping a foot in the cliques I’d grown up with: the preppy pop punks and stoner jocks. After High School, I drifted further away from the preps and for a time was all punk all the time, but I never really had the stones to rock a hawk.
Ed Templeton’s Hairdos of Defiance (Deadbeat Club, 2018) takes me back to that time: the leather jackets, replete with studs and spikes and patches for Subhumans, The Exploited and/or Crass;
flannel shirts over ripped t-shirts; ripped and poorly patched jeans held up by studded belts; the tattoos, piercings, and makeup—for a time, I regularly wore eyeliner and mascara, a sort of cross between Alice Cooper and Gene Simmons, and wore a safety pin through my eyebrow for a brief period, but never got any tattoos. It gives me a sense of nostalgia and recognition, bringing back (melancholy) memories of times that were simultaneously far worse and way better than life now.
My original unboxing was horribly out of focus, so I reshot it recently. If you want to see the actual unboxing part, well, here you go:
Hairdos… functions as something of a catalog for a show Templeton had at Roberts Projects between March 17 and April 21, 2018. Some of the pictures are drawn on, hand colored, cut out and pasted onto colored card, or are otherwise treated, and most have locations, hand-drawn borders and handwritten quotes or statements below, around, or winding out of the subject’s mouth. The effect is a little bit reminiscent of some of the flyers and zines the punk community put out back when I was a (small) part of it, but it’s a little bit spotty.
Templeton selected the images for this book from random portraits he took while on vacation or just out for a walk, between 1998 (just about the height of my participation in the North Texas/Tarrant County punk scene) and 2017. They weren’t made for a specific project, so I expect the treated photographs come from a period earlier in Templeton’s career, back before he became famous for Teenage Smokers (in the photo-world; he was already famous as a skateboarder and owner of Toy Machine), but I don’t really know. I haven’t seen his other books, so maybe they’re all like that?
Some of the photographs are funny: a chubby, somewhat older punk sporting a hawk and fully punk gear lounges on the beach casually reading a book (I imagine perhaps poetry from the romantic period or maybe Deleuze); in a 4-photo series, a handsome rockabilly dude spikes a younger kid’s liberty hawk; a naked Tony Trujillo lies face-down on a bearskin rug in a park. Others are more straightforward portraits, and I recognize some of the people depicted, not really, but I see in them tropes that I’ve encountered over the years, from the violent, racist, skinhead-types to the vegan hardcore activists to the look at me queers and partiers. All in all, it’s a nice reminder of where and who I’ve been and who I looked up to and identified with. Truth is, I still sorta look up to some of these characters.
As Templeton writes in his afterword:
…a mohawk was a clear symbol of someone to avoid. This person clearly did not give a fuck about what you thought of them or what society might think of them. It was an outward expression of “fuck off and leave me alone.”Templeton, Ed. “On Mohawks” in Hairdos of Defiance. Deadbeat Club, Los Angeles, CA, 2018.
Indeed. And at a certain point, for me, the need to outwardly display my nonconformity became less urgent, and my need to, in some ways, go along to get along took precedence. What would my life be like today if I still wore purple liberty spikes? They’d make it difficult—nigh on impossible—to make wudu, for sure, and so it’s completely impractical for me today, but would I have the wife I have or the job I have if I still rocked the safety pin in my eyebrow? It’s doubtful.
Having a punk hairstyle was a way to spit in the eye of polite society, to rebel and depart from the prevailing fashion trends. it was an emblem of non-conformity and a hairdo of defiance—until it wasn’t.ibid
For the few hardcore, anti-racist, vegan punks still living the authentic life, I salute you. Keep fighting the good fight. And for the racist and fascist punks, you can still fuck off: I don’t care how authentic your mohawk is. Fuck off.
A book that brings back so many memories and emotions can’t be all bad, and overall, I give Hairdos of Defiance a solid 4 stars.
Hairdos of Defiance remains available direct from Deadbeat Club, and if you have some nostalgia for the punk life, or an appreciation for the style, or for good, solid, vernacular street portraits, shot mostly on Tri-X, then Hairdos should be on your list.