Even though a large percentage of the planet’s western population spends its life in an existential crisis, perpetually asking itself “Who am I?”, at the same time it has no trouble also saying “Well, let me tell you” through the medium of fashion and HAIR.
Women obviously have the superior vocabulary, but even among men, from the most powerful leader in the world with his big shiny quiff, down to Donald Trump and that twitchy young man in North Korea, through the corridors of business, the studios of art, the High Streets and the classrooms, rare is the hairstyle that isn’t trying to say “And this is me.”
There are only so many ways a person can manipulate strands of keratin on a cranium though, and it feels that every variety of cutting, curling, shaving, dying, weaving, pomading, extending, ignoring and adding to (qv Keith Richards, whose hair a decade ago included some washers and his daughter’s braces) has been attempted.
But it has come to Saint Peacock’s notice that there is at least one style still sellotaped in the barber’s window that has yet to be adopted by publicity-seeking individuals or cliques in need of a visual signature.
In Daniel Beer’s superb book “The House of the Dead, Siberian Exile Under the Tsars” he describes in detail that particular bleak trip, from the pre-departure floggings to the life in the mines that await the survivors.
As one might expect, every second of it was utterly dismal, not least because to deter malingering en route one’s sentence only began on arrival.
One chap took eight years to arrive to begin a sentence of – eight years.
Anyway, all that delicious detail is in the volume, but the big hair news is this: convicts, as opposed to political exiles, had to wear their hair shaved on one side along a line down the centre of the head, bald to the left, thatched to the right.
Unfortunately copyright restrictions prevent the display of an image, but you can either buy the book for visual confirmation of the look, or failing that, stand in front of the mirror, imagine a line running from between your eyes to the nape of your neck and shave off every last hair you find on your head’s eastern hemisphere.
If you’re not ready to take that step yourself just yet, try it out first on one of your prisoners.
Shaving has obviously had plenty to say on hair’s recent journey, but this particular do, neglected for over a century, is still available for anyone wishing to make a name for himself.
The House of the Dead, Siberian Exile Under the Tsars by Daniel Beer, Penguin, £12.99