Wisden Cricket Monthly 1991

Hair today

David Cotton peers through the barber's mirror

Jim Foat: rustic headgerow © Cricinfo

In these days of methodical Protestant work ethics that was once cricket, a disturbing trend has come to our attention: the Standardisation of Haircuts throughout the first-class game.

The reason is simple: players with ambitions to represent their country have realised that excess hair is a big disadvantage. It may be just a coincidence, but with Micky Stewart being a dead ringer in the dome department for his namesake Captain Patrick in Star Trek, and Graham Gooch's crown doing a passable impression of the Ozone Layer, thinning rapidly, there may be some substance to the theory.

Older men are supposed to be touchy about the fact that they are on a sponsored hair-loss, so why remind yourself of the fact by choosing the company of well-endowed males? If it is true, it could go some way to explaining the selection of Kim Barnett.

Hairstyles influencing England selection. Is it a new phenomenon? Maybe. But why is it that for the best part of 30 years after the end of the Second World War, all England teams contained 11 Brylcreem Boys with hair all combed the same way? There may have been some exceptions, but I was born in 1966 and even then I still had as much hair as Geoffrey Boycott. In my formative Gloucestershire-based years, the only two hairstyles I can remember were David (now umpire) Shepherd's, complete with rustic sideburns, and Jim Foat's, complete with rustic hedgerow.

Mike Whitney: the Kevin Keegan of Australian cricket © Cricinfo
Only when the 1980s and my teenage years coincided did I really take notice of this important issue. Looking back, questions have to be asked. Was the pairing of Willis and Dilley an attempt by Alec Bedser to match Lillee and Thomson strand for strand? Did Peter May pick Bill Athey because he wouldn't have to lend him a comb? Does Fred Trueman really understand the problem of blow dry, split ends and highlights? Did the short-back-and-sides era of National Service influence Peter May in the sacking of David 'Goldilocks' Gower?

Whatever the answers, on reflection I believe that cricket hairstyles of the 1980s were greatly influenced by two Lancastrians. These two proudly head the Style Trial XI:

1) Bernard Reidy. As a young boy he was brought up on the exploits of Keith Boyce and Bernard Julien. He was so inspired that he too wanted to be a great allrounder. Found the ability gap too hard to bridge, so imitated the Afro style of frizzy curls of his childhood heroes. Now seen strutting his stuff in Cumberland, where locals, on sighting this circa 1970 hairstyle, unfortunately immediately think there has been another accident at the Sellafield Nuclear Reactor.

2) Graeme Fowler. His elevation to England status coincided with the New Romantics style of the early 1980s pop scene. Thus trendy dudes resident in Willingdon CC 2nd XI shunned the styles of Duran Duran et al and became disciples of the Fowler Look. Sporting long, preferably blond, hair cascading over upturned collars, these youths were to be found populating covers throughout the county of Sussex. Despite this universal appeal a modelling career for the aforementioned Fowler suffered owing to his exposure to the West Indians. Helmets are not the stuff of Vidal Sassoon's dreams.

3) David Gower. Nicknamed Bubblehead by the daughter of a prominent Sun sports reporter, somehow that one didn't stick. Critics have likened Gower's batting to a man preparing to comb his hair in front of a mirror. Taking this to its logical conclusion, a Gower offside shot would find its way into the opening sequence of Happy Days. To meet the requirements of the Stewart regime the hair has been pruned to a more manageable mop, a style cannily copied by the new Golden Boy Michael Atherton.

4) Ian Butcher. Proving that baldness is not necessarily hereditary, the younger brother of Alan, while not exactly establishing a county career, certainly took the Fowler Look to extremes. This has resulted in something akin to, in geographical terms, a continental drift. What he lacks in the forehead can be found on his shoulders. A rare Gloucestershire outing last season saw his blond highlights contrast strikingly with the navy blue of the helmet as a sizable growth protruded from the back. Unfortunately the only cut witnessed by Butcher that summer came from his employers.

5) Sachin Tendulkar. Was Bernard Reidy big in Bombay? Very disturbing to note that 17-year-olds find the style trendy after all these years. Experts have hinted that the only face-saving solution would be either to own up and admit to being a member of The Jacksons or take the Kirmani Option and shave it all off. People were right in saying that he would never have made the England team. Micky Stewart would be in apoplexy.

6) Rodney Ontong. A certain fanzine nominated him as winner of the Shirley Bassey Lookalike Contest, 1975-1989. Never gained England recognition, but has a successful cabaret slot at Butlin's in Prestatyn.

7) Paul Smith. Described as the Tina Turner of Cricket. Another devotee of the Fowler Look came close to quitting the game when actively headhunted by the management of Status Quo as a replacement for blond front-man Rick Parfitt.

8) Bob Taylor. The man who said no to Grecian 2000 had to be the obvious choice as wicketkeeper to this illustrious side. Other candidates, ranging from Alan Knott to Jack Russell, suffer from a rare form of hair disorder, Clothitis, the term given to the condition suffered after hair has been kept under a cloth cap all day, making the sufferer look like a cross between the hippy from The Young Ones and a trainspotter.

9) Mervyn Hughes. Yep, the Melbourne skinhead himself waltzes into this side with a stylish 1990s haircut that all fast bowlers must have. Young pretenders like Fraser and Bicknell are there or thereabouts, but have not yet got that Merve the Swerve Look. Was a former devotee of the Reidy Look, discarded on advice from the marketing men from PBL. Was never a member of The Village People despite claims to the contrary.

10) Tony Pigott. Down in Hove they need something to laugh at, and 'Lester' provides it. His awful Derek Nimmo/Pudding Basin affair was aptly described by one Sussex supporter as looking like it was cut round the edge of one of those boundary eggs, or 'Giffords' as they are now known.

11) Mike Whitney. The Kevin Keegan of Australian cricket and stuntman for Starsky in Starsky and Hutch. Having shaken off that tag, he now has to contend with everyone calling him Houston, as his hairstyle was ruthlessly pirated by the chart-topper Whitney Houston. Like Reidy, never did much at Old Trafford, apart from dropping Botham in '81.