North Korea wages war on long hair

The government of North Korea has launched a series of television public service announcements called "Let Us Trim Our Hair In Accordance With Socialist Lifestyle!"

Snip from a BBC News story on the campaign: "It stressed the 'negative effects' of long hair on 'human intelligence development,' noting that long hair 'consumes a great deal of nutrition' and could thus rob the brain of energy."

This is really funny, for a number of reasons — first, Pyongyang's logic flies in the face of the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists, an elite alliance of demonstrably smart dudes who all have very long hair.

Secondly, I met several young men in Richmond, Virginia this past weekend who identify themselves as Socialists. Each were in their 20's, none of them shave, and one — Silver — even ran for mayor on the seemingly contradictory "pro-labor, pro-marijuana" platform ("I came in fifth — out of five candidates," he told me, "I'm demanding a recount… they said I only got two votes, and I know for a fact I got at least ten.") Long hair seemed to be totally de rigeur in this faction of the Party. Clearly, there's a disturbance in the force.

Link to BBC story on North Korean TV PSAs, via William Gibson's blog, which also features a snapshot of a NSFW snowman in Vancouver today.

Update: A dose of sociopolitical hair deconstruction from our pal Kourosh Karimkhany of Wired News.

Why doesn't anybody point out that Kim Jong-Il has the full-on bouffant action going? What, he doesn't want competition? Or are the REAL North Korean power-that-be tweaking their leader indirectly by outlawing his haircut? Where are the retired Kremlinologists when you need them?

Regarding the influence of politics on gentlemanly hair and beard stylin's, reader Andrew Gray says

In 1841, Charles Mackay published a wonderful book on "The Madness Of Crowds"; strange behaviour by societies, or groups, covering everything from the South Sea Bubble and the Tulip craze to fly-by-night London slang. One of the things he touched on was the various approaches to hair – the way long, flowing locks have shot from being a sign of Real Masculinity to Shocking Effeminacy and back over time. Here is an extract of that chapter.

Some of it is amusing – the Papal edict that wearers of long hair were to be excommunicated, or the Russian beard-taxes – and some simply strange, like his theory that the Haircut Issue caused the Hundred Years War. But it certainly seemed apt in respect of this; can we ever out-surreal history?