Tag Archives: haircuts

Haircuts and Lag Ba’Omer

Background: Informant is a 51 year old Israeli American. They grew up in Israel and hold a lot of Israeli culture within them. They immigrated to the Chicago area of the United States in the late 90s. They live in a largely Jewish area where access to Jewish religious services and resources are plentiful. 

Informant: Jews from… I don’t know if it’s European I think it’s Hassidim. Like, religious Jews. They don’t cut their hair because of the payas. You know what I mean? To leave payas? They do it in Lag Ba’Omer. So in Lag Ba’Omer all the kiddos, the babies like up to age 3 are coming and they get their haircut. It’s called, Ushkilin or something like that? And that’s it. 

Me: But like, why? Why do they wait to cut their hair?

Informant: It’s a tradition! Yeah, but I wasn’t too much into it. First it looks cute and second it’s in the religion. It’s a tradition to… I don’t know if it has anything like, health related or a purpose? Or you cut the hair because they are now a toddler? 

Reflection: This tradition was interesting to hear about because it involves the preservation of young kids hair in Jewish tradition. I found it funny how my informant described the tradition, as they inserted some of their own opinions into the description. They were also a bit hazy on the specifics but what is important is they knew the tradition and followed it themselves. It shows how sometimes we follow traditions blindly, without knowing why, just because we feel comfort in them. This piece also shows a ritual celebration called Lag Ba’Omer, where the cutting of the boy’s hair is done. This is to mark a change from being a baby and becoming a child.

For a mother’s experience with this ritual, look here:

“First-haircut, common at Lag B’Omer, can be mom’s rite of passage, too.” Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, 31 March 2008, https://www.jewishchronicle.org/2008/03/31/first-haircut-common-at-lag-bomer-can-be-moms-rite-of-passage-too/. Accessed 29 April 2022.

Playoff Haircuts

In high school sports, playoffs are consistently a big deal and represent a payoff for hard work and a good record during the sports season. This form folklore is both a folk practice and afterward, a folk object. The practice is giving certain haircuts during the time after the regular season but before playoffs begin. These are not normal haircuts but wild ones with different patterns and styles. Some of them include mohawks, bald heads, bowl cuts, words shaved into heads, monk haircuts, old man haircuts, and a plethora of others. They are not set haircuts but rather up to the imagination. This practice is similarly performed in other high schools across the United States, sometimes with other variations.

This folk practice is traditionally done by the upperclassmen within a team. The lowerclassmen get worse haircuts while the upperclassmen get better ones. In this way, it is a form of hazing. The informant said that the haircuts are typically shaved off or bettered once the playoff streak end because they are only to remain during the postseason. They learned it from the upperclassmen when they were younger and then performed this practice as an upperclassman. This is only typically done on varsity sports. The sports observed to do this include baseball, football, lacrosse, and some others. They remember it wholly fondly, even as a lower classman. It is not meant to be malicious but more a harmless rite of passage because it makes the kids feel like more of a coherent group. Another instance of this at different schools include bleaching the team’s hair during playoff time.

It seems to me that this sometimes is about a dynamic of power. Younger kids may be intimidated into doing this, but other kids may enjoy it because they are a part of a larger group and help self-identify with that. It is a physical way of making teammates more similar and improves as the kids get older, causing interest to do it for the first time.

Haircuts and Rejections

The Informant:

My friend is someone I met two years ago when I first came to USC. She and I lived on the same floor and had similar classes. She was born in Japan and immigrated to the U.S. when she was less than four years old. She heard this reference when she was visiting her friend back in Japan in high school.

When a girl cuts her hair to make a drastic change, it means she was dumped by her boyfriend or rejected when confessing to someone. 

The Analysis:

The saying falls along the lines of a sort of remedy to channel the girl’s sadness or frustration at rejection. It represents the rejection but also a new beginning that comes after a type of failure. The cutting of one’s hair signifies that one has abandoned the faulty past and is working to move one to the future. The hair is significant because a maiden’s hair is a major form of attraction for men. Cutting off this form of attraction can mean that the boy had no attraction towards the girl so she might as well cut it off. The importance of hair in the Japanese culture accentuates the act of cutting it and this in turn accentuates the meaning behind it.