40 Years: 76-77

A hell of a haircut

Forty years ago today, on tour with the Clash, Richard Hell. I go into some detail about Malcolm McLaren’s attempt to bring Hell to London in 1975-ish in my Sex Pistols book (which is actually a book about Malcolm McLaren)  something that Richard Hell himself writes about in his excellent autobiography, I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp. McLaren was captivated by his look, and – particularly – by the way he wore his hair. Something that made him stand out from everyone else.

There’s a fascinating interview by David Dalton, published in Gadfly in 2002, that had Hell pondering what it was about rock’n’roll haircuts that made them work, and how that led him to come up with the look that many saw as the prototype punk haircut.


“My conclusion was that it was grown men more or less wearing haircuts that five year olds of their generation wore. What kind of haircut, I thought, did I have when I was five or six? All the kids I grew up with had a kind of crew cut called burrs. It was a ship-to-shore crew cut that grew out because you didn’t go to the barber that often and it all became ragged. That’s the way I remember coming upon it but I think the Rimbaud thing kicked in quickly. The issue of the literary magazine I was publishing when I was about twenty had a big picture of the photo of Rimbaud you’re talking about and a well-known picture of Artaud in the asylum who also has a haircut that’s very similar.”