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The Hair, It’s Got To Be The Hair

NFL linebacker Clay Matthews showcasing his flow.

As our athletic world continues to grow, the rising popularity of a particular sport parallels the marketability of its players. The ability to make one player stand out amongst the rest before they even play one down or inning is invaluable. Reflecting on the histories of leagues such as the NFL, MLB, and NBA, it’s clear that a substantial amount of growth has taken place in regards to allowing and encouraging individuality and self-expression.

Thanks to ever-increasing media exposure and endorsement opportunities, a player’s image and personal brand are wildly important in today’s sports world. Above all else, a player’s performance will dictate his popularity. On the other hand, it doesn’t hurt to have a unique personality, style, or both.

In most arenas of life, one is seen before he/she is heard. A first impression is often nonverbal; therefore, one must rely on esthetics to exude the look, vibe, or personality they want the world to know them for.  

As we’ve seen throughout the NBA, unique clothing styles will certainly do the trick during pre-game. However, once the game starts, those clothes are swapped for shorts and a jersey. The same goes for all other sports. Accessories and designer clothes must be ditched. So what is left? Once the first pitch is thrown or puck is dropped, what is the one physical piece of individuality that players maintain?

Hair. Long hair has stood the test of time as tool of expression. Long hair bucks the stereotype of what an athlete should look like. The traditional crew cut and varsity jacket jock is no longer the norm. These longhaired athletes look less like army lieutenants and more like Vikings.

When it comes to why our athletes grow their hair, there are three archetypes we can draw explanations from. These three types of hair aficionados motivate athletes and civilians alike to let their hair down, allowing them to better show the world their unique styles and brands.

The Warrior:


Khal Drogo from HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Photo courtesy of bustle.com


In the Bible, there’s a great warrior named Samson. A warrior whose source of strength was his flowing hair. Once that hair was mercillessly snipped away, he was no longer the all-powerful Samson. In television, there are badasses like John Snow and Eddard Stark, running around swinging swords, killing white walkers, and flipping their hair like majestic superheroes. In history, there are the Vikings. Objectively speaking, they were bad guys. But to be real, they were intimidating warriors that sported some serious head lettuce. If you would prefer a historical example that features “the good guys,” we can use the various Native American cultures.


Now who best fits the archetype of warriors? The best answer would be football players. The inherently violent nature of the sport constructs a gladiator-esq atmosphere between the white lines. Our Clay Matthews types harken back to the days of the Vikings—blonde sea-crossing pillagers not scared of a damn thing. Our Troy Polamalu types, aka our Samoan warriors, fly around the field as their hair trails behind, trying to keep up. The list goes on and on.

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. Photo courtesy of Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports.
Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews. Photo courtesy of Yahoo Sports.


The Rebel:

Judd Nelson in “The Breakfast Club”

As dated as the term counterculture may seem, it still remains significant in terms of explaining out-of-role behavior. A successful rebel bucks trends, lives freely, and most importantly… outperforms his competition.

Whether it’s rock and roll or teens trying to piss off their parents, long hair has long been a symbol of rebellion in America. In a sport like baseball, where unwritten rules and archaic facial hair policies are imbedded in its history, a little bit of distinctiveness goes a long way.

Just like the stiff, uptight society of the 50’s needed the hippies and rockers of the 60’s and 70’s to loosen up the rest of the country, baseball needed the Noah Syndergards and Jacob deGroms to show some flow.


Noah Syndegaard and Jacob deGrom. Photo courtesy of Esquire.com.
Bill Walton, the original face of the sports counterculture movement. Photo courtesy of HF Boards.


The Dude:

Jeff Bridges as ‘The Dude’ in “The Big Lebowski.” Photo courtesy of Mashable

Enter Lax Bros and Hockey Dudes. Sometimes referred to as “flow bros,” these lettuce farmers bring a true sense of fraternity to the sports world. A community of likeminded individuals sporting luscious locks.

Who doesn’t want to be more relaxed? Or at the very least, appear more relaxed? Nothing projects a “chill vibe” like surfer hair. Carona always says, “Find Your Beach”. Well with a head of hair like the bros below, all you have to do is look in a mirror.

These guys don’t grow hair as a tactic, nor as a statement. They grow it out of pure love for the hair game.

Former NHL veteran Jaromir Jagr has had a strong showing of flow throughout his career.
Photo courtesy of BroBible