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Michael Hardt’s Hair: An Apology

It has been brought to my attention that a previous post on this website may have been somewhat unfair and/or not perfectly soundly rooted in fact. Specifically, a number of correspondents have informed me, both through email and through posts on their own weblogs, that Michael Hardt’s hair is not really all that bad. Surveying the evidence, which includes a number of photographs not indexed by the google image search, I have come to the conclusion that they are right. Doug Henwood, editor of the periodical (Left Business Observer) in which the original photograph appeared, has suggested that what’s happened is that with the “floating head” style of cropping, one loses important perspective cues from below the neck, making the do look more expansive and voluminous than it actually is.

I still don’t like Hardt’s hair; it’s scruffy as hell, and in a few stills of him lecturing, it appears to wilt under lights, and look really bad. But it is not actually a “bouffant” in the pejorative sense; it appears that his hair is merely naturally curly and insufficiently frequently trimmed, causing it to grow away from his head in a natural manner (the hairstyle used to be known as an “Isro” back in more carefree and less PC days). So it would seem that, in retrospect, some form of apology to Prof. Hardt and to his barber would be in order. In particular, my suggestion that such a high-maintenance pompadour would require large amounts of alienated labour and environmentally unsustainable grooming products (which had the effect of suggesting that Hardt was not only vain and effeminate but a hypocrite) was unjustifiable.

Not retracted, however, is the remark made in the first edit to the original Hardt post, claiming that he had “a sort of Hasselhoff thing going on”. I still think that this is true and that the publicity still on his website bears it out. Hardt is 42 years old, approximately 15 years beyond the point at which one can get away with that “tousled, boyish” image and maybe eight to ten years older than the expiry date for the denim jacket he is pictured wearing. It’s difficult to see where this calculated scruff look is coming from; Hardt doesn’t have the excuse of being a child of the sixties, because he was only nine years old when they finished. My worry is that, presumably unknowingly, the professor’s sensibility is most tellingly informed by the 1980s’ advertisements for Levi’s jeans and their denim-clad youthfulness. In other words, he’s the American equivalent of our own Jeremy Clarkson.

In semi-related news, the consideration of middle-aged men and their attempts to maintain the trappings of youth, reminds me that about a year ago, I promised to write a few bits on the general topic of “evolutionary psychology”, and the time is probably ripe. Watch this space …

edit: While I’m apologising, I might as well mention that anyone who’s read the book “My Goodness” by Joe Queenan will perhaps recognise that I’ve lifted this “insincere apology as excuse for a few more jibes” gag from there. Since it was basically the only joke in the whole book, anyone who’s read that book will be pretty sick of it, so sorry. Thinking about it, this cack-handed plagiarism has the effect of making my posts about Lawrence Lessig look rather hypocritical, so a qualified apology there. Anyone else?

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