Investigating The Mohawk

Rebel.  Outlier.  Fighter.  Punk.

One of the most iconic symbols of the punk rock movement of the 1970s is the Mohawk hairstyle. Just as dreadlocks are typically associated with reggae, sporting shaved sides with a strip of hair down the middle suggested a love of the Sex Pistols or The Clash; wanting to be anarchy or wondering should they stay or should they go. Who doesn’t love the maniacal anti-hero Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver, or the cynical bravado of Stevo in SLC Punk (of which the sequel is out soon—naturally I will watch it, but I can’t guarantee I will be happy)? The punk rock Mohawk alludes to the days when DIY didn’t come from Pinterest or a YouTube tutorial; we had to figure this shit out for ourselves. The Mohawk meant you weren’t afraid of someone’s perception; you reveled in it. 

The Mohawk was not PETA friendly; that height that reached to the heavens was usually obtained with a combination of backcombing after an application of Elmer’s glue, egg whites, gelatin, or even cornstarch…because sometimes Aquanet was just not enough.

Rewind even further. In World War II, paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division sported Mohawks and warrior face paint while heading into battle to intimidate their enemies. This inspiration came from the unit’s leader, who was part Native American. Their sentiments for the unconventional manner of dress was: “We just didn’t do everything we were supposed to do in some ways and did a whole lot more than they wanted us to do in other ways. We were always in trouble."

This both foretold of the non-conformist philosophy of the future punk rock movement, as well as echoed the origins of the Mohawk hairstyle. Around the globe, there were variations of the style—shaved sides with a strip of hair down the middle—as far back as 300 BC. These coiffures were styled with pine resin—sulfate-free shampoos wouldn’t make a dent in that. In addition, the body of a warrior found in a kurgan (def: Russian burial chamber, not that badass villain from Highlander) was wearing a prosthesis, i.e. hairpiece, in the form of a Mohawk.

But where does the name come from? 

NYC, style center of the world? No. Travel less than 300 miles northeast from Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week to the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York. The hairstyle was named after the Mohawk nation; indigenous people that occupied territory including the scenic valley nestled between the Catskills and the Adirondacks.  The men of this tribe took DIY to a whole new level. Instead of shaving the sides of the head, they pulled out tufts of hair until all that remained was a square on the crown of the head. Traditionally, it would have been worn in three braids of decorated hair. 

Although the modern Mohawk starts at the front hairline and descends all the way to the nape, there are many derivations that wax and wane in the fashion world. As 2015 lets a whole new generation explore just how god-awful early 90s fashion was, we will see the highly styled “lumbersexualized” pompadour get even more daring with shorter and higher sides that creep above the parietal ridge to mimic a modern day Mohawk. Tomorrow’s Mohawk will be a throwback to the grunge and goth era of a full, matte curtain of hair that falls mysteriously over the eyes.

Share pictures of your Warrior ‘hawk with us using the #DestroyTheHairdresser!