Men from North Korea may have lost their latest battle for freedom of expression – the right to choose a haircut. That’s right.
If rumors are to be believed, the communist nation’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un has facilitated the issuing of a new law that requires all men to get the same haircut as he has. The new law was first introduced by the regime in the country’s capital Pyongyang, but it is slowly being implemented all over.
The law, directed mainly at male university students, was introduced two weeks ago, but has invited displeasure from those targetted.
Even in the past, hairstyles have been controlled for both sexes. While men can only choose between 10 state-sanctioned hairstyles, women can pick between 18. These even included different ones for single or married women!
In the year 2005, the country’s government launched a patriotic campaign entitled ‘Let us trim our hair in accordance with Socialist lifestyle’ against long hair, with the aim of promoting short hair for its male population. The radio and press also carried reports stressing the need for neat hairstyles and appropriate clothing.
Men were ordered to have a haircut every 15 days and keep its length shorter than two inches. Those over 50 years of age could grow it up to three inches, and were allowed this in order to cover their bald spot. To implement this, the media sent teams with hidden cameras, to catch those violating the hairstyle code. These people would even be named publicly.
The campaign cited ‘health reasons’ for this measure, saying that long hair would take the nutrition away from the brain, and rob people of intelligence and energy.
North Korea residents said that the haircut was too specifically tailored for their leader, and did not suit everyone. The hairstyle in question was apparently never popular before Kim Jong-un’s rise to power. It was associated with Chinese smugglers, and thus the cut, called the ‘Chinese smuggler haircut’ would attract attention from authorities. The unpopularity of the haircut adds to recent reports that the interest in fashion among the country’s upper and middle classes is increasing.
News reports said that the reports could be inaccurate, as historically, such guidelines or rules were ‘rarely enforced’. There have always been rumours that the country has state-sanctioned hairstyles, with no real proof. However, recent visitors have cast doubts on these rumours, saying that they did not notice a change or difference in local hairstyles.
Kim Jong-un’s military hairstyle, with its shaved sides, centred parting and long top hair, is quite different from his father’s. The late Kim Jong-il wore a distinct bouffant look to help make himself look taller.