Bryce Harper is a 23-year-old professional baseball player who is entering his fifth season with the Washington Nationals. He also happens to be the third-youngest player to win the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s National League Most Valuable Player Award. However, when you type “Bryce Harper” into a Google search bar, the first suggested search is not something that will provide you with trivial information such as “Bryce Harper stats” or “Bryce Harper contact.”
Instead it is “Bryce Harper hair.”
Just before his first full season with the Washington Nationals in 2013, Harper took to Twitter asking Washington D.C. locals if they knew of a “Rockabilly barbershop,” and in doing so fans seemed to have fallen in love with Harper’s hair more so than the actual player, and as fans dote on Harper’s hair, athletes try to mimic it.
Hair has traditionally been associated with the hockey culture, but thanks to icons such as Harper, athletes in various sports have taken to making their hair as distinct as their personalities, and the effects of this phenomenon have not gone unnoticed at Concordia.
Sam Mattson, a pitcher on the baseball team, believes that the men’s hockey team has the overall best hair at Concordia, but that the baseball team is not too far behind. Mattson says that baseball’s signature hairstyle would be the “long locks look, but nowadays thanks to Bryce Harper the short sides, long top like Macklemore has really taken off.”
The area of athletes and their hair has become a great interest of sorts for Mattson.
“I think hair becomes part of the superstitions athletes have,” he said. “Messing with it messes with us.”
Great hair can also create a sense of community among a team.
“People come to expect it, and when it gets cut it’s like a new guy walked into the locker room,” Mattson said. “I think everyone would enjoy it in their mind, but [they] don’t want to spend the year growing their [hair] out.”
The Love Affair
As the saying goes, “good things come to those who wait,” and great hair is no exception.
“It’s a commitment but worth the effort,” said Race Heitkamp, a senior runner. “Once you get past the awkward stage, it’s like ‘well might as well keep going.’”
Heitkamp, who has been growing his hair out for roughly 18 months, says that longer hair fits his personality better than short hair.
“I just really wanted to grow my hair out,” he said. “It’s me holding onto my youth.”
Luke Owens, another runner, started growing his hair out two years ago prior to his senior year of high school football.
“After that, I just realized I like it a lot,” Owens said. “It’s just a part of who I am.”
For swimmer Madeline Johnson, having long and flowing hair means the world.
“It is how I express myself as an individual,” she said. “Without my hair I am nothing. Every Thursday afternoon I hold a short pep rally for the continued growth of my hair.”
Yet the long hair look is not for everyone. Mattson and his pitching counterpart Billy Jacobson just recently cut their hair.
“My hair was pretty high maintenance for what I was used to,” Mattson said. “I also had job interviews and needed to be professional so I don’t end up living with my parents after school.”
Jacobson said that his hair eventually started to come to life.
“By the end was a creature of its own,” Jacobson said. “No matter how much product I attempted to use the hair would eat it right up and not be useful.”
Great hair also requires great diligence in terms of maintenance.
Owens uses leave-in conditioner on a regular basis, and Heitkamp uses a mousse product while following a strict hair-maintenance process.
“I don’t blow dry my hair,” Heitkamp said. “I don’t straighten my hair — it’s really hard on your hair.
I don’t shampoo every day. I condition when I feel like I need to condition.”
Heitkamp also said that he combs often to avoid shedding.
Swimmers face added challenges in maintaining great hair.
“Chlorine is very tough on the hair so my mane is super high maintenance,” Johnson said. “Before I enter the pool, I always make sure it is fully secured inside my swim cap, with no hairs left to suffer through the chlorine poison.”
While in the pool, a swimmer’s hair is never safe. Johnson confirms that the myth of chlorine making hair turn green is true.
“This is the absolute truth and a horrible fact of life and swimming,” Johnson said. “This has happened to many fellow swimmers and is considered to be a rite of passage into the world of swimming. Are you really a swimmer if your hair has never turned green? No.”
After practice Johnson says that her hair maintenance includes conditioning thoroughly, de-tangling spray and brushing a minimum of 57 times with her Wet Brush. If the hair becomes a victim of the chlorine poison and turns green, there may even be some chlorine removal shampoo.
For some the end of the long hair glory days is an “if.” For others, it is a “when.”
“I like it right now, and when I don’t like it I’ll get rid of it,” Heitkamp said. “I’m going to grow it out until graduation.”
And if or when that time comes, one must admit how attached to their hair they actually were.
“I really enjoyed my hair and the time we spent together but was never overly attached,” Mattson said. “Billy was pretty attached to his hair and his hair binders. I saw a tear or two was shed when the first cut was made.”
Jacobson says that experience did not produce any physical tears, but there was a fair amount of shock.
“It had been over a year and a half since I got my last haircut,” he said. “My hair and I had developed quite the love/hate relationship and even though we had our rough times, it was still hard to watch it go.”
Heitkamp admits that he would not be too emotional if he had to lose his hair, but he does worry about his cool factor.
“I wouldn’t cry if I lost it,” he said. “I would look in the mirror and go ‘oh I’m a little more lame today.”
Owens, on the other hand, has a more loving relationship with his hair.
“I am definitely emotionally attached to my hair,” Owens said. “I love it.”
Johnson said that she would be willing to trade her hair for increased swimming abilities.
“I would have short hair only if Michael Phelps personally cut it for me, and promised to release all of his swimming abilities to me following the haircut,” she said.
As runners, both Heitkamp and Owens deal with aerodynamics while they compete. Having an excessive amount of hair would seem counterintuitive to aerodynamics. However, both of the runners seem to be indifferent toward the science of running.
“I don’t really understand the aerodynamics of it,” Heitkamp said adding that he has no concern about his hair affecting his performance. “There are no professionals running in swim caps.”
Owens said that he does not care about the aerodynamics.
“Some guys shave their legs and all that jazz,” he said. “But it doesn’t matter too much for me. I’m not that fast anyway.”
While runners are allowed to let their hair flow, swimmers are required to cover theirs up. This leaves Johnson in a tough situation.
“Honestly, I would say [covering the hair] is the hardest part of the sport,” she said. “If I’m having a fantastic hair day it’s instantly ruined the moment I put on my cap. I’ve tried petitioning to adapt swimming as a land sport for that exact reason. Alas, my attempts have been fruitless.”
The Reason Why
Why do athletes deal with the added work that goes into great hair? For Heitkamp the answer is simple:
“It’s something different. It’s not something every day.”