Mariel Osborn was not trying to make a statement with her son Jackson’s hair. The 2-year-old’s shoulder-length mane is not a declaration about gender equality. Nor is it a commentary on obsessive parenting. Nor does it stem from religious customs.
“We just think he looks adorable,” said Osborn, 34, a photo director at Self magazine who lives in Brooklyn. “We can’t bring ourselves to cut it.”
Neither could Pamela Nashel Leto, a music publicist from Bayonne, New Jersey. When her son, Casey, was a toddler, she put his hair into samurai-style ponytails. Casey, now a third-grader at Horace Mann Elementary School in Bayonne, keeps his long hair back with a 1970s-style headband when he plays basketball.
“I wear it so my hair doesn’t get in my eyes,” said Casey, 8. “People think it’s cool. And they say my hair is cool, too.”
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Hank Ramaikas, 12, does not think anything of his long hair; nor, apparently, do most of the students in his sixth-grade class at Maplewood Middle School in New Jersey.
“I started growing it about three years ago, and it felt cool, so I kept on doing it,” Hank said. “It’s just a normal thing.”
Gone are the days of the bowl cut, the buzz cut or the much-maligned mullet. Style-minded urban parents are accessorizing their young boys with long, flowing locks.
Perhaps they are taking a cue from celebrity children like Zuma Rossdale, the 6-year-old son of Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale, or Skyler Berman, the 4-year-old son of the stylist Rachel Zoe and Rodger Berman. Skyler has been scrutinized and adored for his long tendrils.
Social media also plays a role by giving children and their camera-phone-toting parents a style platform; there, long hair is one piece of a larger, more individualized aesthetic. Instagram accounts like fashionkids and denaykids chronicle the looks of fashionable children, including boys with long locks.
Websites like The Glow and MiniMode showcase stylish mothers and their equally stylish tots. In a campaign earlier this month, MiniMode featured Luca, the 5-year-old son of the New York stylist Nicole Fasolino; in it, the boy has shoulder-length blond hair with bright green highlights.
“It used to be that boys went to the barber and got traditional haircuts,” said Denni Weisler, a stylist at My Little Sunshine in Manhattan, who has cut children’s hair for 30 years. “Now, parents are being more progressive and letting their kids be who they want to be.”
Some parents, consciously or not, model their sons’ hairstyles after their own. Mara Hoffman, a fashion designer known for her bohemian-inspired ready-to-wear, said that when her son, Joaquin, was born in 2011, “the nurse said he was the hairiest baby she’d ever seen.” As Joaquin got older, the decision to let his hair grow seemed like a natural one. Neither Hoffman nor her husband, Javier Pinon, an artist, cut their hair on a regular basis.
“The idea of bringing him to get his hair cut every other month was simply not a forethought for us,” said Hoffman, who lives with her family in Brooklyn. “We don’t maintain short hairdos. It’s not in our internal tribe. So why should Joaquin be any different? That said, the second he wants to cut his hair off, we cut it off.”
Some boys’ first trip to the barber comes when they transition from toddler or when they are old enough to form their own opinions. But many are in no rush.
Osborn said that strangers have sometimes mistaken Jackson for a girl, but that most friends and family think that his long blond hair looks cool.
Likewise, Hoffman said that her son, now 4, happily corrects people on his own when he is mistaken for girl.
“It doesn’t hurt his feelings on any level, which is awesome,” she said.
Though Casey Leto is taunted on the basketball court on occasion, his mother said that his hair has raised his confidence, and that the crowd loves to cheer on the child with the retro headband.
“My hair makes me feel special because most of the boys in my class have short hair,” Casey said. “Everyone thinks I’m going to be a rock star.”