Male university students in North Korea are now required to get the same hairstyle, again, as their leader Kim Jong-un.
Earlier this year, a state-sanctioned guideline was introduced in the capital Pyongyang, followed by a country wide roll-out. The decree had its detractors, and for good reason: “Our leader’s hairstyle is very particular, if you will,” one source reported. “It doesn’t always go with everyone since everyone has different face and head shapes.” One North Korean, now living in China, stated the look was unpopular as it was thought to make those doning it resemble Chinese smugglers. “Until the mid-2000s,” he was quoted, “we called it the ‘Chinese smuggler haircut’.”
The new decree, made shortly after the successful test-launch of a submarine ballistic missile on May 9, has nearly every student up in arms. “This new style is impossible to duplicate and harder to manage”, says one student who wishes, obviously, to remain anonymous. “You get the edges and sides clipped and the top wind-blown wild and gelled – just right – and the next minute the little quiff of a fringe moves out slightly and there’s this soldier breathing down your neck! What am I going to tell my parents if I get detention? We’re spending a fortune on barber bills and there’s hardly even any food to eat in this country! I’m thinking of giving up my Socialist Studies and smuggling myself South of the border. At least I have the right haircut for that.”
Another student, with similar woes – sheltering from the wind and applying gel repeatedly using a compact mirror, tells of how the guideline has sparked a capitalist revival in the hair-styling industry, with barbers and stylists competing directly for customers by not only lowering their prices but showcasing their skills in marathon blowdry show-offs, events often marked by fete attractions, selfie parades and de-popularised music from Seoul. The decree has also allowed capitalism to rear its ugly, if not entirely shaven head in a more predictable manner, with figures from the small appliance retail sector and the home cosmetics industry showing sharp increases in the sales of blowdryers, hot air turbo stylers, ionic hair setters, spray gels, volume and controlling mousses and extreme texture root lifters, as well as a variety of other items not traditionally acquired by and associated with your average 16 – 25 year old North Korean male.
“One wonders where it will all end,” ponders a less than emphatic youth complete with quiff, wind-structured stand-up gelled-tips and mousse-managed flairs, “Should our esteemed leader one day begin losing his hair we’re going to be in for a very awkward and uncomfortable period in our country’s officially recognised history.”