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Scott Ostler

After Once Being 'Burned, You Can't Be Too Careful

February 25, 1988|Scott Ostler

I am due for a haircut.

Based on what has been happening in Calgary, and assuming I want to remain hip, I seem to have two choices. I can get myself a Brian Boitano or an Eddy the Eagle.

Or I can take a slightly greater risk and go for the Kirk Gibson look, destined to become popular now that Gibson has escaped the backwoods and will be playing for the big-city Dodgers.

Those will be the hot new looks, because fashion for the masses always follows what's happening on the sports scene.

Pat Riley starts slicking back his hair like a '50s saloon keeper and soon every actor and male fashion model is getting himself a Riley.

Carl Lewis shows up at the Olympics with a flattop, and it becomes a prevailing style.

And did you notice when the rockabilly haircut started making a comeback? Right after Raider owner Al Davis moved from Oakland to trend-setting Los Angeles.

Also, I've noticed a lot of men copying the Kareem look.

But back to the problem. Brian Boitano vaulted into the fashion forefront by winning the gold medal in figure skating. In this event, as I understand it, skaters are graded 10% on technical skill, 10% on artistic merit and 80% on the grooming package--haircut, makeup, costume and facial expression.

Boitano skated with incredible grace and skill. He also swayed the judges with his hair style, a modified Bobby Rydell with daring, plunging sideburns.

So does this mean sideburns are back? I have to know soon. Mine grow slowly and I'll need a head start.

Sideburns began shrinking some years back, then suddenly about a year ago they were taken completely off the market. If a public announcement was made, I missed it. I went to my barber one day, was given a general anesthetic as usual, and when I woke up my sideburns were gone.

Not wanting to seem a bumpkin, I couldn't say, "Hey, where's my 'burns?"

I gave my usual generous tip and walked out of the shop feeling naked.

Then I noticed that nobody else had 'burns, either, except for guys driving pickup trucks with rifle racks.

Now maybe sideburns are back.

Or will the Eagle look carry the day? If so, in order to show my stylist exactly what I want, I won't need to take him a photo. I can just show him an old tennis ball.

The Gibson look would be real risky, because it is subject to change. In fact, it may be dead right now.

Gibson is the hard-hitting outfielder the Dodgers recently signed. He has a chronic five-o'clock shadow, a look he wears well and which was copied with some success by a TV actor named Don Johnson.

Now it turns out that the real reason the Tigers let Gibson slip away was because he was damaged goods--he couldn't achieve a close shave.

"I didn't like Gibson's grooming," Tiger owner Tom Monaghan said. "I thought he was a disgrace to the Tiger uniform with his half-beard, half-stubble."

In Gibson's defense, he may have had a problem accepting fashion tips from the man who OKd the employee's uniforms for Domino's Pizza.

The Dodgers have a long-standing rule prohibiting beards on employees of either sex. Bill Madlock shaved off his beard when he came to the Dodgers. Alfredo Griffin, the new shortstop, showed up at Vero Beach without his full beard, which was wise. With all the crazy hops you get while playing shortstop at Dodger Stadium, opponents would have been racking up ground-rule doubles on baseballs lost in Alfredo's face.

With Gibson, the foliage is a judgment call. Is that a beard, or merely allowable manly baseball stubble?

The Dodgers are sticklers on their rule, and Gibson's face might have to be submitted to arbitration.

Gibson's attorneys will argue that he has a fast-growing beard, and can't be expected to shave between innings, caulking up the razor nicks with a mixture of pine tar and Aqua Velva.

On Wednesday, Gibson held a press conference in Vero Beach, and he was clean-shaven, at least when the press conference started. The Dodgers will be watching carefully to make sure Gibson doesn't suffer a relapse.

After all, ballplayers are role models. The Dodgers would feel personally responsible if Southern California school kids started showing up for class with scraggly semi-beards. Grade school playgrounds would look like conventions of Hollywood producers.

I'm still undecided which look to cultivate, and there's no way to play it safe and combine styles. You can't mix the Boitano look with the Gibson stubble. Clash City. And you shouldn't combine an Eagle cut with facial stubble unless you're seriously considering a career in panhandling.

Come to think of it . . .

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