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Way Out There : Punk hair is back all right, and it's as outrageous--and colorful--as ever. But this time around, wearers say it's not a rebellious look--just a cool one.

January 14, 1994|ANDREA HEIMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

They look angry: The spikes dripping in red, the semi-shaven skulls tattooed with swirly snakes, the hatchet-job mohawks.

But many of the adventurous young souls who dare to wear these dos insist that their look is not an anti-authority, rebellion thing--not this time around.

"It's an art form, like anything else," says Julie Michelson, 18, of her partly shaved head and long, purple forelock. "Natural hair is boring. I'm not trying to make a statement; it's just my style."

Last we looked, such wild styles took their cues from the music-driven punk scene of the mid-to-late '70s and early '80s and were accompanied by unkind feelings toward the Establishment and, sometimes, violence.

The revival, "neo-punk" as it has been dubbed by fashion watchers, is practiced by a diverse crowd, many of whom have no interest in punk music, and carries with it a whole new attitude.

This time, most of the people shaving, primary coloring and molding their hair into threatening shapes simply like the look. It has become "cool," even fashionable, showing up last fall on the runway shows of Versace, Gaultier and Chanel.

Neo-punk hair encompasses any style that is shaved and wildly colored, says Shala Ahmadi, owner of Royal Hair Design and Beauty Supply in West Hollywood. Shavers take different tacks, baring their scalps on the sides, down the middle or all over--except for a little ponytail out back.

Jennifer Hofmann, stylist at Carlton Hair International in the Beverly Center, has cut and dyed her hair into a multitude of styles and colors since she was 13, including a series of blue, green, purple and yellow mohawks. "I did it partly because of the punk scene, partly because I liked it," she says. Hofmann now wears a simple Cleopatra cut, dyed black with purple bangs. Few clients request super-wild looks, she says, but she helps friends pull off punkish styles.

"The people doing it now are younger and more conservative," says Hofmann, 24. "Before, it was only people in their late teens, early 20s. Now, high school kids are doing it, and it's 'in' in the fashion circles."

Cory Ryan, 13, has worn a six-inch mohawk for eight months, but he says he likes rap music, not punk. "I wanted to show some of my friends that I can dress like a total punk rocker and not be one," says Cory, a Hollywood resident. "Everybody is so caught up in what you wear and the styles for what music you listen to, what nationality you are. I wanted to show that how you dress, or wear your hair, doesn't matter."

His mohawk was purple, then blue and is now black. When he feels like spiking it, Cory slathers on Elmer's Glue, hair spray and mousse, lays his hair on a table and blow-dries it flat.

Older neo-punkers contending with day-job dress codes opt for funky wigs and hair pieces after-hours. Popular items include tall, blond Marie Antoinette-like wigs and small multicolored attachments to clip onto the hair and top with a hat. Part-timers can also get a cut that will cover shaved sections, as well as tattoos.

"People need to have a professional look in the day, but when they're out clubbing, anything goes," Hofmann says.

Atila, a stylist at Royal Hair Design, is known for creating some wild dos, including his own mohawks. The 43-year-old stylist--whose current coif is short, spiky and bleached white--says the signature style of punk hair had faded from the scene until recently.

"It's amazingly the same," he says of the look. "What's different is that the younger kids, 12 and 13 years old, who haven't even heard of punk bands, are doing it. Before it was a completely rock 'n' roll, musicians' haircut. Now it has nothing to do with music. Kids love it because it keeps them cool."

But not without some effort. To maintain a clean-looking mohawk, wearers must shave the sides of the head weekly, sometimes daily. And persuading a long mohawk to stand up straight is no easy matter; spiking tools include tons of hair spray and a megawatt blow-dryer. Egg whites, gelatin or Aqua Net Extra Super Hold--noted for its staying power--are old standbys.

Many neo-punkers do their own color, sometimes with help from friends. They bleach the hair using an over-the-counter product such as Wellalite Speed Bleach, then apply color by Manic Panic, Color Vivre or Crazy Color that will create peacock locks in about two hours. The colors--in such shades as alpine green, eggplant and aubergine--fade with each wash.

Liz Ard of Bellflower redyes her brilliant-green hair once a month. She has cut down on the spiking, though, since emptying a can of Super Hold onto her hair, pointing it toward the sky and watching it snap in half.

Aaron Gray, 19, of Torrance, coaxes his fire-engine red mohawk into spikes when he gets the urge. He uses Paul Mitchell hair spray and redyes about every month: "I like the way it looks, and I like what it represents--it's different."

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