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OPINION: I once had Luke Perry hair

I once had Luke Perry hair. Okay, I tried. Through the acne, a voice that couldn’t decide between a squeak and a bellow, the mysterious puberty pong that attached itself to my being (no matter the atmosphere of Ego deodorant I created daily), I needed something to help me navigate the wilderness that was teenagedom.

I blame Beverly Hills, 90210 for my misguided hirsute venture, especially Perry.

Playing the textbook cloying teen, I pondered his character: Dylan McKay’s James Dean-esque head tilt, the furrows in his brow, always present no matter the mood. The coolness didn’t seem to end.

However, apart from the image - which was clearly classic Hollywood - it was Perry and his character’s apparent juxtaposition to what was being liberally vaunted through popular media, that helped 13-year-old me find an inkling of confidence.

You see, to be a man (in the nineties and forever more, I fear) you had to crunch your way to perfect abs, play sport, tell dirty misogynistic jokes and down a beer in ten seconds.

Perry never struck me as that kind of man, both on screen and off. He didn’t seem to bother with sculpting the perfect body or following the rules of being a heartthrob. On the cover of a top magazine from that time, there he is lounging, shirtless, shoeless, comfy in jeans, a patch of hair on a chest devoid of beefy muscle, no six-pack to be seen.

Sure, he was staple of many a magazine. How could he not be with that face – and, of course that hair? His simple white shirt and jeans look showed us oily masses of impressionable teen boys that branded, expensive, over-the-top sartorial choices (of which the early nineties are known for. Think Will Smith circa Fresh Prince of Bel Air era) weren’t needed. A trip to Truworths Man and Pep with our moms for no-name denims and shirts would suffice.

I recall a magazine interview at the height of 90210’s fame in which Perry came off as almost surprised by his popularity. The accompanying photos of a black-and-white, moody actor didn’t match the written content. He seemed genuine, warm, and relatable (even if he was a grown man playing a high school pupil). As a shy nobody, I was drawn to that and his unwillingness to conform to the ‘fashionable’ masculinity that had helped embarrass the eighties.

Having done my best to shape my shaggy messy into a Perry coiffure I steeled myself for the teasing. A primary school in conservative Kimberley was unlikely to greet such an image with tolerance or kindness. I debuted the haircut, obviously minus the required unaffected-yet-affected Perry/McKay swagger. It was the second mistake after even thinking of wearing such a hairstyle. My friends erupted into a barrage of mocking, even worse than when I went out in public sporting a Vanilla Ice haircut. "Why do you like that guy?" asked a fellow learner, the derisiveness homophobia oozing from ‘like’ and ‘guy’ as if a teenage boy admiring another male was a sin.

The girls kept their distance, as they had before my Perry/McKay experiment. My disappointment at not having wooed them through my mangled tower of hair ensued.

I forged on, though, keeping the hair cut until Perry and 90210’s influence permeated the youth circles of Kimberley. It wasn’t long before some friends too adopted the ‘Perry do’, joining his growing fan club. The Perry affect had taken hold. And in my mind, I was vindicated.

Regan Thaw is a news anchor for Eyewitness News and 567 CapeTalk. Follow him on Twitter: @ReganThaw

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