All The Rage

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Cuba tries trimming back control of barbershops

May 3, 2010 | 12:16 pm

En route to work Monday morning, I heard a report on National Public Radio about the Cuban government's symbolic decision to give control of government-run barbershops and hair salons to the workers. Here's the introduction to the story: 

"Cuba's state-run economy got a shape-up this week when all barbershops and beauty salons were handed over to the people who run them. Before this, Cubans who worked in this industry relied on a government salary of $20 a month. Now, barbers can charge what they want but are responsible for paying taxes and utilities."

Rage_barbers You can read, or listen to, the piece in its entirety here, but I thought it noteworthy that the country, which nationalized retail establishments in 1968, was starting to let its socialist hair down (so to speak) with establishments that cater to the tonsorial trades.

It shouldn't come as a surprise, I guess, given hair's symbolic connection with power can be traced at least as far back as the biblical tale of Samson and Delilah (which I was reminded of this weekend while watching the 2009 Clive Owen/Julia Roberts thriller "Duplicity" -- a key plot point of which is an aptly named Operation Samson.)

It also brought to mind the story I first heard decades ago --  about how the CIA at one point had allegedly cooked up a plan to sprinkle thallium powder in Cuban leader Fidel Castro's shoes in hope of making his trademark beard fall out. (Although it sounds more like a high-level version of the locker room Nair-in-the-jockstrap prank than an attempt at destabilizing a socialist government, but who am I to judge?)

I'm sure there are more hair-raising moments in world history out there -- just waiting to be teased out. If you can think of any noteworthy ones, leave them in the comments section.

-- Adam Tschorn

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Photo: The scene in a Havana barbershop in mid-April. The Cuban government's attempts to relax control of state-run businesses are first being implemented in barbershops and hair salons. Credit:  EPA / STR