Historicist: Get Rid of Those Sideburns!

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Historicist: Get Rid of Those Sideburns!

In the late 1960s, Toronto the Good finds itself in a hairy situation.

False sideburns seen at the Clare Fuller Wig Show, September 17, 1968. York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC14087. Used with permission.

In March of 1969, the National Ballet of Canada premiered its production of Grant Strate‘s Cyclus. Howard Marcus, one of the company’s most promising young dancers, was conspicuously absent from the premiere, and the Toronto newspapers soon revealed the reason why: artistic director Celia Franca refused to allow Marcus to perform on the grounds that his sideburns were too long. Marcus refused to trim them, and the Ballet subsequently terminated his contract.

Sideburns certainly weren’t completely new to Toronto in the 1960s, but they had been out of fashion for several decades. In the 19th century, it was fashionable for men to grow extremely long and thick sideburns, almost to the point of absurdity. Those that adopted this look in Toronto were frequently amongst the most prominent and respected citizens, including longtime Ontario Premier Oliver Mowat, piano manufacturer Samuel Nordheimer, and several of the city’s mayors. Allan Peterkin, in his 2001 book One Thousand Beards: A Cultural History of Facial Hair, attributes the decline in popularity of sideburns at the end of the 19th century to “the advent of safety razor,” which enabled men to shave more frequently, without the higher level of skill generally needed for traditional razors.

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With a few exceptions, sideburns were a rare sight in Toronto during the first half of the 20th century. By the mid-1960s, however, long hair and facial hair had grown popular with men immersed in North American and European counterculture. “Men were sprouting facial hair as an expression of individualism and creativity,” writes Peterkin. “Allegiance belonged to [new] cool tribes, who cultivated distinct looks but shared a discontent with urban, middle-class life.”

(Right: John Shaw, Mayor of Toronto from 1897 to 1899. Robertson’s Landmarks of Toronto, Sixth Series. J. Ross Robertson, 1914.)

In 1960s Toronto, long hair and beards were soon associated with Yorkville, which emerged as the centre of the city’s bohemian community. In Making the Scene: Yorkville and Hip Toronto in the 1960s, Stuart Henderson observes that “Yorkville’s hip aesthetics were lagging behind the curve of most stylish urban centres in Europe and North America…[but] by midsummer, 1964, Yorkville’s hip archetype was developed around the hirsute male…By early 1965, archetypal Villagers sported long hair (over the ears, the eyebrows, touching the collar) and a beard (where hormonally possible).”

By 1967, the Globe and Mail‘s Bruce West observed that the initial shock of seeing men with longer hair had now worn off: “Even those determined male individualists who grew locks right down to their shoulders are now hardly given a second glance when they pass by on the sidewalk.”

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Soon, Toronto men outside the Yorkville community began growing their hair longer, and many opted to grow a style of facial hair that was less in-your-face than a full beard: sideburns.

(Left: “Ryan Benson finds regular settings keep his hair and sideburns manageable” The Toronto Star, July 10, 1969.)

A 1968 Star editorial noted the growing popularity of sideburns in the city, theorizing that “the wheel of fashion is turning again, and [we] are entering another age of hairiness which will be characterized by spreading beards, bristling moustaches, and longer hair…More cautious types are adopting sideburns as a sort of half-way house.”

Some younger Toronto men grew their sideburns full and bushy. A 1969 Star profile of Hair, a new unisex salon at 615 Yonge, included photos of one man having his sideburns set in curlers.

Prominent Toronto men reported wearing sideburns in 1968 included Pierre Berton, George Chuvalo, Dalton Camp, and 45 year-old MP (and Trudeau cabinet minister) Paul Hellyer. In a Telegram article with the headline “I dislike Mr. Hellyer’s sideburns,” McKenzie Porter cynically criticized Hellyer for growing sideburns in a transparent attempt to achieve the same credibility with young Canadians enjoyed by Pierre Trudeau. “The Cabinet minister is unsuited by temperament to such hirsute embellishments. Mr. Hellyer is not what the vulgar call a swinger.”

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“Just look around you on the downtown streets of Toronto,” wrote Bruce West in the Globe and Mail. “The crop of sideburns is running wild, like crabgrass in July. And I mean on elderly types, away past 25.” “Sideburns are no longer restricted to ‘hippies,'” reported the Star in 1969. “A cross-country survey by the Canadian Press shows that politicians, athletes, lawyers, doctors, barbers, salesmen, stockbrokers, and men in just about every occupation are wearing sideburns now or at least have given them a whirl.” The same article relayed some of the reasons men gave for growing sideburns. Some wanted “to look older, younger, more masculine, or just wanted to be in style. Some confessed their wives had ordered them to grow sideburns. Others said they grew them because their children laughed at their ‘square’ haircuts.”

(Above: Leon Kumove, of the Metro Toronto’s Social Planning Council. Alongside this photo, the Toronto Star‘s Ron Lowman referred to Kumove as having “long sideburns and [a] hippie haircut.” Toronto Star, September 11, 1968.)

The first high-profile case of sideburns in 1960s Toronto came when the Toronto Maple Leafs began playing goalie Bruce Gamble near the end of the 1965-1966 season. Gamble got off to a hot start, recording three shutouts in his first five games, reportedly earning several standing ovations from Leafs’ fans, and temporarily knocking veteran Johnny Bower from the starting spot. Red Burnett, in the Toronto Star, hailed Gamble’s arrival thus: “The latest National Hockey League goaltending sensation sports sideburns, packs 200-or-so pounds on a blocky 5-foot-9 frame, and walks with the rolling gait of a man of the sea.” On a team where most of the players, including star goalies Bower and Terry Sawchuk, still sported military-style haircuts, Gamble stood out. His sideburns became popular with Leafs fans; the Globe‘s Scott Young referred to him as the “possessor of the finest all-round sideburns in hockey.”

Goalie Bruce Gamble and his glorious sideburns. Toronto Telegram, September 12, 1968.

When the team held its first practice in September of 1968, Gamble was not the only Leafs player with hair in front of his ears; Wayne Carleton, Mike Pelyk, Gerry Meehan, and Jim McKenny were amongst those who turned up with sideburns, and general manager/head coach George “Punch” Imlach put his foot down.

“Shave off those sideburns and get a haircut,” Imlach reportedly told his players. “Whatta you think we’re running here anyway, a hippie joint?” In the Telegram, a longer exchange was reported: “If you want to play for this club, those sideburns will have to come off by tomorrow morning. If you show up with them, the trainers have been ordered not to give you your skates.” The Telegram explained: “He was talking to goalie Bruce Gamble and left-winger Wayne Carleton, who sported sideburns in the best tradition of Paladin.” For McKenny, this was his second hair-based infraction with the Leafs, as Imlach had objected to the length of his hair at the previous season’s opening camp, ordering him to get a haircut.

Despite grumbling from his team—and rumours that the players might appeal to the Players’ Association—most of the offending players trimmed back their sideburns by the next day. “I can always grown by sideburns back,” said Gamble in the Star. “Right now I want to devote all my time to winning a regular goaltending job and that doesn’t leave time to worry about sideburns.” Pelyk reportedly hadn’t made his short enough for Imlach’s liking, and Imlach also objected to the sideburns worn by trainer Joe Sgro. “Glaring at Sgro’s bushy but neat sideburns,” wrote the Globe, “Imlach said ‘I want another inch off them by tomorrow morning [or] it will cost you $25 a half inch.'”

The Toronto Telegram, September 14, 1968.

John Franke of the Telegram surveyed young Toronto women to get their opinion, and reported that every woman he talked to sided against Imlach. “It’s none of his business. I liked the sideburns,” said Marg Fricker, a bookkeeper. “Why, Bruce Gamble just wouldn’t look like Gamble without them.” “It’s just terrible,” opined secretary Lisa Saladana. “They have the right to look just as good as other men. I think he’s being terribly old-fashioned.” Others supported Imlach’s decree; in a letter to the Star, one reader wrote: “There is nothing worse than having people on the job who don’t look neat and tidy. It reflects a don’t-give-a-damn attitude.”

The following season, Imlach was gone, and new general manager Jim Gregory and coach John McClellan took a much more lenient view on hair. “The crew-cut is out, the mod-look in at the Maple Leaf training camp,” proclaimed the Star. “That doesn’t mean that mutton chops are the order of the day or that the players can grow their hair hippie-style. It means that as long as they are well-groomed, they’ll have no problems.”

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During the same September that Punch Imlach ordered shaves and haircuts for his team, another hair-related controversy emerged at a Toronto high school. Wilbert Bush, the principal at Castle Frank High School (now the Rosedale Heights School of the Arts) sent 16-year-old Douglas Hamburgh home due to the length of his hair. All three major Toronto papers ran the story, complete with photos of Hamburgh, with his hair still short of his eyebrows and barely past his ears.

The initial explanation offered was that Castle Frank High School was a technical school, where students regularly used machinery, and that long hair represented a safety hazard. However, the Telegram reported that Hamburgh had already completed two years at Castle Frank with this hairstyle, and that as an arts student, he never came in contact with the technical-course machinery. A Star editorial pointed out that female students with long hair were permitted to work the machinery at the school provided that their hair was pulled back. “This looks like a clear case of petty tyranny of the sort that alienates young people from school. So long as they don’t disrupt class work or endanger themselves, students should be allowed to wear their hair any way they please.”

(Left: Douglas Hamburgh before and after his controversial haircut. The Toronto Star, September 25, 1968.)

Over the next week, protests were organized at Castle Frank High School, dividing the student body. Over 70 students staged a protest, in which they wore jeans and slacks—also forbidden at Castle Frank—demanding the right to dress and wear their hair as they wished. In a Star article with the headline “Students in jeans threaten existence of school: Principal,” Wilfred Bush defended his decision on the basis that, as a technical school, Castle Frank had a duty to prepare its graduates for employment, and that having long hair threatened job prospects. “We go after manners and appearance,” Bush said. “If we lose the battle of hair and clothes, employers would ignore us and not hire our graduates.”

Hamburgh never endorsed the protests, and a week after the story first reached the newspapers, he agreed to cut his hair and return to school. “Before it went too far I decided to get my hair cut and go back to school,” he said in a prepared statement. “I think students have public opinion on our side, but if we let ourselves get hoodwinked into schemes like this, we will find the public against us.”

Student opinion at Castle Frank High School was divided. The Toronto Star, September 25, 1968.

In April 1968, the Globe and Mail published the results of a survey taken of about 100 employers in the Toronto area. “23 percent of the firms allow male employees to wear long hair, and 19 percent allow turtleneck sweaters. Most firms permit moustaches (85 percent), sports jackets and slacks (82 percent) and sideburns (69 percent). Opinion on beards is divided with 47 percent of the firms allowing them.” This division of opinion resulted in numerous run-ins which were picked up in the Toronto press, with several companies, including CFTO-TV and the Canadian National Railway, reportedly terminating employees because of their sideburns or long hair.

At the National Ballet of Canada, Howard Marcus’ trajectory through the National Ballet School had been covered extensively in the Toronto media throughout his teenage years. Marcus made the transition to the adult company in 1965 at the young age of 15, when he stepped into the role of Benvolio in a well-received production of Romeo and Juliet. Ralph Hicklin, the Globe and Mail‘s regular ballet columnist, soon noted that Marcus was “rapidly becoming one of the strongest soloists in the company.”

Profile on the young Howard Marcus. Maclean’s, June 20, 1964.

In March 1969, the ballet’s artistic director, Celia Franca, asked Marcus to shave off his sideburns, and when he refused he was not allowed to take the stage. The Globe and Mail reported that “a letter was sent to Actors’ Equity stating that his appearance on stage with sideburns would downgrade the artistic standards of the ballet, and asking the union’s permission to terminate his contract.” Marcus subsequently shaved off his sideburns, but was apparently still forbidden from performing and soon left the company, later dancing with the Toronto Dance Theatre and a new dance company started in Copenhagen.

Howard Marcus with the Toronto Dance Theatre. The Globe and Mail, October 14, 1969.

Marcus was one of a number of promising young dancers to leave the National Ballet around this time, renewing concerns in the local press that Celia Franca’s management of the company was too conservative. Two years later, however, Marcus was one of several dancers who returned for another stint with the Ballet, apparently welcomed by Franca with open arms. This time, the Globe and Mail reported, he had sideburns. “I can’t really censure them for their curiosity or adventurous streak,” Franca told the Globe. “I was quite a rebel myself.”

While employers could easily draw up policies banning beards and moustaches, sideburns represented something of a grey area. How long was too long?

In late 1969, Edmonton bus driver John MacDonald made national headlines when he refused to cut his sideburns. MacDonald’s sideburns extended just below his ear, but the Edmonton Transit System policy only permitted sideburns to mid-ear. “The drivers are in a uniformed job; they have to adhere to uniform standards,” said transit director Wilf Robertson in the Globe. “Otherwise we would have beards and everything and there would be no holds barred.” “When told his sideburns must go,” reported the Star, [MacDonald] laid his badge on the counter at the Edmonton Transit System to show his freedom was worth more than his job.”

1970s photo of men outside the offices of Winspear, Higgins, Stevenson and Doane, chartered accountants, 36 Toronto St. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 9364.

Police departments continued to enforce restrictive hair policies. In 1970, a Toronto Star editorial described the typical policeman as “still a stolid model of, well, 1950s dull: short hair all over his head, a straight arrow in the New World.” That autumn, Metro Toronto Police Chief Harold Adamson introduced new guidelines which overturned a previous all-out ban on sideburns. “Now, sideburns will be allowed,” reported the Globe, “to the bottom of the auditory opening of the ear, no wider than an inch, no thicker than a quarter-inch. In the past, complaints started when sideburns reached the middle of the ear opening.” These rules applied only to officers in uniform. Undercover officers were still allowed to grow hair and sideburns as long as they liked because, as the Star put it, “neatness might impair their efficiency.”

In early 1971, the Globe and Mail ran a story about Ronald Smith, a 34-year-old chartered accountant who had been fired from Dominion due to the length of his sideburns. “Sideburns will only be permitted if they are neatly trimmed, not bushy, and do not extend into the wide part of the beard or below the bottom of the ear,” reported the Globe. Smith found this ludicrous, claiming that the company’s new policy was lowering morale within the organization. “The company is $18 million in the hole, yet the president feels he has time to run around looking at miniskirts and long hair.”

Undated 1970s photo showing some excellent sideburns at the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Series 1057, Item 5403.

For Toronto men concerned about how their fashionable hairstyle might affect their employment prospects, however, there was soon a solution: wigs.

Although the wearing of wigs to conceal baldness had been established for quite some time, fashion wigs, to hide or alter one’s hairstyle, grew increasingly popular in the late 1960s. “The long-haired young man often buys a short wig before he goes job-hunting today,” claimed one style column in the Star. “‘He realizes that long hair could hinder his chances with a possible employer,’ says Mr. Frederik of the Wig Shop International, ‘so he buys a short wig to hide it.'”

A short wig “hides long hair for the young job hunter.” Toronto Star, May 20, 1971.

The larger market in Toronto, however, appears to have been for the reverse. In the summer of 1968, Bob Rybka of Artistic Hair Creations told the Globe and Mail‘s Zena Cherry that “the big thing now is selling sideburns, moustaches, and beards…Young boys want sideburns while they’re still too young to grow them. In the age bracket when they can grow their own, perhaps their office would not approve, and so they put them on for evenings and weekends.” “Bosses from Bay St. to Don Mills tend to frown on the hirsute look, and the younger set are fighting a running battle with anti-long-hair high school principals,” wrote the Star, a few months later, in a profile of Mary-Jo’s Boutique on Gerrard Street, which had also entered the male wig market. “A dash of spirit gum or eyelash adhesive,” said owner Mary-Jo Clayton, “and the most clean-cut youth comes on like Fidel Castro.”

A wig and various false facial hair accessories at the Clare Fuller Wig Show, September 17, 1968. York University Libraries, Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections, Toronto Telegram fonds, ASC14111. Used with permission.

The Toronto market for false sideburns also got a boost on account of Punch Imlach. After forcing his players to trim their sideburns, local stylist Mr. Jimmy, of Mr. Jimmy Hair Cutting and Styling, contacted the Globe and Mail “and said he would provide (for a slight charge) false sideburns for evening wear to any player who might feel so socially unacceptable. The sideburns, or even a moustache, could be slipped on after a hockey game or practice.”

Two years later, the market for false facial hair still seemed strong enough for Eaton’s to open the Headline Wig Bar, for men only. “Wonder what you’d look like with the new, longer hairstyle?” asked an advertisement. “Drop in to ‘Headline’ to see for yourself.” The Headline Wig Bar also had “a complete range of moustaches, goatee beards, and sideburns.”

Advertisement for the Headline Wig Bar at Eaton’s. The Toronto Star, August 11, 1970.

A sign that employer attitudes were changing came in 1972, when an arbitrator sided with a 42-year-old Scarborough Fire Captain, who faced a 30-day demotion for refusing to trim his sideburns. Captain A.T. Cousins, a 16-year veteran of the Scarborough Fire Department, was described in the Globe as having a “reputation throughout the department as being fastidious in both dress and appearance…[earning] him the nickname Mr. Clean.” In explanation of his sideburns, Cousins said: “It was a matter of principle with me to be able to keep in step with the fashion of the times.”

Cousins had returned from a 1971 vacation with his sideburns “parallel to the top of his earlobe.” The District Chief ordered him shave his sideburns back, which Cousins did “under protest, and then launched a grievance.” Owen B. Shime of the Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled that “as long as the employee performs the job or the work for which he has been hired, the employer has no authority to impose his personal views of appearance or dress upon the employee.” Shime also noted that there had been no complaints from the public, and that “the length of sideburns at an actual fire where firemen [are] dressed in firefighting attire, including masks…would probably not be noticed. What possible value is there in a rule requiring sideburns halfway down the ear?…I do not think that Capt. Cousins or other firefighters for that matter should be, as grown men with responsible positions and providing an important public service, subjected to the indignity of measuring their sideburns and then measuring them at the whim and personal opinion of others in authority.”

Captain A.T. Cousins and his sideburns. The Globe and Mail, April 6, 1972.

Despite photographic evidence that sideburns remained popular until the end of the decade, Toronto newspapers found several stylists throughout the 1970s who claimed that sideburns were no longer fashionable. As early as the summer of 1970, Paul Burford, owner of the House of Lords, claimed that “sideburns are on the way out.”


Additional material from: The Globe and Mail (January 25, 1962; May 31, 1963; January 8, February 1, 1965; April 28, May 22, September 7, November 23, 1967; January 31, February 6, April 23, July 26, September 12, September 13, September 16, October 8, 1968; March 25, March 26, March 27, May 2, August 27, December 23, December 29, 1969; January 5, September 9, October 16, November 4, 1970; January 23, January 28, November 6, 1971; April 6, 1972); Sandy Hawley and Perry Lefko, Ride of a Lifetime: The Sandy Hawley Story (Fenn, 2005: Bolton, Canada); Stuart Henderson, Making the Scene: Yorkville and Hip Toronto in the 1960s (University of Toronto Press, 2011); Maclean’s (June 20, 1964); James Neufeld, Passion to Dance: The National Ballet of Canada (Dundurn, 2011: Toronto); Allan Peterkin, One Thousand Beards: A Cultural History of Facial Hair (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2001: Vancouver); Toronto Star (March 12, 1966; September 7, 1967; June 18, September 11, September 12, September 13, September 20, September 23, September 24, September 25, September 27, October 11, October 17, November 2, November 27, 1968; January 18, February 21, March 21, March 26, June 6, July 10, July 26, September 13, October 3, December 23, 1969; May 14, June 18, August 11, October 20, 1970; February 2, May 20, September 3, September 24, November 4, 1971; March 25, June 16, 1972; Toronto Telegram (September 12, September 14, September 16, September 17, September 20, September 21, September 23, September 25, 1968; March 26, 1969); March 22, 1973); John Woodforde, The Strange Story of False Hair (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1971: London).


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