Where bad hair days are really bad

If Jesse Doyle thinks he's tangled up in blue, he might take a look around the world.

In Kenya, where the Mau Mau rebels left a legacy of dreadlocked hair, government-run schools ban both dreads and Afros, insisting that boys keep their hair short – not shaved – and forbidding girls from using straighteners or braiding their hair in anything but straight cornrows. If students break the rules, teachers shave lines straight down the middle of their heads, or etch bald crosses into their hair – and routinely suspend them for two weeks at a time. When Rose Falade appeared at her sophomore exams in Nakuru with dreadlocks, she was suspended for three months and given a choice of having a cross shaved into her hair or cutting the school lawns – by hand for three months. Rose chose lawn care.

The Soviet Union was once a stickler for short, tidy hair: cadet-training schools, which all boys attended from ninth grade on, demanded hair "two fingers above the collar"; in all grades, teachers would chop off disobedient locks as students looked on. Now, anything goes in cosmopolitan Moscow, where the western trends of brightly dyed hair have taken hold.

In Japan, "chapatsu" – a coined word for dyed-brown hair – has caught on over the last decade, but in a land of mostly monochromatic locks, hair remains provocative. Shocking blonde hues got two middle school students banned from graduation ceremonies last year.

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