Sun, 02 Feb 2003

`Razor revolution' leaves no room for errors

Edwin Pieroelie, Contributor, Jakarta

There's a growing revolution in Jakarta sweeping through public and private offices, among our elders and youth, across the full demographic range of citizens. And as alarming as the involvement of sharp razors and close skin contact sounds, this movement, the razor revolution, is very peaceful.

Whilst currently only apparent to conscientious observers, the month of January has seen the razor revolution reach near critical mass, and it won't be long before it becomes noticeably clear to all that 2003 in Jakarta is the year of the bald head.

It's true. Go about your usual daily business but keep your eye out for the "chrome domes" and it will surprise you how many times you spot that cranium shine among the suits, the students, the service staff on the streets and corridors of Jakarta.

These Jakarta bald heads, or baldies, are driving the razor revolution.

"It's the Western influence," claims a friend and critic. "The West now sets the trends in Indonesia. Michael Jordan in sports, Yul Brenner in the movies. Even ex-New York Mayor Guiliani on the cover of Time magazine."

The argument, appealing to some, is greatly flawed and a little introspection into Indonesia's baldies reveals its own force of hairless influencers.

From the deceased and beloved comedians Darto Helm and Jalal or the much respected late film maker Ariefin C. Noor, the growing razor revolution has many Indonesian predecessors.

In politics, the Orde Baru had Bustanil Arifin and Emil Salim, Gus Dur's cabinet included AS Hikam and Alwi Shihab, and prominent no-hair politicians today are Arifin Panigoro, Siswono Yudohusodo and Dorodjatun Kuntjoro-Djakti. Even Indonesian actress Sukma Ayu has conceded to the lure of the razor.

At Indo Pacific, a Jakarta reputation management company and my employer, four consultants have already interpreted the dawn of the new year as a calling to lose their hair.

"It feels fresh, and it is perfect for the office," claims boss Chadd McLisky. "A lot of our business deals with issues management and being able to jump from meeting to meeting, and working a hectic schedule without having the extra distraction of worrying about what your hair looks like is a relief."

Bayu Irawan's motives are more aesthetic. "I think baldness is the great "age neutralizer". Baldness makes older people look slightly younger and more distinguished. For the younger generation a bald head adds a few years and gives off the appearance of wisdom."

An informal survey of Jakarta baldies fails to find common ground that could have fit in nicely when writing the synopsis of the razor revolution. One Indonesian artist said that he had gone bald to go against any style trend, only to be caught in the growing wave of another.

Another baldy, followed onto a bus and convinced to answer a few intrusive questions only after having been shown the senility of the interviewer, stated that his baldness was a sign to the world that he had nothing to hide.

He felt that at this time of rampant corruption and ubiquitous duplicity his lack of hair stated that he was not implicated in the criminality he so despised.

Whatever the reasons, membership is growing: The razor revolution is sweeping Jakarta. Despite the fears one may have of the shape of their head, the color of the skin underneath their thick head of hair, or the reaction of their peers and loved ones, joining the razor revolution is not such a difficult decision.

First of all, it is a membership that only needs some time before it is automatically revoked. And second, no matter how poorly explained, it's a haircut the barber will never, ever, get wrong.