Travel in 1976 echoed the lost hippy days. I refused to get a haircut anywhere, not because I detested short hair, but out of a fear of lice. My afro hid my hair’s length. It grew up, not down.
I boarded a flight from Jakarta to Singapore. Jakarta’s chaos, poverty and filth contrasted with Singapore’s organization, pristine streets and wealth. Hard to believe they lay one hour apart by plane.
The Singaporean government hated hippies, especially those with long hair. They defined this as hair that covered the ears and shoulders. Mine covered my ears, but unless you stretched it out, not the shoulders.
Failure to meet Singaporean standards meant two things: either refused entry or a military-style haircut. All the male travellers dreaded this cut. The idea of military-style hair repulsed me. A solution must exist for this horrible dilemma.
While waiting in the immigration line, I noticed the officer could not see me until the last minute. I thought for a second. Why not push the hair behind my ears? I stuffed it behind my ears, making me look like a 70s version of dumbo and poof, no hippie!
I stood in front of the immigration officer. He appraised me for “being a hippie”. He stared at me, assessing my hair. It seemed I passed the test, and he stamped the passport, giving me seven days, which was plenty in expensive Singapore.
I walked away, placing my fingers in my hair and flinging the hair back to its original position. No more ears! No more dumbo look! I had the honour of being the first person with long hair to enter the country. President Lee would roll in his grave if he found out!