North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un's haircut is now mandatory for all North Korean men, according to state media reports cited by the BBC. This may sound too bizarre to be true, and, indeed, it's risky business believing many reports out of North Korea — a hyper-reclusive, press-avoiding nation by nature. But it's also a state with a history of domination of the individual will, and the everyday imposition of indignities — indignity being a pretty good description of being ordered to cut your hair to resemble your dictator.
It's no secret that the North Korean government has exercised stern control over the hairstyles of their people. At one time, reports told of 28 approved North Korean haircuts, ten styles for men and eighteen for women, among which Kim Jong-un's distinct close-crop was not included. Now, the Kim Jong-un style may have struck the North Korean mainstream, whether North Koreans like it or not.
One source, who spoke to Radio Free Asia, described the aesthetic disdain some North Koreans have for Kim's signature look.
Our leader's haircut is very particular, if you will. It doesn't always go with everyone since everyone has different face and head shapes.
Another source, a North Korean now living in China, said that the haircut had a bad reputation because of a popular association back home: "Until the mid-2000s, we called it the 'Chinese smuggler haircut.'"
This all sounds a bit silly, and it is — even for an infamously brutal and controlling regime, the idea of a nation full of men forced into that exact head of hair sounds wild and bizarre, and thanks to the seclusion of North Korea, we may never know to what extent it's even true.
But it's worth remembering that such a rule would be in keeping with the actions of a leader and regime recently condemned by the U.N. as comparable to the Nazis. One which maintains concentration camps in which starvation, torture and public execution rule the day. And, of course, one which is striving to up its ballistic missile capabilities.
Lest we forget, amid fascination with the strange image North Korea projects to the West, it is a terrible place to be forced to live. And, if these reports are true, it just got an iota worse.