Empire (UK), December 1994


by Clark Collis

Yes indeed -- how about a haircut that makes me look like Keanu Reeves? It's the sensation that's sweeping the nation (sort of)! Women go *mad* for it (apparently)! In a fit of foolhardy commitment to "Empire", Clark Collis agrees to have his shoulder-length tresses lopped, Speed-style.

There are famous people. And there are *famous* people. Famous people get to open supermarkets, hang out and maybe have affairs with Second Division footballers and appear on Celebrity Squares with Bob Monkhouse. *Famous* people, on the other hand, get to open the World Cup, hang out and maybe have affairs with Presidential candidates and get to appear on Oprah with, er, Oprah.

Most importantly, though, *famous* people get to have at least one type of haircut named after them. The John Travolta quiff. The Louise Brooks bob. The simple Tony Curtis. Hell, back in biblical times, customers were probably asking their barber to "give them a Moses" after that impressive stunt with the Red Sea.

And now it's happened again with "the Keanu". Okay, so Speed may be two hours of non-stop, action-packed thrills and spills. But there is no doubt that the most memorable thing about the entire enterprise is Keanu Reeves' haircut. A distinctive buzzsaw job somewhere between a "No. 2" and the kind of coiffure that Action Man used to sport back in the 70s (along with those distinctive "flexible hands"), it not only makes the Ugly One look like the coolest thing since ice but is also, apparently, currently being copied in hairdressers all over the US of A.

So can we expect the same thing to happen in the UK? Does having your hair cut like a film star make you a) feel cool and b) more attractive to the opposite sex? Or does it just make you look like a dickhead? And what exactly is the difference between a "Keanu" and its distant, deformed cousin, the "Forrest Gump"? There is only one way to find out ...

Worthington's is an impossibly hip hair and beauty salon just near Covent Garden. Cybill Shepherd has had her hair cut here. And so has Jonathan Ross. Today is a bit different, though. Because, today, Worthington's are going to be giving me "the Keanu". Not that my appointed coiffurerist, Sam Langley, seems to be terribly keen on the idea.

"Why on earth would you want to do that?" she asks while sizing up my decidedly unkempt, shoulder-length locks.

Um. Well, to see what it's like. And ... ah ... because it's cool.

"I'm just not sure this is a good idea. I don't think it's going to suit you."

Eventually, Sam is persuaded that my mind is made up and, after a quick shampoo downstairs, work begins. Pretty soon the salon's floor resembles the aftermath of a fight between two very large and very moulting dogs while the nape of my neck is seeing sunlight for the first time in about 12 years. To offset the growing feeling that I am making A Very Large Mistake it seems like a good time to get to the bottom of this whole "Keanu" business.

So, do lots of people come in here asking for a haircut that they've seen at the cinema?

"Not really," replies Sam as she sets to work removing my eight-inch-long "fringe". "A lot of women want their hair to look like Helena Christiensen's. But most of the men who have their haircut here are city gents. They don't really want anything too outlandish."

And how many requests have you had for a "Keanu"?

"Actually, you're the first."

Ah. By the way, there's no chance of you slipping up and accidentally giving me a "Forrest Gump" is there?

"Ha, ha, ha! No. They are pretty similar, but 'the Keanu' has got more hair at the sides. It's also a rounder shape whereas 'the Gump' kind of squares itself off."

Finally, Sam puts her scissors away and after a quick all-over buzz with an electric razor, we both stare at my newly cropped reflection. Er, so what do you think now?

"I think it quite suits you. I didn't think it would, but it does."

Of course she would say that. Mind you, it doesn't look all that bad at a first glance -- although being able to actually feel my scalp is a very weird experience -- and nobody in the salon is actually pointing and laughing. Maybe they're just waiting until after I've left the premises.

The real test, though, is yet to come. Leaving Worthington's I head down to Leicester Square and start mingling with cinema-goers about to go to see Speed. Putting on my best please - don't - pay - any - attention - I'm - just - an - incredibly - famous - film - star - going - to - see - my - own - film act I stand around and wait for somebody to recognise me.

Nobody does. After ten minutes I try the more direct approach and, choosing people at random, ask them a) if they like Keanu's haircut b) if they would consider having one themselves and c) if they think that my new haircut makes me look like him.

The results, it has to be said, prove good news for the boy Reeves, if not for me. "The Keanu" receives an across-the-board thumbs-up, with responses ranging from "very cool" to a near ecstatic "I think he looks brilliant! Much hunkier than in Bill and Ted!" While none of the blokes are exactly queuing up to follow my dynamic fashion lead ("Only if you paid me"), the idea seems to appeal to more than a handful of their partners ("Yeah, I think he'd look pretty nice with Keanu's hair ...").

Unfortunately, on the crucial Does-It-Make-Me-Look-Like-Keanu? question, the randomly chosen respondents proved less positive. Indeed, "insulting" is the word that springs to mind when faced with such comments as "Are you joking?", "Is this some kind of wind-up?" and "No." Even the guy who said, "Well I can't see the resemblance myself, but then your hair is a bit shorter than his" seemed to be doing so out of a sense of pity rather than scientific objectivity.

So, at the end of the day, what did I learn from getting "Keanu-ed"? Well, despite my initial reservations it is actually a pretty neat haircut and it may even make you feel slightly cooler than you did before. It will certainly make your head feel a damn sight colder. But will it make you look like Keanu Reeves? No. Not even in a dark room with both eyes closed.

Still, it could have been worse. At least people aren't asking to nave their hair cut like Woody Harrelson in Natural Born Killers. Not yet anyway.



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