My Spiel:

If anyone mentions my dreadlocks to me, I tell them the following spiel:
"Thank you for mentioning my hair. Anyone who is kind enough to mention my hair..."

at which point I pull the scissors from my pocket
" asked to cut off one of my dreadlocks!"

Introduction / Prelude

I had known for many months that it was time to clear my head.

They had been growing for 9 years, my dreadlocks, being neither removed nor cut shorter, although I had reduced the number by plaiting some and tying others together. Dreadlocks require maintenance, and for about 4 or 5 years I had not been diligent about keeping them segregated. Anyone who has ever neglected to comb unconditioned hair will know that it tangles easily. The roots of my dreadlocks had formed into a mass of tangles that defied my meagre attempts to coordinate them.

The locks were nearing 70 centimetres, and a scalpful of 70 centimetre-long hair feels heavy. The roots didn't complain too much, but a general need for a feeling of renewal was weighing heavy on my neck. I have heard somewhere that the body regenerates itself every 7 years. (This is one of those "facts" that everyone knows but noone knows where they heard it). I knew for a fact, however, that the ends of my hair were the same cells that they had been 8 or 9 years before. In all parts of my life, when occupied with the various things that I do, I could feel my body telling me: "it's time for a change".
Many times I felt sorely tempted to unearth to my hair clippers and cut the lot off - but my hand was stayed by a desire to make something more of this than simply the physical removal of my hair. This had to be an adventure, an exploration and, if possible, a social event.

The questions were many: Where? How? Who? What parameters, what methods should I apply to the removal of these 43 (originally 50 or perhaps 60) companions that had been with me through 9 circuits of the inner solar system?

Where to? Why a journey?
Having spent a few years living at home, I was getting itchy feet (to go with my aching neck) and a journey was imminent. Since this whole process was all about change, regeneration and reinventing myself, travelling seemed like the right context in which to orchestrate the removal of my hair.

The location for the proved not hard to decide upon. I idly considered playing with place-names (Seville, anyone?) One arty friend even suggested I do the project in Harewood End (where my hair would end if i sat long enough and asked anyone who approached).
 But i felt more adventurous. I wanted to travel around the world. My journey would take me back to Japan. The history of my attempts at growing my scalpal flora brought me to the conclusion that Japan was the right place to undergo its removal.

Who, then, should cut my hair?
Featured on the popular video hosting sites around the web, there are several videos of people - mostly men in their 20s - cutting their dreadlocks off. While it doubtless a wonderful thing to sit in front of a webcam and pour your heart out through your head, viewing these videos spurred me to not be just another dread-case. I wanted to excel these methods, and make a journey of the experience. I wanted to make a wonderful intervention and to question peoples admiration of my appearance. And I wanted to have an adventure.

It was somehow obvious that I should not cut my own hair. It may be (he writes loftily) that this was rooted in a desire to share the experience with as many people as possible - or it may simply be that this was somehow a subconscious denial of the fact that I really needed to cut my hair off - perhaps I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

Whatever the reason, I decided to undergo my haircut in the context I had been working during much of my time as an art student - as an intervention in public spaces. There are at least two of the aforementioned Youtube videos in which the cuttee neither cut his own hair, nor gets his friends to do it all in one go, but goes around the streets asking people to cut off his dreadlocks. On discovereing these videos, I was, I must admit, rather disappointed: I had been under the illusion that I had had An Original Idea.

The presence of these videos persuaded me to further expand the idea: I would not ask anyone to cut my hair. From the start, I decided that that would be cheating. I would go on a journey, and anyone who mentioned my hair along the way would be invited to remove one of the locks. This would not only remove the responsibility of deciding who to ask, but would turn the interactions into a statement to challenge any interest taken in my appearance. After all, hair is just stuff, and stuff is changing all the time ...

From my proposal:
"After eight years of growing my hair, I am finding that the time has come to be free of it; to start afresh. Rather than simply paying a barber to remove my hair, or shaving my own head, I intend to present the removal of my hair as a performative gesture.

By challenging the social norms of getting a haircut, I aim to open up avenues of grass-roots dialogue concerning behaviour, appearance, image and identity."

So I set off, and after arriving in Japan and visiting a number of old friends, I got my wits about me and set off to realize my goal. First of all, I visited the place where it all began: the grassy campus of ICU, the university in Tokyo that I was attending when I decided that dreadlocks were the answer.

Nothing much happened there, aside from a little nostalgia, so I set off into the woods...