A fresh haircut is an important part of any first impression. Maybe you’re going on a first date or starting a new job. Or maybe, like designer Mossimo Giannulli, you’re reporting for a five-month stint in a federal lockup.
Earlier this year, Giannulli (and his wife, Full House star Lori Laughlin) pled guilty to various fraud charges related to the college admissions bribery scandal that roiled higher education last year. Tomorrow, he checks into Federal Correctional Institute in Lompoc, California. He’s shaved his head to mark the occasion, which, combined with an impressive beard, makes him look pretty fierce. But still, one has to wonder, why’d he do it?
At first I thought it might be a health and hygiene thing. Inmates sometimes have their heads shaved to prevent the spread of lice. But then, why not shave the facial hair? Perhaps it’s like a playoff beard—a psychic balm for an intense time. Or perhaps Giannulli might just be going for a tougher look that will serve him on the inside. Everybody knows you have to get in a fight your first day, right?
Justin Paperny, Director of White Collar Advice, thinks something simpler. Paperny was a stockbroker at big financial firms until he served an 18-month sentence for violating securities laws. Now, his consultancy helps prep people like Giannulli (who is not a client) for life behind bars—everything from psychological coaching to recommending particular prisons. His clients have reportedly included Martha Stewart and Bernie Madoff.
According to Paperny, successful prisoners welcome change by trying new things, whether that’s a haircut or vow of silence. “I’ve had CEO clients, billionaires and celebrities, do things in prison they never thought they would do: shave your head, fast for a week, run a marathon, write a book,” he said. As in Giannulli’s case, those changes can start before a person even enters a prison. “Change is good,” said Paperny. “It shakes things up and helps people embrace the experience.”
A dramatic haircut is also a way to exercise control, another important part of managing the experience inside. The hardest part of a prison like the one at Lompoc, he notes, is boredom. “It’s not Shawshank Redemption, it’s not Cool Hand Luke. In these minimum security camps, it’s men watching paint dry, waiting for mail call—they can’t get out of bed because they’re so depressed.”
In other words, it’s basically the same reason so many men have experimented with new looks during the boring grind of coronavirus. And it must be said: Whatever the reason behind the shave, the man looks good.
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