The Rich Culture That Surrounds Our Hair

waiting a year to cut latin baby's hair

The One-Year Latin Haircut Rule

My three boys automatically get a back-to-school haircut the week before school starts. I don’t think too much about it, we time it just so; that way it’s not too long but not too fresh. One week softens the razor-sharp edges but it still looks neat and trim for the first day.

Just getting end of summer haircuts, that’s pretty much all I think about when I think of cutting my children’s hair. But that’s because after spending almost my entire life in this country, I’ve become Americanized.

To my Colombian mother and grandmother, ah – there was no such thing as “just getting a haircut.” As soon as my children began to lose their baby hair and the new toddler hair would start to show, my mother would make me promise, “Remember! You have to wait until he is one year, until he has his first birthday, to cut his hair. You cannot cut his hair before then. No.”

There is a Colombian wives’ tale that my mother, and especially my Abuela, would demand as grounds for kidnapping my child, should I try to go against it. It was that a child’s haircut could not happen before their primer cumpleaños.

The fear-based reasoning behind that caveat is this: You will somehow damage what is in the child’s head if you cut his hair before he is one year old.

As a child, I’d hear this number one piece of advice given out to any new mother who would bring their baby to our house to visit. Remember! Do not cut his hair until he is one! No lo hagas!

And these young moms listened, as young moms have been listening to the wiser moms for centuries. Do not cut your baby’s hair. Yet.

I never paid attention to that heed and thought it was silly. When my first son was born he was the first baby in the family in over 13 years. My mother was infatuated and would find a reason to see him at least once a day. One afternoon, I packed my son up, and invited my mother along on our errands.

We buckled little 10-month-old Alex into the car, my mother sitting in the back next to him like she was the President’s bodyguard. I, in the front, alone, like I was driving Miss Daisy.

I pulled into our first stop. My son’s bangs had just gone past the length of his eyebrows and I could tell they were starting to bother him. All I needed was a quick trim to get them out of  his eyes. My mother didn’t pay attention to where we were going and followed us out of the car. We walked into the children’s hair salon and they took us back right away, my mother coming along.

“I’ll hold him in my lap,” I said to the 18-year-old looking stylist, “It’s his first time!” My mother’s eyes began to widen and I heard her gasp as the realization hit her of where we were and why.

“QUÉ?! Qué estás haciendo?!” What?! What are you doing?!

“Getting his hair cut, mother. It’s getting in his eyes.” And then it occurred to me. He was only 10-months-old. Oh my holy of holies! THE ONE YEAR RULE!

She was gonna blow.

What followed was a torrent of Spanish warnings, finger waggings, hands folded in pleading prayer, tears spent in request to get her hijo out of that silla! NOW! Take him out! Ay Dios Mio!

Well, you don’t have to hit me in the head with a 2×4. I knew the action had to be quick. I apologized to the poor frozen-in-shock of a young girl. Ripping off the smock that was around me, then around my baby, I tossed both on the chair.

“I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry,” I tried to explain to the bewildered stylist. “My baby is only 10-months-old. He’s not 1 yet. I can’t do this. It’s bad … I’m sorry.”

With the baby on my hip, I grabbed my wailing, crazed mother by the arm and pulled her out of the front door. But not before the entire salon had gotten a good, solid glimpse of my bi-cultural life.

You choose your battles wisely. You honor what you should, and let go that which is inconsequential. My son could go two months longer with those bangs. But I could not endure what I shudder to think would happen to my mother if I ever cut my son’s curls before his primer cumpleanos.

Seriously. Even right now, the shivers of what almost was.

What cultural tales do you have about hair in your family?












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By Alexandra on September 10, 2012 · Posted in headline, the habla habla

29 Comments | Post Comment

tracey says:

And you brought her ALONG?!? You crazy woman. You really WERE sleep deprived, weren’t you?
tracey´s last [fabulousness] ..The Spark in Chicago

Posted on September 10th, 2012

Alexandra says:


So, you can sense the EMERGENCY that this situation was?

HO MY GOD I shall never forget it.

Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..ICYMI

Posted on September 10th, 2012

Antonia Murphy says:

My father was born in 1923, and his mother kept a lock of hair from his first haircut, tied with a pale blue ribbon, wrapped in tissue paper. I found it once, when I was a little girl. I never met my grandmother– she died before I was born– but it was a tiny keepsake of how much she loved her little boy.

Posted on September 10th, 2012

Doni says:

We don’t have any cultural requirements in my lineage — but I have heard this one before. Whether you believe in it or or not, it was thoughtful of you to acquiesce this one to your mom. There’s no harm in it unlike many of the other “wives tales” or traditions I heard during my pregnancies and kids’ toddler years. My favorite being that you need to put your baby outside (regardless of season/weather) for at least an hour a day for “health” reasons.

Posted on September 10th, 2012

Alexandra says:

Oh, I’ve heard that “hardy” one. I think it might be more Nordic roots. We were always told to keep them in when it got cold. Being from Colombia, now living in Wisconsin, it was always “too cold.” My poor babies were wrapped in more blankets than a person going into shock.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..The One-Year Latin Haircut Rule

Posted on September 10th, 2012

Alexandra says:

THAT is so sweet.

Is it gone? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see it/have it in a shadow box along a sweater or cap of his?

We forget sometimes, how we wee all someone’s baby.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..The One-Year Latin Haircut Rule

Posted on September 10th, 2012

Ms. A says:

I’m not Latino, but I feel the same way about cutting kids hair. Major haircuts can wait, although I did trim (and save) it out of their eyeballs. But not much!
Ms. A´s last [fabulousness] ..Cool Front

Posted on September 11th, 2012

naptimewriting says:

We are in a whole different kind of grandma hot water. No emergency, no foreboding. But Spouse’s grandmother is FURIOUS that my eldest has long hair. The demands (no suggestions or hints from this powerhouse) that we cut his hair. Now.

We have, of course. He gets several cuts a year. He just likes his curls shoulder length, thank you very much.

But she’s happy to tell us how her husband broke her heart by dragging her son off for a first-birthday haircut that lopped off his lovely curls.

Your abuela and mama wanted to protect your son. Mine wants to make everyone miserable.

Can I switch to your family?
naptimewriting´s last [fabulousness] ..Place your bets

Posted on September 11th, 2012

brian miller says:

omg…that was close…glad you listened as that could have gotten scary…finger wagging and all…dont throw the baby out with the bath water comes to mind, i always check the water to be sure no one is hiding in the suds…smiles…ok, not really….
brian miller´s last [fabulousness] ..OpenLinkNight: smashmouth middle class

Posted on September 11th, 2012

Lady Jennie says:

That is so cool. Bi-cultural RULES. Seriously – it’s something to be proud of.

And we have … no traditions. None that I can think of. None at all. We’re so boring.
Lady Jennie´s last [fabulousness] ..A Burning Bush

Posted on September 11th, 2012

Alexandra says:

Right. I thought, this can wait.

I almost killed the poor woman.

Can you imagine? the one year rule broken, on her watch???
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..The One-Year Latin Haircut Rule

Posted on September 11th, 2012

Alexandra says:

From a distance…the distance of YEARS…it is pretty cool, Jen.

Not so much when you’re in the thick of it.

For years, I just wanted NORMAL.

Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..The One-Year Latin Haircut Rule

Posted on September 11th, 2012

Alexandra says:

You’re not kidding that was close.

Oh, B…you would love just watching snippets of my life when I try to live in both worlds.

Sometimes, there are just no words.

Thanks for being such a friend.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..The One-Year Latin Haircut Rule

Posted on September 11th, 2012

GrandeMocha says:

My poor baby just had peach fuzz on his head. He didn’t need a haircut until he was 13 months old.

Thanks to the great melting pot of the US, I don’t have any customs, language, or food from the “old country”.

My husband’s family more than makes up for it. They have “musts” for EVERYTHING. Anytime I want to do anything they don’t like, they say, “It’s tradition. You HAVE to do it this way.” They don’t get that that statement makes me less likely to do it.

Posted on September 11th, 2012

2girlsonabench says:

Siana’s suegra (from Mexico) says that if you have a baby girl, you should shave her head so her hair grows in long and luscious. Nobody has done it yet… :)

Posted on September 11th, 2012

Hillary says:

I bet that was hairy, wasn’t it? Haha! Seriously, though, I’m glad you didn’t go ahead with it and tramatize your mother. I think we almost all of us have our superstitions. We all also have those moments when we forget other people’s beliefs.

I can’t think of anything personal, but I believe in some cultures they wait to truly celebrate a baby’s birth when the child is one year old.
Hillary´s last [fabulousness] ..Weekend Bookends

Posted on September 11th, 2012

Nancy Davis Kho says:

My husband once decided that, to be a good dad, he needed to know how to do more of the things that Mom always takes care of – like trimming our daughters’ long, straight hair. I will not go into detail here, but suffice it to say that our three year old went from having long, luxurious curls to having a chic Anna Wintour bob. Cute. But not a baby anymore.

And he’s not their hairdresser anymore. :)
Nancy Davis Kho´s last [fabulousness] ..Still in Rotation: My Aim is True (Elvis Costello)

Posted on September 11th, 2012

Anna Lefler says:

Alas, I have no hair traditions in my family aside from the mutual agreement never to speak of the horribly misguided wedge cut I got in 7th grade. (That one is strictly observed, by the way.)



Posted on September 11th, 2012

Andrea says:

We didn’t have a lot of hair traditions, but my grandfather was a beautician…for the older ladies. I used to get such a kick out of seeing the bottle of Silver Fox hair dye…it was dark blue I tell you!
Andrea´s last [fabulousness] ..9/11

Posted on September 11th, 2012

Alexandra says:

THAT is a story I’d love to read. Please post it. I can’t imagine: a woman’s beautician. Back then.

How did he become interested???
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..The One-Year Latin Haircut Rule

Posted on September 11th, 2012

Alexandra says:


No Queen of the Appalachians traditions??

Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..The One-Year Latin Haircut Rule

Posted on September 11th, 2012

Alexandra says:

What in the world?

My husband once tried to save money by cutting e’erbody’s hair.

It was not pretty.

Nor handsome.
Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..The One-Year Latin Haircut Rule

Posted on September 11th, 2012

Alexandra says:


You just gave me fodder for a follow up post.

My mother SHAVED OUR HEADS. I was only in the second grade and had to do go school BALD HEADED.

Made me what I am today.

I scoff at fashion and can take anything on.


Thanks for the memory trigger…that’s why I love to read, share, tell stories.

They save us, don’t they?

Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..The One-Year Latin Haircut Rule

Posted on September 11th, 2012

Alexandra says:

You, are one brave soul.

Me? Cowardice in the face of heritage.

Alexandra´s last [fabulousness] ..The One-Year Latin Haircut Rule

Posted on September 11th, 2012

Kimberly says:

Trin is 3.5 now, and has never had scissors touch her hair at all. No trims, bangs, anything. I should probably get the ends snipped off, but she wants to “be like Rapunzel” so I’ve let it slide. And I’ve been lucky with the boys- Gabe and Simon were both born with a bunch of hair, but lost almost all of it in the early weeks/months. My abuela says the same thing about baby hair, and I’ve yet to disappoint her. If Simon goes through a hair-growing spurt before his first birthday, I’ll keep this story in mind. :)
Kimberly´s last [fabulousness] ..Happy Birthday Josh!

Posted on September 11th, 2012

Kimberly says:

When we got Chunky’s hair cut (which was actually after his 1st birthday because i thought the mullet look was in…) my grandma made me promise to keep the first clip of his hair. Not the second or third but the first.
No friggen clue.
But that’s what she did with all 5 of her kids.
My dad who turns 60 still has his tucked in a closet somewhere.
I think it’s gross.
But yes, Chunky’s lock is hidden somewhere…getting all old and gross.
Kimberly´s last [fabulousness] ..While You Were Gone

Posted on September 12th, 2012

Natalie the Singingfool says:

No cultural taboos in my family, but my great-grandfather had bright red hair and mine is sort-of auburn, and my mother is always casting the threat of a red-haired children on us. “You know, your great-grandfather had red hair, so your kids might end up gingers…”
Not that I’d mind a red-headed child, I just think it’s unlikely, what with my husband being Sicilian…
Natalie the Singingfool´s last [fabulousness] ..…And All that Jazz

Posted on September 12th, 2012

stan says:

I can’t remember my first haircut, but when I was a boy, I enjoyed going to the barber. My mother used to take me to Best and Company, which was a department store in NYC. Best’s is long gone, but they had a special children’s Barber Shop. They had at least a dozen chairs, and the shop was decked out with a lot of distractions for youngsters.

Getting a haircut there was like going to an amusement park.
stan´s last [fabulousness] ..Element Grill by Fuego – A Review

Posted on September 15th, 2012

Jen Greyson says:

Whew — disaster averted!!

Luckily for me, neither of my boys even :had: hair before they were one!

My German grandmother was big on putting dimes on our belly buttons, but we don’t have any hair traditions (that I know of)

This one was fascinating to learn — so much to know as a new mom, isn’t there :)
Jen Greyson´s last [fabulousness] ..How about a blog schedule?

Posted on October 14th, 2012