Duluth’s Crew Cut Club, 1983

April 1983

Jerry Brown gives fellow club member Robert Schreck the crew cut test on April 15, 1983, as Dick Gaida looks on. To pass the test, a member’s hair must not extend past the bottle cap turned on its side. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)

All the subjects were cut short at this gathering

By Larry Oakes, News-Tribune staff writer, April 16, 1983

At the Pickwick Restaurant in Duluth on Friday night, a bunch of middle-aged men tipped a few beers and thought back to the days when people with long hair were the nonconformists.

The occasion was the second annual International Gathering of the Crew Cuts, a group of men with a mission: To prove that while the wet head might be dead, the flat top is going non-stop.

It all started over a year ago when Duluthian Jerry Brown and two other men, all boasting crew cuts, put their heads together. They decided they could promote their brand of haircut more efficiently if they started a club for people with crew cuts.

They reasoned that while they were a rare breed in these times, they were in good company. After all, Bud Grant, coach of the Minnesota Vikings, has a crew cut. So do actors George C. Scott and George Gobel. And don’t forget diplomat Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Early arrivals – and charter members – at the first annual International Gathering of the Crew Cuts at the Pickwick on April 16, 1982, were (left to right, front) Dick Gaida, Jerry Brown and Milt Lagergren, and (back) Bob Schreck, Cliff Wicklund, Jim Kowalczak and Leo Kennedy. The club is looking for new members, and could probably use someone with a pair of sharp clippers. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune)

Their first meeting last year attracted 46 neatly-shorn men, Brown said. Fourteen had showed up at Friday’s meeting by about 6:30 p.m.

Most of the flat tops were gray in color. “Our average age is 39,” Brown joked, adding: “No, I think you can safely assume we’re all older than that – by just a hair of course.”

The men discussed the advantages of a heinie: “You don’t have to use a hair blower;” “You never have to worry about which way to part your hair;” “You always know what the weather is like;” “You don’t have to worry about changing fads.”

And the disadvantages: “You get a lot of static – some people call you a redneck.” “You have to go to the barber every 15 days or so.”

Club member Nick Glumac of Duluth takes those arguments on the chin, where he has hair the same length as on his head. “A crew cut all the way around,” his fellow club members proclaim.

Crew Cut Club member Perry Middlemist is given the crew cut test by Jerry Brown on April 15, 1983. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)

The club’s philosophy seems to be that when you find a good thing, stick with it – the heck with changing hair styles. “We are definitely individuals,” Duluthian Glenn Stevens said.

The members plan to put the money they collect from $2 registration fees toward promotion of the club. Mayor John Fedo lent a hand by proclaiming April 15 Crew Cut Day in Duluth.

The men boast members from other states (Wisconsin) and other countries (Canada).

No proclamations were made at the meeting, but Brown suggested one: “That the beer we drink never get as flat as our heads.”

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Share your stories and memories by posting a comment.

And a little bonus… some readers may recognize a phrase referenced in the article – “the wet head is dead” – from an 1970s advertising campaign. Here’s a YouTube video of an ad from that campaign:

7 Responses

  1. Hillcity Mike

    I remember going to Dans Barbershop on 9th St. near Grant elementary for years with my dad and seeing that “A crew cut above the rest” clip on the door. I swear it’s contagious. For years, since 11th grade I’ve just grabbed an electric trimmer and shaved my head. I’m 35 now and just recently had my first official haircut since then. It’s already starting to feel shaggy at an inch!

  2. Dayton Bartell

    Awww, It’s great to see Milt Lagergren and Jim Kowalczak again. They worked for Barko Hydraulics when I was a kid. My fondest memories of youth was seeing “Uncle Miltie” and the “Lone Kapusta”.They were great with us kids and always made us laugh. I miss them.

  3. It’s funny how one haircut can have so many names. It’s been a crew cut, flat top, heinie, butch and I think nowdays, it’s called a buzz cut.
    My little brothers used to get one at the start of every summer.
    The first thing I thought of when I saw the pic was…”butch wax”

  4. arvo

    Aw Geeze!. 1983! Ha!

    Although I don’t know any of the guys in the photos, this all started at least 20 years earlier. I’m sure they were at least 20 years younger when they started this. My guess is, that we all went to different schools together in the 60’s — Superior East, Duluth East, Superior Central, Duluth Central, Superior Cathedral, Denfeld . . .

    I guess it started with the Russian Sputnik — then the “Space Race.”

    “Crew cuts” were the hair-style of the day.

    I unfortunately had a pointed head that didn’t lend itself very well to a “flat top.”

    So, who still has their can of “Butch Wax”????

    I switched over to “Shine-ola” quite a few years back when most everything fell out!

    Crazy Arvo

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