An exclusive interview with the principled principal who is leading the resistance to long-haired lads at high school.
A 13-year-old boy taking Auckland Grammar School to court over his hair was in the news last week. Some people might say it’s wild that in 2019, when young people are facing a future that’s so damn bleak, that we would insist they have no self expression when it matters so little.
But those people would be wrong.
I spoke to Steve Steverson, principal of the Auckland Prep School For Future Property Developers and Financial Managers and boy, was it enlightening!
The following is an unedited interview conducted in an office that smelled of mahogany and was decorated with the framed head of a lion and a replica Rugby World Cup. I thank Principal Steverson for his courage and openness.
Thanks for meeting with me Principal Steverson.
Please, call me Sir Steve Steverson.
Sure, Sir Steve Steverson, what made you want to become a teacher?
I really wanted to spend my days measuring the hair of boys to make sure it fell just so, and did not impact on their learning and conformity by allowing it to grow slightly over their collars.
Wow – thats…
Hair is everything. Hair is how I became the person I am today. Some might suggest that because my father and his father, and his father, owned this school that I just fell into the job. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I was interviewed just like everyone else, it’s just that I was the only person they interviewed. People think just because you have a lot of money, like so much money you once brought a stuffed gazelle wearing a gimp suit just because you could, that your life is easy. It isn’t. I have struggled and fought and it comes down to my hair.
I’m struggling to follow.
Well, boys are boys, do you follow? Boys will be boys. And indeed they’re boys. And boys need haircuts that are short because boys need to be boys who are boys. If their hair is long – it’s a danger.
It could get caught in a drawer.
Has that happened before?
It could catch fire if he is leaning over a bunsen burner.
But couldn’t he just tie it up?
No that’s against the rules. You can’t have hair that’s so long you need to tie it up.
OK but – many people cope every day with long hair without getting it caught in drawers or without it catching fire?
I don’t believe that’s true.
So you have had cases of this?
It’s harmful to other students. When I see hair on a boy that is past his collar I have a physical reaction. It hurts my very soul.
Look, we all have our things. Is it wrong that I collect the hair I cut from the heads of boys and keep it in a bowling ball bag in my house and spend my weekends knitting it into a family so I have company while I eat my dinner? Is that wrong? If it’s wrong – I don’t think I want to be right.
Are you lonely?
I’m very lonely.
Is that what this is all about? You’re lonely?
I like hair to not be too short. I like it to be clean and short enough to ensure it does not touch the shirt collar.
At this point Sir Steve Steverson began to sob.
Hair should be no shorter than a number two and should not be long enough to be tied up in any form. The fringe should be short enough to ensure hair is kept out of his eyes when combed straight down. Natural hair colour must be maintained. You cannot dye your hair. Extreme hairstyles including, but not restricted to a mohawk, shaved hair styles, braided and matted hair or hair that sticks out from the head more than six centimetres is not permitted.
Can I ask you something personal?
I don’t know. I’m feeling very upset.
Steve, did you want long hair when you were a child?
At this point we stopped the interview so that Sir Steve Steverson could have a glass of water and compose himself. He willingly rejoined the interview.
I… I wanted to look like Bret Michaels. But my dad, he said I have to look like him.
He said I can’t be in a Poison cover band. I have to be a principal.
I don’t even like children.
I’m sorry that happened to you.
I used to wear a wig you know. I used to wear a wig and a bandana when I went out.
Sir Steve Steverson begins to sing Every Rose Has Its Thorn in a high falsetto.
My dad, he told me I had to be like him. I had to be a principal. And I had to raise boys to be principals and make more principals. And if I couldn’t make them principals they needed to be financial managers or property developers.
But that wasn’t my dream.
I wanted to be free.
Do you think maybe you could break this cycle Sir Steve? Could you channel the passion of Poison and start new?
I don’t know. Maybe I could. I have a quote hidden behind our school motto – and it’s actually my life motto. It’s by Bret Michaels and it says: “My life is part humour, part roses, part thorns”. Maybe I need to think about that.
It really hurts when people deny you the right to express yourself or honour your culture doesn’t it? It feels like we have a chance to be to kids today the person we might have needed when we were kids. Maybe there’s a kid right now, who’ll be at your school in time, who is you at eight years old – just wanting to live their hair metal dreams. They need an adult with courage to say: enough. Children have such a hard time in life not having control over so much – something as simple as hair can be the thing that makes them feel like they matter. That they have autonomy over something in their life. These children need someone to really hear them and to make a change for the better for them. You can heal yourself through the way you treat children. You can be the person who takes the first step for positive change. You can go back in time to Little Steve and say – this one is for you.
Maybe it’s time to get rid of my hair family and start a real family.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.