Boys win coiffure argument by a hair

A student at Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy High School has convinced teachers to let their hair down by letting boys tie theirs back.

Julie Busch / The Herald

James Geier (left), a senior at Archbishop Murphy High School, fought for the right to wear his hair long. Dejan Sughrim a sophomore supporter of the idea, recently had his long hair trimmed.

Boys at the 400-student Catholic school southeast of Everett can once again wear their hair long, provided they keep it out of their faces, thanks to senior James Geier’s successful lobbying.

“It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, this idea that guys can’t have long hair. There’s no rational reason for it,” the 18-year-old said. “This isn’t a military academy.”

Long locks on boys had been acceptable in recent years, but apparently was not allowed in the student handbook this year, calling for boys to have their hair cut above the collar.

So, when teachers were instructed to enforce the dress code, students such as Geier – whose blond hair comes down to his shoulders – came under scrutiny.

Geier protested, and principal Kristine Brynildsen-Smith urged him to put his argument in writing so she could take it to the faculty for a vote.

“Going into it, I was just confused more than anything else because I thought this argument ended 40 to 50 years ago,” Geier said.

As he wrote in his letter to faculty and administrators: “Long hair among males is not seen as something ‘strange and unusual.’ There are in fact many men at either this school or in public professions who wear their hair long.”

Geier cited former U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado and businesses such as Apple Computer and Nissan, which tolerate long hair among their employees.

The teachers voted 19 to 7 in favor of allowing boys to have long hair.

“Being in the profession of cosmetology for 14 years taught me that with any haircut there is a professional look and an unprofessional look,” wrote one teacher in comments to the principal. “Long hair on men can look professional” if well styled.

But others, citing the school’s rule of thumb that student appearances be “businesslike and in good taste,” opposed relaxing the rule.

“I am glad the long hair days are over,” wrote one teacher. “From a business viewpoint, it usually means you don’t really want the job.”

All told, only a few boys at the school have long hair.

Dejan Sughrim was one of them until cutting his hair short in anticipation of summer. The sophomore used to wear his hair in braids that reached down to his chest.

“I was getting in trouble just about every day for not tying my hair back,” the 16-year-old said. “I still feel it should be your choice what your hair looks like, but it’s better than nothing.

“You are who you are, and my hair didn’t affect anyone.”

Brynildsen-Smith said she was impressed by Geier’s arguments and happy with the way things turned out.

“I would hope that students feel heard and know that changes can be made if reasonably presented,” she said.

That doesn’t mean every request will be granted. At the same time the faculty approved Geier’s request, another student’s pitch for allowing off-campus lunches failed because of liability concerns.

And “businesslike and in good taste” remains the status quo. So while hair can be long, coloring it green or purple is out.

In the end, Geier, in sneakers and a black, hooded sweat shirt, said he was relatively satisfied with how things turned out.

One thing he learned: “People are a lot more concerned with appearances than I would have hoped.”

Reporter Melissa Slager: 425-339-3465 or

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