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The hairstyles of the 2019 NAMM show

Such follicular fortitude

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If I only wrote about the technology, analog and digital, of the 2019 National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) show, I’d be doing a disservice to the most impressive thing there, which are the people. Attendees at a music trade event are not at all like the ones I’m used to from the Consumer Electronics Show or the Geneva Motor Show. At those other events, you get a geeky cross section of society, much as you’d find clustering near the power outlets in your local airport’s departure terminal. At NAMM, though, almost everyone’s a performer of some kind, and when your role is to be an extrovert like that, it usually helps to have your own distinct aesthetic. A T-shirt I saw at the show summed up the attitude succinctly: “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

After about the third luxurious beard I’d walked past, I couldn’t resist the urge and started taking photos of the most striking hairstyles around. I thought I’d have a couple of fun images to help me remember the show, but over the course of the three days I was at NAMM, it morphed into a mini gallery, and I just had to share it with you. I encountered zero resistance from my subjects, many of whom were using their looks as marketing tools.

It’s worth mentioning that the traditional “business executive in a suit” persona could still be found at places like the Sennheiser booth where seriously dressed German audio engineers were demonstrating the first Neumann headphones, or the Fostex stand where courteous Japanese headphone designers were showing the new TM2 modular wireless earphones. But for once, they were the exception rather than the rule. Everyone else at the NAMM show seemed committed to extroversion.

In the Great Beards of NAMM category, the consensus appears to be that more is more. Most people dedicated enough to grow a multiyear facial fuzz are combining it with long locks of hair, though New York composer, singer, and actor Danny Rojo shows that an enchanting look can be achieved even without any hair up top.

In the Gravity-Defying Curls section, we have some enviably vertical hairstyles. Much in the way that beloved painting instructor Bob Ross turned his permed hair into a trademark used to brand painting supplies he sold, so too these artists are asserting their uniqueness through visual means before we’ve even heard them perform.

Then there’s the 20 Inches or Longer segment for men’s hairstyles, of which I’ve never seen as many as I did at the NAMM show. You obviously don’t need long hair to play the guitar, but it can’t hurt. In among the musicians, I’ve allowed an imposter photographer who was outside the NAMM halls taking instant photos of people with a reconditioned 1940s press camera using flashbulbs.

Finally, to make sure all the colors of the rainbow are represented, we have a boy band from Glasgow, a naturally and luminously ginger gent, and a couple with matching mohawks. Isn’t love a beautiful thing?

All of these photos were shot with the Google Pixel 3 XL. I didn’t use the portrait mode, even though the Pixel’s is among the best out there, and the reason for that was because even the Pixel can’t provide consistent enough portrait results for me to trust it. Click individual images to enlarge them and take a closer look at all this glorious follicular fortitude.

Photography by Vlad Savov / The Verge