This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Michele Norris.

Occasionally on the program, we have to be the bearers of bad news. And today, we mourn the loss of a cultural image, and you might want to get out your hankies or cry into your bandanas because the country singer Willie Nelson has cut his trademark braids.

Well, Nelson's trim has got us reminiscing about other famous or infamous haircuts, and here to give us a cultural 'do tour is Kelley Carter. Kelley, welcome to the program.

Ms. KELLEY CARTER (Columnist, Jet): Thanks for having me.

NORRIS: Now, you cover pop culture and entertainment for, and you're also a daily columnist for Jet magazine. And I understand that you've paid a little bit of attention to haircuts, good and bad. So I want to break things into two categories, if we can, the haircuts that got us all running to the salon to try to do the same thing and those haircuts that maybe left us scratching our heads, thinking what was he or she thinking? So let's first go to the popular cuts.

Ms. CARTER: Oh, well, sure. I think in the mid-'90s, without question, it was Jennifer Aniston. You know, at the time, she was on "Friends," which was NBC's big-ticket show, and when her character Rachel had that cute, long-layered bob, everyone in the country had to get the Rachel haircut.

I think when Posh Spice, when Victoria Beckham, cut her hair recently, that short, cute bob, other celebrities were actually cutting their hair in very similar styles.

NORRIS: Can a haircut actually hurt a singer or an actor's career? Have we seen that happen?

Ms. CARTER: Yeah, you know, Keri Russell is a really great example. She was on a show, "Felicity," that had a really nice following, and then she cut her hair one day. It was long, beautiful curly locks and cut into what people considered to be very librarian, a little outdated. And to this day, you know, she says that people will walk up to her and say, I really hope that you're growing your hair out.

I think for celebrities that, you know, hair is part of their silhouette. You know, hair is another character. Hair helps to define how we view, you know, a particular celebrity, musician, actor. So when you go ahead and do something like that, it's definitely going to send up a Google news alert.

NORRIS: Is it possible that you've become a victim of your own image, though? I get the sense that maybe Willie Nelson wanted to cut those braids, oh, maybe about 20 years ago, but he couldn't because everyone expected him to have the braids.

Ms. CARTER: You know, definitely. I mean, a lot of times, you know, you have any number of people on your payroll when you're in that kind of position, and they're telling you: You can't cut your hair. You can't cut your afro. You can't unconk your hair if you're James Brown, you know, whatever the case is. You have to keep that hair a part of your person because that's how people know you, and that's what they know you for.

NORRIS: So if you were in the business of managing Willie Nelson's image, how do you handle a moment like this?

Ms. CARTER: Actually, this could be a good thing because when was the last time we were talking about Willie Nelson in the pop-culture sense? Cutting his hair may actually be a pretty decent career move for him because all of a sudden, people are going to go to the website. People are going to start Google news-ing him. So it's going to kind of bring Willie Nelson a little bit into 2010. So this actually could be a good move for him.

NORRIS: Well, Kelley, it's been good to talk to you. Thank you very much.

Ms. CARTER: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

NORRIS: Kelley Carter covers pop culture and entertainment for, and she's a daily columnist for Jet magazine online.

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