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January 1, 2018

The Bee Gees, Kitarō, and Led Zeppelin Could Not Perform in Singapore in the 1970s Because of a Hair Campaign

A ban on long hair once existed in Singapore. In the 1960s, a Singapore government policy forbidding any male to sport long hair went into effect. This was in response to the growing popularity of the hippie subculture worldwide; the government deemed such an influence to be negative and detrimental to the country's development.

In 1974, an anti-long hair drive called Operation Snip Snip (yes, it really was called that), was carried out in Singapore. During that time, men with long hair (i.e. hair below the collar, covering the ears, forehead and eyelashes) were seen as untidy and deviant, potentially disrupting social order.

What this entailed was that civil servants who refused to cut their hair short would have their employment terminated.

Posters were also put up around government agencies’ offices that stipulated that “males with long hair will have their need attended to last”. The posters also appeared in different languages:

The government is to step up the campaign against the cult of the long unkempt hair among males in the republic. For some time now certain government departments, like immigration and schools as well as institutions of higher learning had been taking action against males with long and unkempt hair. The campaign will take another step forward when all government offices dealing with the public will display posters in English, Chinese and Malay with the message: 'males with long hair will be attended to last'. (Photo: National Archives of Singapore)

Visitors who refused to cut their long hair were also turned away at immigration. At the Woodlands checkpoint, visitors were made to do quick haircuts at a barber stall nearby:

More than 500 people with long hair are said to have been turned back at the immigration checkpoint in Woodlands and told to get a haircut before entering Singapore since government began 'Operation Snip Snip'. Most of them who had urgent business with their friends and relatives made do with a quick haircut at a barber stall 50 yards away from the checkpoint. (Photo: National Archives of Singapore)

The music scene was also affected because of this policy on long hair. Among others, the Bee Gees, Kitarō, and Led Zeppelin all were forced to cancel their gigs in Singapore because they refused to accommodate the policy.

Jimmy Page and his new band Led Zeppelin had their show cancelled on 14th February, 1972 because they refused to cut their long hair. Also in the same year the Bee Gees were all here in Singapore to play their music but were forced home immediately after performing on stage at the National Theatre on March, 21st because their hair were too long.

British pop group the Bee Bees at Hyatt Hotel, Singapore. From left brothers Barry, Robin And Maurice Gibb. (Photo: National Archives of Singapore)

The campaign gradually eased off in the 1980s.

To be fair to the Singapore government, not only did this island discourage males from sporting long hair. Other countries in the 1970s followed the same trend. Cities like Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Seoul in South Korea, Melbourne in Australia and even Dublin in Ireland were strict with male students who sported long hair.

(via Mothership)


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