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picture of Kim Barnett
Kim Barnett

The Lowdown Ashes Special: Kim's Barnets

It's been the topic of many late night pub debates: who had the best haircut of any Ashes hero? In this edition of The Lowdown we ask ex England batsman, turned hair salon owner, Kim Barnett to give us his expert view and pick his top 5 Ashes crown toppers. So without further ado here's Kim's barnets ...

After a successful career that saw him accumulate nearly 30,000 runs and 4 England caps Kim Barnett finally left the first class game in 2002. Unlike many players faced with retirement Kim knew exactly what he wanted to do.

"Hairdressing has always been my passion and I had long dreamt of having my own salon. As soon as I retired from cricket that dream became reality. I still play cricket at minor county level but it's brandishing scissors instead of a bat that really gets the adrenalin pumping these days."

The ex Derbys skipper's shop - Kim's Barnets - caters for both men and women. Umpires get a whopping 50% discount on Thursday afternoons on presentation of a valid bus pass. Kim's Barnets offers a unique service for fashion conscious cricket fans: just take in a picture of your favourite player and Kim's talented team of stylists will recreate it for you. Amongst the many satisfied customers are those sporting the timeless Ken Higgs look, the always popular Larry Gomes and for the gentleman about town: the classic Colin Dredge.

So who does Kim think deserves to be in the top order of Ashes barnets? Here, in his own words, is his selection.

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picture of Brian Close
Brian Close has to evade a short one or risk having his comb-over re-arranged.

1. Brian Close (Ashes 1961)

"There's a popular misconception that Closey was bald as a coot. In fact he had a very full head of naturally curly hair that was the envy of many pop stars and film actors in the early sixties. I know for a fact that Roger Daltrey of The Who based his look on Closey. The problem was that Closey liked to field at short leg and get people out by directing full blooded shots off his head into the slip cordon. Unfortunately sometimes his curly locks would soften the blow of the ball on his nut and the ball would plop down just out of reach. One day, after taking one on the solar plexus that didn't even carry to Jimmy Binks, Closey got so infuriated that he tore his own hair out during the tea interval and never grew it back.

I understand that Binksey collected all the hair and sold it to a wig maker in Dewsbury for £2. Legend has it that it was used to make Jonathon King's famous Rainbow Wig in the 70s. Closey got very upset during a match against Lancashire in 1975 when he saw Jonathon King on Top Of The Pops wearing his hair and singing Una Paloma Blanca. I don't think he wanted his hair to be associated with such a terrible song. He smashed the telly with his fist and threatened to kill The Wombles with his bare hands. Closey didn't calm down until the next day when Harry Pilling pulled a short one straight onto his forehead and got caught at third man for a duck.

picture of Graham Gooch
Graham Gooch: "give it a good tug, darling".

2. Graham Gooch (Ashes 1975, 78/79, 79/80, 81, 85, 89, 90/91, 93, 94/5)

Goochy was something of an Action Man; you got the impression that he would have made a good Sergeant Major or something similar. I always liked Goochy's barnet: solid, dependable, reliable; just what you need in a tight Ashes series.

Goochy famously bagged a pair in his debut test against the Aussies in 1975. The Australians were pretty ruthless sledgers even then and their comments about his uneven fringe really got to him. That's typical of them and you just have to get used to it. I remember my first test against them in 1989. Steve Waugh made some remark about my centre parting being a bit wide. I kept my cool and waited until he was batting before coming back at him with a few well chosen comments about his - very obvious - split ends. He got a ton, and they won the game, but we had the last laugh when Derek Pringle chucked Waugh's tin of Cossack off the balcony. Crazy days.

picture of Geoff Boycott
Geoff Boycott: hair today, gone tomorrow.

3. Geoff Boycott (Ashes 1964, 65/6, 68, 70/71,77, 78/79, 79/80 ,81)

Boycs could bat for hours and hours without getting a hair out of place. It was an amazing feat of concentration, technical ability and Potter's Hair Tonic.

I always thought Boycs could have let his hair down a bit more - literally. Some men suit long hair very well and I would put Sir Geoffrey firmly in that camp. I would have loved to have seen the locks flowing - and the runs, of course - with a long and tousled look reminiscent of Led Zep IV period Robert Plant but without the leather trousers.

I mentioned this to Boycs every time I saw him but wasn't very keen on the idea. He felt it might affect his bowling if he couldn't get his cap on backwards. Also he thought there was more chance of being involved in a run out if he had a long fringe falling into line of vision. Typical Boycs: always putting runs before personal grooming.

It was great to see Boycs get his 100th hundred in an Ashes battle on his home ground. Things began badly when in the morning of his innings Boycs lost his bottle of Wash n Go in the nets. Things didn't get much easier once the innings began. Apparently the Aussies on-field antics reached new depths with all the close fielders having a pop at Geoff's hair. Ray Bright kept saying "take your cap off Geoff, let's see your Keegan perm". To me that's unacceptable; the umpires should have stepped in. Boycs was the winner though. I'll never forget it when he drove Greg Chappell for the four that brought up his ton and finally lifted his cap to show a perfectly judged side parting.

picture of Shane Warne
Shane Warne: turns it both ways.

4. Shane Warne (Ashes 1993, 94/95, 97, 98/99, 2002, 02/03, 05, 06/07)

If I have to pick an Australian then I would go for Warney. He's had more than his fair share of stinkers hair-wise: the mullet, the bleach blond look, the fat rubbish boy band reject; but his variety and longevity deserve respect. I spoke to Mike Gatting recently who told me that the so-called 'Ball of the Century' only beat him because he had been distracted by the poor state of Warne's roots. I know from experience how difficult it can be when you are suddenly faced with a bowler whose basic hair care is of a low standard. Lots of batsman over the years got out to Derek Underwood; not because of Deadley's magic variations but because of the snow storm of dandruff that emerged from his bonce every time he ran in to bowl. Or Bob Willis, who I don't think had ever heard of a comb. Or Merv Hughes, who had nits the size of coconuts.

5. Greg Mathews (Ashes 1985, 86/87 ,90/91)

Yeah yeah it's Greg Mathews! A bit of an obscure choice this one but in his day Greg Mathews really cut the mustard in the trendy barnet stakes and he never knowingly had a follicle out of place. He might have hit the Grecian 2000 stage but you can bet the old rug is growing as well as ever.

picture of Greg Mathews
Greg Mathews on the wagon

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If I'm honest I think standards have slipped a little in recent years. At the beginning of the last series Harmison's sideburns were a disgrace and Ian Bell had so much gel on his hair that he could have trapped mice on it.

I'm not one of those old players who continually goes on about how it was better in my day - far from it, there were some shocking rugs doing the rounds in the 80s and 90s. However I do believe that players were generally more hair aware in those decades than they are now. Alan Knott used to have a tub of Brylcream tucked into the top of his pads just in case and no-one has ever spent more on Head and Shoulders than Alec 'the Colonel' Stewart.

Then again, I have looked at both squads for this year's contest and I'd give England the advantage over their rivals from down under. Straussy has really got the boys taking pride in their barnets once again and I doubt very much if we'll see Kevin Pietersen or Jimmy Anderson sporting anything other than short back and sides all summer. I look at the Aussies ragged bunch of mops and I'm already cracking open a crate of Vosene in celebration.