The bowlcut hairstlye, which was once simply an embarrassingly painful childhood memory you’d hoped to forget, is now actually a symbol of hate.
Anyone who’s ever had a bowlcut forced upon them in their younger years would probably attest this was already the case, I’m sure. But up until recently, it had never before been called a hate symbol.
The decision was made by The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), who announced the official change in meaning yesterday (September 26) by adding the symbol to its long-standing ‘Hate on Display’ database.
The database, which documents hate symbols used by white supremacists and other far-right extremists, was founded in 2000 to help law enforcement officers and others recognise signs of extremist activity.
So far, it consists of more than 200 symbols, including: burning crosses; Ku Klux Klan robes; and the swastika. Most recently, 36 new entries have been added, including: the bowlcut; the ‘OK’ hand symbol; and an anti-Semitic meme called Happy Merchant.
The bowlcut has become synonymous with white supremacy, ADL say, because of Dylann Roof – the Charleston church mass shooter who murdered nine black church members during a Bible study in 2015.
Subsequent pictures of the murderer, who was 21 at the time, revealed a distinctive bowlcut hairstyle – something the ADL say has now become somewhat of an avatar for extremists.
Robert Trestan, the Executive Director of the ADL’s Boston office, told ABC7 News the list is constantly being added to because ‘hate is always adapting to the current environment’.
When asked about the bowlcut hairstyle, he explained: ‘As more extremists use it, it’s important for law enforcement, it’s important for the public to know that it’s now been adapted’.
According to the ADL’s website:
Roof venerators often use Roof’s distinctive bowl-shaped haircut to refer to themselves and like-minded fans. This includes using word ‘bowl’ as part of a screen name such as ‘Bowltrash’ or ‘The Final Bowlution,’ or collectively referring to themselves using terms such as the ‘Bowl Gang’ or ‘Bowlwaffen Division.’
They may also use slang terms such as ‘Take the bowl pill’ or ‘disrespect the bowl, pay the toll.’ Some use phrases such as ‘take me to church’ or ‘take them to church’ as coded references for violence.
As well as the bowlcut now being considered a hate symbol, the ‘OK’ hand symbol is also officially considered one.
The gesture, which is created by forming a circle with your thumb and forefinger while raising the remaining three fingers upwards, used to be made to signify everything was A-OK.
Not anymore though, as the ADL say the symbol has been adopted by some circles as a sincere expression of white supremacy after a hoax post on 4chan claimed it was linked to the ideology.
Although some people have criticised the move, calling it ‘unnecessary’ and confusing for people – such as scuba divers – who use the symbol in day-to-day life, the organisation says special attention must be paid to them to prevent hate from rising.
And it doesn’t have to be confusing; Oren Segal, director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, said ‘context is key’ to interpreting whether the symbol is hateful or harmless.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).