It seems Mr. T, Travis Barker and a whole bunch of 1980s antiestablishment teens have the indigenous people of the Iroquois Confederation to thank for inventing the Mohawk.

As the story goes, in preparation for war, the Mohowaùucks of upstate New York (translation: “Man Eaters”) would shave the sides of their heads, don war paint and create an overall terrifying appearance.

There was indeed reason for terror, according to The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico, Volume 1, which states that the Mohawks were known to “roast their prisoners dead before a slow fire for some days and then eat them up. The common people ate the arms, buttocks and trunk, but the chiefs ate the head and the heart.”

As it turns out, though, the Mohawk hairstyle predates even indigenous Native Americans. A 2,000-year-old male bog body discovered in Ireland appeared to be rocking a Mohawk with pine resin, and Pazyryk burials dating back to 600 BC depict Scythian warriors with the sides of their heads shaved.

These days, according to Will Judy in his 2006 study, “Fuck You: A Brief History of the Mohawk,” the style is far less intimidating:

A Mohawk seen on the street these days says, “I’m a bike messenger. Fuck you.” Or, “I’m 16 and I know everything about being punk. Fuck you.” Or, “I’m in a band that will implode after two months for better or worse. Fuck you.” A Mohawk seen in the media says, “I’m a Finnish snowboard champ and I’m totally extreme. Dude.” Or, “I’m David Fucking Beckham and you wanted to fuck a Spice Girl and I did it, and here’s my stupid fucking haircut this week.”

So now you know either a little bit more or a little bit less about the Mohawk.

—C.B.S.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • C. Brian Smith