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If I had a column in the Delft op Zondag

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Delft op Zondag


18 SEPTEMBER, 2016

Looking Good There, Jan!

DELFT - If you did not grow up hearing Dutch 'wat zit je haar mooi', it translates as 'what sits your hair pretty'. It is an expression that sounds perfectly right to native speakers but is amusing to the rest of us.

'Kap' means hood in English; so, a kapsalon is a place where your hood or cap is styled. Fashion being what it is, perhaps cap is the right word for how people are wearing their hair. After all, hair styles give an impression but really have little to say about a person other than taste and what they have to work with. I have what Americans call 'male pattern baldness' which means most of the top is gone; I wear what is left 'crew cut'. That is so I can use an electric razor, set it to '1' and after a few minutes, be done.


"'Kapsalon' is Dutch for what Americans call a barber shop or a beauty or styling salon. The folks at Voskuil have this painted on the wall of their salon. You can see it easily if you look south down the tracks from the train station."

It is easy to see that Dutch enjoy fashion as well as wearing what they feel like wearing. They will wear some combinations that an American would not go outside wearing. I think it is because they are not self-conscious. During the university's pledging week, you see guys strolling through town wearing tutu's; its part of the initiation. They are not taking it seriously nor is anyone else. But it is fun and funny.

When Mooi Weer Dagen (beautiful weather days) comes around, most of the shops put live displays in their windows. My neighbor 'sat' for a fine smokes shop dressed in a gold foil dress with her hair up and away. She smiled and waved to passersby. It is a street festival, and the Dutch let their imaginations run.

On my way from home to the bakery, I pass a hair-cutting school. Thus, I have an idea of what is in fashion by looking at the board outside. It seems that men, young men, are wearing the top up with a back flip and their beards down and forward.

Most young women seem to favor blonde and long. On the street, I've seen hair dyed from bright red to scarlet, shades of blue or green. One woman I have seen wears her hair wrapped in a high bun, a style from the late 1800's. It looks good on her.

And that is the point of messing with your hair: looking good. We all know that physically we are very different in how we appear - spend a coffee at a side cafe and watch the people pass. Delft is a tourist town so you will see variety.

Americans call that diversity which is not the same as what a Dutch person might see simply as national types. But most of us want to look just so which explains so many 'kapsalons'. Dutch seem to know it is really putting on a look.

Delft is typical that way, in letting loose any hesitation to be ridiculous looking. So we see Jan in a polka dot shirt and slicked-back, shiny hair. It's a Dutch way to tell Jan he looks just fine - the girls are gonna love it. And that is what Jan cares about.

G. Wiley / NLStrabo - © Copyright - All rights reserved -
In memory of Herb Caen