In 1969 LIFE photographer Yale Joel set out to document men’s hairstyles, and the result is this glorious cache of photos. His story never ran in the magazine (one imagines the legendary photographer having a conversation with the magazine editors in which they say “Uh, Yale, these are cool, but we’re kind of busy with the moon landing and Woodstock and the war in Vietnam and the Charles Manson killings and all that.”)
But all these decades down the road, these photos of men’s hairstyles are their own window into that wild era. It’s as if the hair was an externalization of a world gone wild, where nothing was neat or simple.
Because this story never ran, we don’t much about these men that Yale Joel photographed, although the rich variety of faces suggests that he was taking pictures of ordinary people rather than male models. There’s even some question of whether all of this hair is real. A few of the photos were taken in a salon where wigs are visible in the background, and one photo is of a woman wearing a glued-on mustache.
The ambiguity fits the era too. It was a time to question everything.