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14th Jul 2017

A tribute to Nicolas Cage’s hair in Con Air

Twenty years on from 'Con Air', there's only one thing we need to talk about

Rich Cooper

It’s been 20 years since Nicolas Cage uttered the immortal words, “Put the bunny back in the box.”

Twenty years since an all-star cast, including John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames, John Cusack, Danny Trejo and Dave Chapelle, all shut off their brains and crash-landed a plane on the Las Vegas Strip.

Twenty years since the best, dumbest, loudest and most unapologetic jailbreak-meets-air-crash-action movie of all time: Con Air.

My word, there’s so much to love about Con Air, whether as a wholehearted, fist-pumping action romp, or as a semi-ironic chuckle at the excess and absurdity of the 1990s, or indeed both.

There’s one reason above all that makes Con Air the movie it is. It’s more than the explosions, the banging-and-clanging fist fights, the deliciously ripe dialogue or the out-and-out ridiculousness of the premise.

It is to bask in the glory of Nicolas Cage’s magisterial hair.

Look at it. Savour it. Devour it. Envy it.

Well-kempt, yet ruggedly masculine, like a rust-belt mechanic who knows the value of a good conditioner. See the way the wind catches it, the way it dances in the breeze like spun sugar or a Spaniel’s big, floppy ears as it skips through a meadow of dreams.

It falls so delicately on his shoulders, a poetic contrast with the hard man of action upon whose head these glorious strands of hair have had the good fortune to grow. Equally though, it is the man who is blessed to receive such godly locks. The two are inseparable, intertwined, each powering the other.

Look at the reaction. The expression Cage wears on his face is, as far as the script is concerned, meant to be the ecstasy of freedom, but it’s actually an uncontrollable contraction of facial muscles that happens when your hair is so absolutely staggering.

Under these circumstances, it takes an actor of Nic’s stature and training to keep his face from tearing itself apart. You and I would look like a drunkenly-butchered pig’s rear, and that’s if we’re lucky.

Let’s look at it again.

These tears. They are real.

Like witnessing the Taj Mahal or the Great Plains of Africa, experiencing Nicolas Cage’s hair in Con Air is a moving, near-religious experience. It blurs the lines between nature and design; you don’t know whether to marvel at the artistry or just thank God that it exists at all.

Honestly, it feels crude to try and wring words out of what can only be truly expressed with a slow, steadily shaking exhale.

On a practical level, this is a hairstyle for every season, from lounging on the beach to doing squats in the gym, from posing on the cover of GQ to kicking rapists and serial killers in the face. You’d never dream of wearing this up. This is not hair to be squandered on a manbun.

It’s also a cut of contrasts. Observe, the long, flowing locks that so elegantly rise and fall with the passing wind, playing counterpoint to the trifecta of root patches: two at his temples and one at the top of his forehead, gently flecked with the grey an experienced man, the grey of a man who has seen things.

No one, but no one in their right mind would ever get this haircut and expect to be taken seriously. On any other human head, it would be laughed into the nearest barber shop, even in the coiffeur’s backwater that was the 1990s.

Only Nicolas Cage could carry it off, and so we raise our glasses in tribute to him, for bringing this gift into the world.