Attention all Dutch men

Column published in the Observant, Maastricht

There are many weighty issues that I could talk about here. Liberalism. Euthanasia. (In)tolerance. (Note the typically Dutch parentheses in that last one.) But you know what really gets me? The Hair Gel. Capitals intended; because the Dutch – Dutch men, I should say – don’t just dab on a wee spot of gel each morning. Oh no. They shower in the stuff.

Being the Cambridge scholar that I now am, I did what any good researcher investigating the ins and outs of given societal phenomena would do. I consulted the blogosphere. (Actually, I intended to write this column on the wider topic of Dutch fashion, but extended thesaurus-ing couldn’t turn up enough synonyms for “bland”, and it was telling that most of the search hits linked only to livid spiels about said hair gel).

So what do our ever-unpartisan bloggers have to say? “Nasty”, “disgraceful” and “cringe-worthy” seem to just about cover it. From a blog aptly titled “Opinion and Righteous Anger”: “It’s so embarrassing and pitiful that I’ve been able to pick otherwise anonymous Dutch men out of a crowd on the other side of the world.” And it goes on: “No other nation in the world has placed its future in the hands of men with such daft hair. It’s so bad that it makes you want to take them aside and tell them. You think they mustn’t really know how daft they look. It’s as if they’re walking around with their flies undone. You cringe on their behalf.”

Now, my personal obsession is with Germans (don’t ask), which means I’ve never had the dubious pleasure of running my hands through a Dutch partner’s locks and coming up with enough grease to fry chips in. But perhaps most disturbing is that the Dutch ladies out there are seemingly in no hurry to reign their lads in. As one (Dutch, male) friend put it: “The chicks love it.”

Thing is, if you could wrest the gel pot away from the typical male Cloggie, they’d be decent. (After all, you can’t go wrong with tall.) In 2009, De Telegraaf reported that psychologists studying the role of symmetry in beauty had made a composite of “de mooiste man van Nederland” by combining the faces of actor Michiel Huisman, musician Alain Clark and others. Expatica’s only comment on the portrait: “Notice the gel …”