Kitaro & Led Zeppelin could not perform in S’pore in the 1970s because of a hair campaign

It was called Operation Snip Snip.

By Tanya Ong | July 10, 2017

There was a time when the government viewed men with long hair unfavourably.

In 1974, an anti-long hair drive called Operation Snip Snip (yes, it really was called that), was carried out in Singapore.

During that time, men with long hair (i.e. hair below the collar, covering the ears, forehead and eyelashes) were seen as untidy and deviant, potentially disrupting social order.

What this entailed was that civil servants who refused to cut their hair short would have their employment terminated.

Posters were also put up around government agencies’ offices that stipulated that “males with long hair will have their need attended to last”.

Photo from NAS


The posters also appeared in different languages:

Photo from NAS


Visitors who refused to cut their long hair were also turned away at immigration. At the Woodlands checkpoint, visitors were made to do quick haircuts at a barber stall nearby:

Photo from NAS


Photo from NAS


The music scene was also affected because of this policy on long hair. Certain music artistes, such as Kitaro and Led Zeppelin, had to cancel their gigs in Singapore because they were not allowed to enter the country unless they had a haircut.

Kitaro. Photo via Kitaro Facebook


Led Zepplin. Source: Wikipedia


The campaign gradually eased off in the 1980s.

While we probably cannot fathom such a policy today, being aware of the anxieties during that period allows us to better grasp the driving force behind the seemingly strange policy.

During the 1970s, the government was clamping down on different aspects of popular Western culture, as it was perceived to be a negative influence on Singaporeans. For instance, rock ‘n’ roll music and pornographic material were banned as the authorities deemed them to be decadent and deviant.

Source: Pinterest


The authorities also disapproved of hippie culture, as it was regarded as a corrupting influence on citizens because of its association with laziness, ill-discipline and drugs. Men with long hair were also closely associated with the hippie movement, which was why the short hair policy and campaign were enforced.

Operation Snip Snip, while controlling only one small aspect of social order in the 1970s, was part of a wider attempt to control the spread of negative influences. 

Top image from Wikipedia.

1819 is a labour of love by where we tell stories from Singapore’s history, heritage & culture. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!


About Tanya Ong

Tanya is a keen bean who strives to put the “art” in “articulate”. She also knows pi to the 35th decimal place for absolutely no reason at all.

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