Academy barbers never take a little off the top Plebe summer begins with exams, uniforms and the fabled haircut.


Doug Williams today may have taken history's longest and slowest walk down an aisle to a barber's chair.

But then Williams had about the most hair of any of the 996 young men who reported, along with 148 women, to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis to begin Plebe Summer. The six-week training period at the school has been compared to boot camp.

"I've seen men go faster on their way to death row," said academy barber Steve Plemens as Williams finally sat down.

Plebe Summer began today with medical examinations, uniform fittings and the issuing of equipment, not to mention the often traumatic severe haircut.

During the coming six weeks, plebes will receive instruction in basic seamanship and infantry drilling and be indoctrinated in the Brigade of Midshipmen's Honor Code, which states that a midshipman will not lie, cheat or steal.

Plebes begin their days at 6 a.m. with morning exercises, and will continue training until they receive 20 minutes to themselves from 9:40 p.m. to 10 p.m. Then, it's lights out.

The incoming class of 1995 is composed of 1,144 men and women, slightly less than in previous years. Sixty-two members of the class are from Maryland, with 17 from Anne Arundel County and eight from Annapolis, according to academy records.

This morning, Forrest Young, 17, of Oxon Hill, sat down in the barber chair and jokingly asked that the barber just take a little of the top. The barber nodded, winked and cropped to the scalp as close as possible.

"So how bad is it?" Young asked.

"Wow" was about all he could manage after looking into the mirror.

But Young, like most of the young women and men, came with his hair already cut fairly short. Most of them except Doug Williams, that is.

It wasn't that Williams' hair was exceptionally long, especially compared with 20 years ago, when many of the young men arriving at the academy wore their hair longer than women, according to reminiscing barbers.

But Williams, of Baton Rouge, La., had a stylish, thick crop of brown hair most often seen in the pages of fashion magazines. So as the 18-year-old moved closer to the entrance where 20 barbers and beauticians waited with clippers in hand, it seemed only natural that his apprehension grew.

"Is this really necessary?" Williams said as barber Plemens turned on his clippers. With one quick swipe, Plemens sent cascades of hair tumbling into Williams' lap.

"Oh my God, I'm melting," Williams said, clutching what used to be his hair. "Maybe I'll save some and put in a box."

Still clutching the hair in his lap, Williams looked across the aisle to a young woman getting her hair cut two inches above the collar as required by academy standards.

"I thought we were all supposed to be treated equally," he said pointing to a young woman. "Give her the Sinead O'Connor look."

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