By Seth Borenstein and Alicia Chang
Ferdowsi, whose shaved scalp also features star shapes, is a flight director for the Mars rover Curiosity—a mission that captured the nation's imagination with its odds-defying, acrobatic landing.
Given Ferdowsi's success, Obama, a "Star Trek" fan, joked about the Mohawk and suggested he might try it: "I think that I'm going to go back to my team and see if it makes sense."
Mohawk Guy's Twitter followers have soared to more than 50,000. Over the weekend, he and the 49-year-old Steltzner appeared on NPR's game show, "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me." He's been doing Google+ hangouts. And, oh yes, he's gotten marriage proposals.
A brief history of the mohawk:
NASA’s ‘Mohawk Guy’ and 18 Other Famous Hairstyle Appropriators
It’s significant that the subject of the painting is a lacrosse player wearing a scalp lock—Cook says the haircut is “for those who do battle. Which today means athletes.” Wes Studi also wears a fairly authentic scalp lock as Magua in The Last of the Mohicans (and incidentally, in the UK, a mohawk haircut is known as a mohican):
The mohawk first gained popularity among non-Indians in modern times toward the end of World War II, when it was adopted by the “Filthy Thirteen,” a unit of the 101st Airborne Division—and yes, the inspiration for the highly fictionalized 1967 film The Dirty Dozen. Sergeant Jake McNiece of Ponca City, Oklahoma, who is said to be of Native heritage, started the trend—according to a news article from 1994, he joked that it was a Native tradition, but really wore the haircut for sanitary reasons. Some of the members of the Filthy Thirteen followed suit, and a photograph of two mohawk-ed paratroopers applying face paint before a mission was published in Stars & Stripes. But the practice was not widespread.
Jazz musician Sonny Rollins went through a mohawk phase. In 2009, Rollins told NPR that “[t]he mohawk was my attempt to pay homage to the Native Americans. There was a Native American guy that I know that used to come to see me when I was at the old Five Spot. … This was back in the ’50s. That sort of brought that to my attention.”
For more on the subject, see Seattle University's "Red(Mo)hawk" Promotion.
Below: Wes Studi in Last of the Mohicans.