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Mohawks are mainstream at hacker conference

John D. Sutter
  • Unorthodox hairstyles were common at the DEF CON hacker conference in Las Vegas
  • Mohawks were common, but so were corporate polos
  • The conference is in its 19th year

Las Vegas (CNN) -- The hacker "Dead Addict" used to have hair that dangled to the middle of his back. He used to wear long trench coats and loud hats, just to stand out.

But on Friday at the DEF CON hackers conference in Las Vegas, Dead Addict looked outfitted for a day of suburban shopping: close-cropped hair, T-shirt, khaki pants and those funny-looking shoes that wrap around each toe.

Why the switch? He wanted to play with people's assumptions.

Hackers don't always look like how you'd expect, he said.

Now in its 19th year, the world's largest event for computer hackers is starting to age, mature and mainstream a bit. An estimated 15,000 people attended DEF CON this weekend, and while some of them still rock loud blue mohawks, wear black T-shirts and look generally "vampirish," they also can surprise you.

For every green tuft of hair, there's another guy who's balding and another in cargo shorts and a corporate polo.

Still, the hacker image continues to thrive in some respects.

Mohawks are more common at DEF CON now than they were several years ago, said Erin Dahlsad of Denver, who cuts mohawks during the event to raise money for Internet privacy groups.

"It's probably my fault," she said.

"For years, there's always been people with interesting hair," she said. "But for the past few years, there's been more and more of that."

Perhaps it's getting easier to wear a mohawk as the hairstyle ages. Asked whether the mohawk is mainstream now, she said, "Yeah, I think so -- as ridiculous as that sounds."

Take a look at our gallery of the "best hacker hair of DEF CON" to get a sense of how and why people continue to keep the punk-hacker look alive.


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