Football-mad Pompey fan Lucas Puckett, 12, raises £1,000 with his waist-length hair
Not many 12-year-old lads would have the guts to grow their hair down to their waist.But football-mad Lucas Puckett did even though he was often mistaken for a girl and suffered abuse while on the pitch.
Lucas's journey to long, luscious locks began when he got fed up queuing for a haircut.
But that was not the main reason for his drastic change in appearance. It was a charitable act from a girl at school that sparked the idea to grow his hair.
When Lucas found out the girl planned to get her hair cut and her offcuts made into a wig for children with cancer, he told mum Helen Puckett: 'It's mainly girls who do this kind of thing and girls like having long hair, don't they? I could do that.
‘Just because I'm a boy, it doesn't mean I couldn’t help the charity.
'I'm going to grow my hair, and I'm going to donate it to the Little Princess Trust. If girls can have short hair, why can't boys have long hair?'
On seeing his younger cousin, who is nine and has long hair, a pang of sadness came over him when he considered sick children, particularly girls, who go through the trauma of losing their hair.
Helen adds: 'He always says to me it really matters to girls about their hair. He says it must be sad for children because they're ill anyway and then have to lose their hair as well.
‘It seemed to bother him that girls would find that particularly hard.'
Three years on and more than £1,000 in donations later, Lucas sits in a barber's chair at The Escape Lounge, Southsea, to say goodbye to the look that has given him immense pride yet left others confused.
It’s Lucas’ strong character that sets him apart.
The boy who aspires to be a vet, footballer and a policeman, spent an entire season wearing a pair of odd boots, one pink the other purple.
‘If he wants to wear something he'll wear it. He doesn't care what anybody thinks,’ says his 48-year-old mum.
Helen says she 'only felt pride that he could be comfortable in his own skin. It's very much his hair, so it's his choice’.
'I sat down with him during the summer holidays and said do you want to get your hair cut because when you go to senior school you're going to meet a lot of people who don't know you and they will probably think you're a girl?
'He just looked at me and said: “That’s their problem, mum. It's just hair”.'
Lucas comes from a football-mad family.
Since the age of five, the pupil at Admiral Lord Nelson School, Copnor, has been going to football training, playing for local clubs, and supporting Pompey. Playing football is all he's known.
Dad Seth Puckett manages the reserves at Fareham Football Club, and his 21-year-old brother, Adam, is a player and coach for the club.
Lucas also goes boxing training, paddle boarding and is now the proud owner of a treadmill.
He comes into contact with people who criticise him for sporting that long, blonde hair week in and week out, but he is undeterred.
Helen says: 'He made a decision and made his mind up. His friendship group has been fantastic.
'But it's strangers...
‘Adults have come up to me and said ‘if he's a boy, why did he let his hair get like that?’ I found that remarkable.
'I've had quite a lot of flak at football.
‘He had people say, 'watch that number four she's a girl or 'go easy on her because she's a girl’.
'But Lucas just took it all in his stride and got on with it. He knew what he wanted to do and he stuck with it.'
Lucas, a Fratton Park season ticket holder, says: 'I like my hair long.' When people make fun of him for looking like a girl, he says: 'I laugh it off. It never bothers me.'
Despite the unprovoked comments, Lucas and his mum have received immense support from teachers, parents of Lucas' friends, and his own family.
Initially, the fundraising target for the Little Princess Trust was £150, which Helen knew could be covered by friends and family. But support for his brave feat took off, and he exceeded Helen's expectations by raising £1,003 so far.
Helen says: 'I had no idea it would take off as much as it did. It costs £55 to make each wig so that's fantastic because that's what they struggle with. Even when they get hair donations, they still need funds to make the wigs.'
Thanks to Lucas and his three-year hair-growing effort, the charity will have enou gh cash for 18 wigs for children and young people.
His best friend from school stayed at the salon – Escape Hair Lounge in Milton Road – to support Lucas and other clients reached into their pockets to donate.
Helen adds: 'It went really well; he was quite emotional about it.
‘The night before he started saying, "what am I going to have my hair like?” I said: ‘I don't know, if it's your hair, it's your choice.'
After Lucas' hair got the chop, he chose to keep it below his ears so he can grow it long again because 'that's how I like it’.
Lucas says: 'I still can't get used to it.'
REAL-HAIR WIGS FOR YOUNG CANCER SUFFERERS
The Little Princess Trust provides free, real-hair wigs for young cancer sufferers or for children and young people experiencing the devastating effects of hair loss.
It also funds pioneering, life-saving research into childhood cancers.
The trust uses hair donations and fundraising money like that raised by Lucas to manufacture and fit its real hair wigs.
Established in 2006, the Little Princess Trust has supplied more than 8,000 wigs to children and young people.
It has also invested about £5m into ground-breaking childhood cancer research.
Applications for this funding must pass the trust’s rigorous review and must ultimately benefit children.
The Little Princess Trust has a trusted network of salons, and wigs are fitted at an approved salon closest to the patient.
They start by matching as closely as possible to the natural hair colour. Because it’s real hair, the wig can be cut, curled, or straightened to match an original look — or to create a new style.
There are many elements that add to the cost of wigs, including manufacture, storage and salon fees, — but the trust says it’s important it continues to do this for free.
A message from the editor, Mark Waldron.You can subscribe here for unlimited access to our online coverage, including Pompey, for 27p a day