ok so i was rewatching treasure planet last night and i realized something
throughout the entire movie, jim hawkins has this little braid of hair at the back of his head
but as a very young child, when he is happy and both his parents are still around, he does not
jim has changed to this hairstyle by the time his father leaves
he might have been 6 or 7 here, and when he found the map at the beginning of the movie, his mother mentions he’s in school, so he’s probably 16 or 17. that’s ten years of keeping this braid.
ever since his father left, jim hasn’t cut off this braid. it’s a child’s haircut, and just like in many cultures around on earth (including in america), haircuts play a very symbolic role in an individual’s progress towards adulthood. he hasn’t changed his hair because he hasn’t changed as a person. without his father, he has not been able to grow up or properly develop emotionally, and as a result he’s a miscreant, constantly disobeying authority and refusing to take responsibility and independence in his own life.
then he meets john silver, who becomes his adopted father-figure. silver gives him the paternal love and support that he never received as a child. more importantly, he emphasized that jim is capable of achieving greatness for himself, that there will always be obstacles, and that he does not need validation from anyone else to be happy and successful in life.
up until that point, jim was ignored by his father, and thus felt that he was not a worthy part of society, because he didn’t understand that he didn’t need validation from his father—a man who was essentially a stranger to him—in order to have worth.
it is only after that, after he silver adopts him and shows him how to “follow his own path” and believe in himself that jim realizes that he doesn’t although silver supports him, silver is not necessary to his emotional stability (as shown by jim’s newfound ability to take charge and save the group from pirates after crash-landing). so, even when silver flies away near the end of the film, jim can continue to be confident in his own self-worth.
it is only after his relationship with john silver that jim sets himself straight, joins the academy, gains respect from his peers and superiors, and cuts his damn hair.