"Hairbag” (also “hair bag” and “hairbagger") is slang for a veteran police officer. The exact meaning of the slang term (cited in print since 1958) is unknown, but a police uniform was called a “bag.” A “hairbag” could mean an “old uniform.”
A New York City Police Department slang term for a veteran cop who is a bitter and burned-out complainer, usually an old beat cop who is a shirker.
Some of this information comes from
“Cop Diary—The Word on the Street -
What a Cop says and how he says it can matter more than his stick or his gun
By Marcus Laffey (from the New Yorker, August 10, 1998”
The rest comes from personal conversations with New York policemen in the 1950s.
The following is from a personal conversation.
They put this old alcoholic hairbag out on the street on a cold New Year’s Eve on West 42nd Street near the docks and he’s dying for a drink. It’s near the end of his shift at midnight. He sees the red lights of a saloon nearby. He starts to edge toward the saloon when he sees a Puerto Rican kid headed toward a fire alarm box on 11th Avenue. Pulling fire alarm boxes in New York on New Year’s eve is considered a sport by some. He looks at the saloon. He looks at the kid. The kid pulls the alarm. The hairbag runs puffing over to the kid, grabs him and yells, “Why the hell did you have to go and pull that alarm?”
The kid says, “My house is on fire.”
by Don Richards Jul 12, 2005
New York City Fireman who doesnt do nothing except, come to work, read the paper, eat meals he didn’t help prepare, shit , sleep, wake up and then go home. Usually a fat slob who complains about everything, everybody else is doing. Not realiable when it comes to performing at a fire. Probably is hiding somewhere while everyone else is breaking their ass. And never works on holidays.
GUY #1 : Man, that Charlie is one hell of a hairbag.
GUY #2 : Yeah, we should put him in the bucket and drop him.
by M2million Dec 7, 2006
Historical Dictionary of American Slang
1. Police. a veteran police officer; old-timer.
1958 N.Y. Times Mag. (Mar. 16) 88: Hair bag—A veteran policeman, especially knowledgeable about the inner workings of the Police Department.
1963 True (May) 104: Good man, real salty hairbag from the old school.
1973 Droge Patrolman 47: The old-timers, or “harirbags” as they’re often called, had a rule of thumb.
1974 Radano Cop Stories 120: Sitting in the squadroom...is this first-grade detective—an old hairbag—and he asks my partner what’s wrong....Later the hairbag comes over to me.
1975 V. Miller Trade-off 105: But I know where you stand on this. You’re a hairbag from the word “go.”
1980 W. Sherman Times Square 10: An older cop, a “hairbag,”...robbed a two-week-old corpse.
1985 M. Baker Cops 36: There wasn’t a guy had less than fifteen years on the force, which is to say they were all hairbags and I was a rookie.
1987 Taubman Lady Cop 13: He was a real hairbag in Soph’s first precinct. Ibid. 268: Hairbag: Derogatory term for an old-fashioned cop.
1994 New York (Oct. 17) 15: Those hairbags are so scared....There’s gonna be so many desk jobs lost, they’re gonna have to get out there and do some work.
2. a disgusting or offensive person.
1978 S. King Stand 93: You got this comin outta the store, you hairbag.
1981 Hill St. Blues (NBC-TV): Police? You freeze it, hairbag!
1981-85 S. King It 23: Avarino could almost read this hairbag pussy’s little mind.
1986 C. Stroud Close Pursuit 84: I don’t want a bunch of hairbags from the Eighth...fucking things up.
16 March 1958, New York (NY) Times, “Station House Slang” by George Y. Wells, pg. SM88:
Hair bag—A veteran policeman, especially knowledgeable about the inner workings of the Police Department.
4 November 1959, Charleston (WV) Daily Mail, “In The Wonderful World of Jim Bishop,” pg. 10, col. 2:
VETERAN POLICEMAN. Hairbag. Old sweat. Grumpy.
(Deputy Commissioner Walter Arm of the New York City Police Department, writing about slang phrases in the police magazine Spring 3100—ed.)
FROM ABE’S CABE TO ZOOLY
A Slang Sampler
Monday, Jul. 11, 1960
hair bag—oldtimer who endlessly reminisces.
15 February 1970, New York (NY) Times, “Police (Cops?) Have Slanguage of Own” by David Burnham, pg. 65:
hairbag—A veteran patrolman, also a patrolman with backbone.
Target Blue: An Insider’s View of the N.Y.P.D.
By Robert Daley
New York, NY: Delacorte Press
“You’ve been hanging around these hair bags too long.” “Hair bag” was one of the most derogatory words in police argot. Almost any older commander was subject to being called a hair bag.
New York (NY) Times
Ideas & Trends; Sharper Image:
The N.Y.P.D. Dresses for Success
By GEORGE JAMES
Published: Sunday, November 27, 1994
The result, the committee reported, is “a culture of slovenliness,” in which putting on the uniform is “wearing the bag.” Rookies trying to appear like veterans achieve a “hair bag” look by weathering their uniform and leather belt.
Meyer Berger’s New York
By Meyer Berger, Pete Hamill
New York, NY: Fordham Univ Press
A small part of a world-wide glossary of policemen’s cant collected in the past two years by Patrolman Redmond O’Hanlon of the New York Police Department’s publication, Spring 3100, runs in the October issue. Writers of cops-and-ribbers fiction or television thrillers will benefit by it.
Some of the items in the New York Police Department glossary are interesting. A-men are men in the automobile squad. A uniform is a bag.
A man a long time on the police force is a hairbag.
New York (NY) Times
What He Learned as a New York Officer: He Was a Bad Fit
By AL BAKER
Published: March 19, 2009
Paul C. Bacon, a Democrat from Colorado with progressive political leanings, had only one policy when it came to the police: Avoid them.
Mr. Bacon employs some well-worn police lingo in relating his experiences, which he started logging in a computer on nights off from work. He describes turning into a “hairbag,” a term for a very experienced officer that is so old there is little agreement on its precise meaning or origin.