Hair today ... and yesterday

  • Thursday, September 6, 2012

“Did you see that woman who got out of the SUV over there,” my husband asked the other day while we went grocery shopping.  “No, I didn’t” I replied absently, gathering up my list and purse. “Why?”
“Well she had her hair all pouffed up,” he said. “It looked just like an alien’s helmet!”
This harked me back to the 60s when we all had our hair teased to a fair-thee-well. It did indeed, retrospectively, resemble a helmet. To keep the style after sleeping, it was recommended that one weave strips of toilet paper around one’s head and secure it with hair clips. I performed this charming ritual many times until I got into bed one night and faced my husband who had wrapped green toilet paper around his head to show me how attractive it really was! I found a more fetching head cover, but kept the “with it” hairstyle.
In the 60s it was called a bouffant and was made popular by many celebrities, most notably Jackie Kennedy. Some beautician friends tell me the style is coming back. Turns out it wasn’t original to the 1960s but began a century earlier as a mainstream hair style of Western Europe. Some say it was thought to be created for Marie Antoinette as she had relatively thin hair and wanted the illusion of very full hair.
I was born in the era of Shirley Temple and all little girls had to sport corkscrew ringlets. As I came with straight hair like my mother, the two of us went to the beauty shop every three months for a heat wave in which our tresses were wound around curlers  hung from electrical cords from the ceiling. Between times mom curled my hair with a curling iron which she heated over a gas flame!
In their teens our two daughters were always concerned about their hair being up-to-date. Cathy had those Shirley Temple curls, which she inherited from her father. (And by the way, what use is it for men to have naturally curly hair anyway!) Cathy divided beauty routines between rolling her hair on giant orange juice cans and ironing its length straight. Mary Clare spent her time devising ways to make straight hair curl. Both have pretty well come to terms with their natural looks, today enhancing those with more modern methods to be at their best.
Popular hairstyles today are a mystery to me, much as I suspect the bouffant was to my mother. One of the most unusual to my mind is the spike or Mohawk, in which the hair is gelled into a kind of cockscomb on top of the head and worn by both men and women of all ages.
The 60s was also a hippie era and long hair of all ilks was popular for both young men and women. This was the time of the musical “Hair,” which debuted on Broadway late in that decade. One character in that rock musical described her locks as “elegant plumage” equally descriptive as the more common phrase “crowning glory.”
No matter how it’s combed, de-frizzed, marcelled (the trendy wave of the 20s and 30s)  or just plain “cut to fit,” perhaps that’s what we’re all really looking to get.

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