Back To Our Roots - A Short History of Hair

Published: 18th May 2012
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I feel I must start with apologising for the play on words I was too tempted into using in the title. I dread to think how many times that has been used before. Anyway, now we have moved passed that, let’s have a look at some more interesting business. Here at Hollywood Glamour we thought it would be worthwhile exploring the hairstyles of the past 50 years to see how much we have changed, if at all. To know things like Amy Winehouse’s hairdo was based on the bulbous nose of the B-52 Stratofortress bomber from the ‘60s tells us we are surely using our time productively. Who knows, you may have the opportunity to break the silence in your next awkward situation. I imagine remembering ‘Stratofortress’ would prove to be a bit of a stumbling point. Perhaps just go with “Did you know Amy Winehouse’s hairdo was inspired by a plane? Seems see was crazy about flying high…”.

Another sort of surprising fact we discovered during our in-depth research is that there are two parallel hairstyle trends for black women and white women. I had not really thought about it beforehand but I suppose it’s quite true. Picture Katy Perry with cornrows. Ha! An idea for another article – “The Lengths We Went To But To No A-Veil”. Now that title is a goody. It comes with two plays on words, one of them being quite sophisticated (she never got married because everyone hated her hairdo). Anyhow, how about we now head on back to the Swinging Sixties, when Bob Dylan was Blowin’ in the Wind and everyone thought tie-dyed t-shirts were cool.

To imagine what they found fashionable in the 1960s would be a total out-of-mind experience for most of us, especially those who fall short of the early eighties. For this time period we had a style that went by the name of ‘Bouffant’. If you were so inclined to achieve this arrangement, you would need to start with piling your hair on the top, leaving the other portion to hang down the side. Tracey Turnblad from the film Hairspray presents this well. This technique actually originates further back to the mid-to-late 18th Century in Western Europe. I will not bore you with the name of the individual who invented it back then, or 200 years later in the 20th century (yes, it was apparently invented twice). You may have noticed that Bouffant is actually the derivative of the Beehive (aka Amy’s ‘B-52’), which has been sported by such annoying actresses as Fran Drescher (the nanny with the chalkboard-scratching voice from the 90s) and Marge Simpson. Other notable people who pull off the bouffant/beehive is Beyoncè, Sarah Palin and the male representatives – the lovable Kramer from Seinfeld and our good friend Kim Jong-il. It goes without saying this trend has not been left in the past with the likes of Beyoncè still embracing it and, of course, everyone she influences. I am sure even Lady Gaga would have given it a whirl at least once. Speaking of which, we dare not venture into Lady Gaga’s range of hairstyles here. She is certainly one who requires her own series, to her credit.

Have you heard of the ‘Black is Beautiful’ movement? Among more important reasons, this movement was the driving force for the different hairstyles for black men and women, especially in the 60s and 70s. Whether it was a cornrow, afro or dreadlocks, African-Americans were using it as a statement. The message basically had two parts: black does not mean ugly and their cultural differences should not be smothered with white. Two live examples are Pam Grier and Whoopi Goldberg (where has she gotten to lately? I miss her), however there are also many celebrities of today who have adopted one of the styles – of course with today’s variations and integrated with their tastes.

Have you heard of Farrah Fawcett? Of course you have, she was the cover girl for women’s hair of the time; they called it the ‘feathered flip’. The trick is to grow the hair out at the sides, parted and teased back, brushed to keep the flowing, feather-like, softness. This inspired Carrie Underwood’s ‘The Flip’ and Rose Byrne’s ‘Waves’ style, which both have managed to make their own.

Later in the 1970s and 80s, things went back to weird with perms (aka permanent wave). The Punk subculture of the 80s also brought about the ‘Mohawk’ style, which required the use of numerous household liquids to cement the hair the correct way. From the Mohawk, other variations were born like the Liberty Spikes, Deathhawk and the Psychobilly Mohawk, or the Quiff. The Quiff has gained popularity in recent months with Justin Bieber trading in his “Beiber Cut” for one and Bruno Mars using it to complete his style as Prince Charming. As far as the popularity of the Mohawk family goes with the female population of the 20th Century, I come to you empty-handed. Sure there was the odd punk girl who decided to break conformity in her group of other nonconformists but aside from that ironic example, females tended to like the hair on the sides of their heads. I’m bored of this time period now. I think it’s Rachel’s turn for our attention.

If you knew how regular hair brushing prevented knots in the last decade of the last century, you would have been old enough to be well-acquainted with Rachel Green from Friends and her hair that led the trend for women’s hairstyles for years to come. It was described as a bouncy do, square and layered, with lowlights and highlights. I would have thought simply saying it was a mess sufficed but then again I have managed to draw out this article longer than it needs to be. As it turns out Jennifer Aniston, herself, has relabelled it to the “ugliest haircut ever”. She went as far as asking “how did that thing have legs?”. Well Jennifer, we all know anything and everything can have legs. In fact, sometimes the question is: how does that thing have a human?

As for the last decade, we have really taken a recycle-like approach to hairstyles. Maybe due to the whole movement about saving the environment – I really don’t know – clutching at straws here. Generally speaking, the trend for hair now has a 20th Century undertone, with a modernist style complimenting it. This is where we get a few like the ‘Long and Bouncy’, like Angelina above, homemade curls and, you may have heard of it; the French twist. It is also believed this is how things are to continue on from here (until something else shakes everything up). You can actually thank hair extensions for allowing so much variety in today’s world. The clip in hair extensions have brought about the possibility for everyone to experiment with and integrate different looks within minutes. Whatever historic hairdo you want to work with, it is now incredibly easy to bring it back to life once again. One does have to wonder with all of this opportunity to be creative with old and new, what will we be writing about in another 50 years. I doubt I could stomach the styles seen on Hunger Games… may just volunteer myself in that reality.


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Back To Our Roots - A Short History of Hair

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Mandy Stokes

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