Saturday, August 28, 2010

Horrible Hairdos from my Youth



Last Thursday in The New York Times Style section a page of photographs showed the six steps to achieving a retro ‘60’s beehive hairdo. According to a hairstylist at Bumble and Bumble “The key to make this look modern and not too retro is haphazardness.” He had prepared the models at Vera Wang’s fall show with “slightly messy” beehives with tousled locks at the nape of the neck. According to The Times, “Amy Winehouse offsets hers with tattooed arms.”

Ever since “Mad Men” ushered in a widespread nostalgia for the naughty 1960’s I have been bemused as young people who were not born then celebrate that era of sin, pointed bras and three-martini business lunches.

One of the few skill sets I have down pat is how to make a beehive hairdo. The sight of the “retro beehive” whisked me down Memory Lane, recalling the sight of myself and half a dozen freshman girls lined up at the mirrored wall in the dorm bathroom, carefully teasing our long hair until it stood straight up. Lots of hair spray was involved. My daughters think that I was solely responsible for the hole in the ozone layer due to my lavish use of hair spray.

No tousled retro ironic beehives for us. Ours were as smooth and as stiff as a football helmet—hence all the urban legends about girls who never took down their beehives and ultimately learned that mice or something worse had nested within.

After teasing the hair into a state suggesting the Bride of Frankenstein, I would carefully fold it into a high French twist, securing it with a handful of hairpins and then, after using an afro pick to achieve maximum bouffant-ness, spray some more.

In my youth, a hairdo would come into fashion and we all would immediately have to have it, whether it was flattering or not. The first one I remember was the duck tail (also called D.A. for “Duck’s Ass”), the signature of “greasers” and their leather- jacketed girlfriends in the 1950’s. It took a long time for me to talk my parents into letting me have one—I was about 13 at the time—and even longer to convince them to let me add the peroxide streak that was de rigueur to go with it. I’m just sorry I don’t have a photo to show you how truly awful it looked.

Even more unforgiving was the pixie cut which I am told is now enjoying a renaissance on celebrities like Victoria Beckham. Less glamorous people, like me, ended up looking like someone who was just past chemo, or like those French women who fraternized with the Germans and were punished by having their hair cut off. I vaguely remember Jean Seberg as bringing the pixie cut into fashion. The unfortunate photo of me here in my pixie cut dates from 1958 when I was a junior in high school.


Then I went to college in Wisconsin and mastered the non-ironic beehive. Two years later, in 1961 I transferred to U Cal Berkeley where I first encountered full-out ethnic Afros and white men with Jesus hair and beards. In graduate school in Manhattan, I remember other girls (not me) ironing their long blonde hair on an ironing board to straighten it and also setting it at night on empty orange-juice-concentrate cans.

After getting a Master’s from Columbia in 1964, I got a job in New York women’s magazines and hung around with editorial assistants who were dating those Mad Men types and drank martinis at lunch. I usually ate lunch at my desk.

Soon the Beatles came to the U.S. and Vidal Sassoon cut Twiggie’s hair into an asymmetrical bob and we all had to have some version of it. You can see my would-be Sassoon cut below. I wish I still had that mini-dress and that brooch. The photo is dated Feb. 1967.


Several haircuts have become all the rage since then—think Farrah Faucett’s feather cut and Jennifer Anniston’s whatever it was. And Kate Gosselin revisiting Sassoon. But I got married and had children and never had time any more to become a haircut fashion victim.

Now my hair has become so thin that I couldn’t possibly tease it into a beehive, ironic or not. Twice a week, first thing in the morning, I go to my hairdresser Roy of London Lass, because I am incapable of doing anything with my own hair. He trained under Vidal Sassoon.

Did you know that Joan Collins always wears a wig because her hair is so thin? I’m told she has 200 wigs. So does Lady Gaga, I think. Maybe wigs will become the next Big Thing.

3 comments:

lactmama said...

that was not a pixie, that was Midwest goy. You looked great in the other photos.I need to find my beehive, had it done once a week at the hair salon and scratch my scalp with a chopstick

Andy Fish said...

Amazing!

Marina said...

I love all these pictures of you AND all the haircuts. I can't believe the pixie haircut picture was of you at 13! You look so grown up!