For spring 2009, upswept hair swept the runways. At 3.1 Phillip Lim, Odile Gilbert brought hair entirely off the face, parting it on one side and arranging it in a large chignon on the other. At Bottega Veneta, she did a centre part and formed curls to cover the ears. At Carolina Herrera, Orlando Pita rolled hair off the forehead in a sausage formation, recalling the safety-first style favoured by women who went to work in factories in the 1940s. At Marc Jacobs, Guido Palau used braids to yield the effect of a tidy head. At Prada, like Julien d’Ys at Yves Saint Laurent, he mixed the beehive and the French roll — two styles that demand the highest artistry in backcombing and bobby pins.
In fact, not since the early 1960s has there been such a call for the craft of the hairdresser. By 1968, when Vidal Sassoon chopped Mia Farrow’s locks for her role in Rosemary’s Baby, it was the cutters who mattered. After them came the colourists, who came to power in the 1970s, when crazy shades of burgundy, pink, blue and green presented them with new opportunities to flaunt their talent.
By the late 1970s, salons were offering mostly savage layers. Out on the streets, punk was promoting all kinds of odd barbering. Negligence ruled — and continued to rule. Spikes, having been permitted into the popular culture, morphed in time into tufts and sprigs erupting from tresses, quickly pulled into bunches with convenient — if crude — devices like scrunchies and banana clips.
Occasionally, there were revivals of old-time styles. The women in the new wave band the B-52s wore their bouffant hair ratted and piled high. More recently, Amy Winehouse has sampled the updo. But except on Karen Walker, the horny lush on Will & Grace who often carried a mound of curls on top of her head, serious updos haven’t been seen much ’round here — that is, until vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin appeared on the scene. But it was only timing that made Palin — the most famous client of the Beehive Beauty Shop in Wasilla, Alaska — seem influential. The updo was already on an upswing. It was evident last winter, when fall collections were presented: Hair moved away from the neck to clear space for statement neckpieces.
Not that such a development requires explanation. Over the past 4,000 years, hair has gone through phases of the undisciplined and the carefully controlled, the straggly and the soigné. The goddess Aphrodite — as sculpted by Praxiteles in ancient Greece and seen on virgin saints in Renaissance paintings, high-school prom queens and Jackie Kennedy in the White House — has been a mannequin for hair as an elegant crown, whether compact or elaborate. Some have deemed the look worthy of much effort. According to Victoria Sherrow’s Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History, to prepare for a state visit to France in 1961, Kennedy sent a snip of her hair to legendary coiffeur Alexandre de Paris so that he might make a matching hairpiece to incorporate into her upswept styles.
No modern woman is likely to take such trouble. Still, she might be longing for a change from the great effusion of hair that has made fashion seem so predictably uniform lately. There’s nothing like an updo to make any occasion special. At those times, the really modern woman might feel self-confident enough to devise her own coiffure. Otherwise, she’ll be on the hunt for a hairdresser who, even if not an expert in bobby pins, at least appreciates what fine instruments they can be.
The latest hairsprays offer flexible hold sans helmet head or stickiness. “With older formulas, when you combed through hair, the residue would get flaky,” says Michael Wright, a senior research scientist for Nexxus. “Today, we’re using more-flexible ingredients, like vitamins and nutrients.” And with TRESemmé’s new 24 Hour Body Finishing Spray, you can spray from any angle — even upside down. When you tip a traditional hairspray bottle, the formula may become unbalanced, preventing it from spraying evenly, says Shannon Tor, senior project leader of research and development for Alberto Culver.
Christophe Robin, expert colourist for L’Oréal Paris, offers his top tips for DIY colouring.
• Hydrate! “If your hair is too porous, the colour will catch more on those porous areas,” he says. To keep hair in the best condition possible, use a conditioning treatment or mask before you colour.
• Shady lady “Choose a shade that is two tones lighter than what you think you are.” If your skin has reddish tones, avoid red or warm tones; if you have olive or pale skin, choose golden tones.
• Live long For extra staying power, opt for shampoos and conditioners designed for colour-treated hair.