hairstyles

   The bouffant or beehive was a standby for workingclass women and continued to be so throughout the 1960s, resurfacing in the 1980s with the popularity of American soap operas such as Dallas and Dynasty. Women began to carefully tint, layer and backcomb their hair to sport a style colloquially referred to as ‘big hair’, which reflected their version of a fantasy American lifestyle. This helmet of hair as a signifier of female power, wealth and success was best seen in a modified form in the 1980s with the look of Margaret Thatcher.
   In the early 1960s, helped by developments in the late 1950s in the USA when large mesh rollers were used for setting hair, increasing numbers of women began to dress their hair at home rather than attending a professional hairdressers for a shampoo and set, using hair rollers to create their own curls and waves. The introduction of hairspray also helped the beehive reach new heights. In response to this resistant consumerism, Vidal Sassoon and Leonard introduced geometrically styled haircuts which required an expert hairdresser and regular visits to the salon for their successful upkeep, as exemplified in the gamine look of Twiggy in the early 1960s.
   Perhaps one of the most influential developments in hair for men was when the Beatles moptop was extended within counterculture into the long-haired hippie style in the late 1960s. Long hair became associated with freedom of speech, rebellion and a defiance of authority, and as such was severely criticized by the media, the implication being that the visual lines between the sexes were blurring and the whole concept of gender was in transition. A working-class revolt against the love and peace aesthetic espoused by the hippie was expressed in the peanut or skinhead look, which became conflated with violence on the football terraces and extreme right-wing movements in the 1970s and 1980s, but was cleverly subverted within gay culture with the Nero haircut. The gay man had appropriated the most ‘masculine’ of hairstyles. Punk attacked the prevailing natural look in the mid-1970s, rejecting the sanitized blonde streaks held in place by Brut hairspray. The hair many women looked to was the traditional glamorous femininity expressed in the style of Farrah Fawcett- Majors, star of the US television programme Charlie’s Angels. This rather orthodox version of femininity was rejected by the punk woman, who was deliberately artificial, rejecting society’s judgements on what was deemed a correctly feminine appearance and supplanting it with a look associated with pornographic, particularly fetishistic representation. Thus an area which traditionally signified woman’s subordination had been reappropriated as subversion, seen in the use of bleached blonde hair with obviously dark roots to signal female rebellion. The punk style was exaggerated further in the 1980s with the Goth subculture, where a unisexual look of extreme backcombed, dyed black hair was popular amongst groups of young male and female adolescents, who listened to music put out on independent record labels by groups such as the Jesus and Mary Chain and the Cure (see gothic).
   The introduction of Krazy Colour hair dye in the late 1970s made multicoloured hairstyles popular, seen to their most dramatic effect in the styles of the new romantics and pop stars such as Toyah. The New Dickensian look was introduced by Keith at Antennae, who invented hair extensions for white youth who wanted dreadlocks. Molten candle wax was dripped onto false hair pieces which were then entwined with the wearer’s natural hair, the process reversed only by cutting it all off. The appropriation of dreadlocks by white culture was ironic, as the debate surrounding the politics of the appearance of black hair had been in force since the 1960s. In the 1960s black hair was straightened, greased, backcombed and sprayed so that it did anything but look curly, using products like the Yvette Home Hair Straightening Kit. The influence of the Black Power movement in the USA led to the radical chic look and influenced white hairstyles to the extent that curly perms became popular and one could buy the Supreme Afro or Freedom wig from the back pages of the New Musical Express in 1975. The origins of the dreadlock were the tenets of Rastafarian religion, disseminated by the popularity of reggae through stars like Bob Marley and the Wailers, whose music crossed into white culture. The dreadlock, like the afro, was seen as a natural and thus more authentic form of black hair and spoke of black pride, while hair straightened smacked of a false consciousness. White youth created matted dreadlocks by deliberate mismanagement in the 1980s and 1990s, ornamented with bells and beads to show an allegiance to the New Age Traveller movement, and thus a rejection of consumerism and an espousal of a back to nature, New Age consciousness. The 1990s were dominated by the New Age or Green movement where hair products became big business, especially if referencing ecological friendliness. At the same time, hairstyles entered a period of retrospection with heavily textured, early 1970s-inspired looks originally sported by stars such as Rod Stewart and the glam rock movement. The short, sharp hair cuts of the mods remained popular, as the style was a way for men to be fashionable without compromising their ‘masculinity’ by seeming too absorbed in their appearance; the style is particularly associated with Britpop. Women’s styles varied from the shaven head of counterculture and the festival circuit as originally displayed by Sinead O’Connor, to the reverse perm of American soap star Jennifer Aniston from Friends.
   Club life (see clubs) remains an important influence, from the soul boy wedge of the 1970s to the pageboy bob or Baldrick look introduced by male ravers in urban centres such as Manchester and Liverpool in the 1980s. Increasingly, wigs are being used in the late 1990s, reflecting the postmodern notion of a free-floating identity which can be put on or taken off at will and the transitory nature of style in the new millennium.
   See also: hats
   Further reading
    Cox, C. (1999) Good Hair Days: A History of Hairstyles, London: Quarter Books.
    De Courtais, G. (1988) Women’s Headdress and Hairstyles, revised edn, London: Batsford.
   CAROLINE COX

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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