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May 1998

Bad Hair Day

Hairstyles of the 1990's.

Does this situation sound familiar to you? You wake up, as every morning, smile at yourself in the mirror, and fix your hair. Only this time it just won't work. You vow to have it all cut off or radically styled on your next visit to the hairdresser. However, before you do anything drastic, you should consider that you are actively taking part in an increasing phenomenon of the 1990s: the Bad Hair Day. Why is hair so important to us? Ulrich Graf, one of Munich's star hairstylists, believes that "the most important things on a woman are her hair and shoes. What comes in between is unimportant." This might be a somewhat radical view probably not favored by the fashion industry. But hair has indeed always been a point of focus and beauty. As Stephen Wade of Stephen Wade Haircutters puts it, hair is "a very important part of makeup, also of one's psychological make-up. If your hair is not right, you don't feel good about yourself." Undoubtedly, hair plays an important part in creating a desired image. The natural ability of hair to impress was already recognized by the ancient Egyptians, who wore massive wigs on state occasions, a fashion later copied at the royal courts of Europe. In modern times wigs have survived mainly in the quaint traditions of Anglo-Saxon law courts, where they are worn by lawyers and judges alike. However, the wish to impress remains, and in the 1980s, hairdressers in Germany created a wig-like hairstyle, the so-called Vokuhila (vorne kurz, hinten lang, meaning short in the front, long in the back), strengthened by a strong permanent wave. This men's fashion was worn mainly by soccer stars, and most prominently by the hero of Germany's national team, Rudi Völler, who carried the style over into the 1990s. Some hairdressers have mused that the style might have originated from a German fascination with Italy, another great soccer nation. Was it perhaps an attempt to copy the Italian macho? However, hairstylists also created a female version, an excessively layered and back-combed cut, bleached by strong chemical treatment to a Nordic white. This hairstyle was perhaps ideal for women who were desperately striving for long hair. The 1980s were, after all, the decade of long hair extensions, where sheer mass of hair was enough to impress. Long and thick hair stood for youth, vitality and sexuality, however impractical it was. As life in the 1990s became increasingly stressful and hectic, a different approach to hair became apparent. For Ulrich Graf, the change was rung in by international fashion model Linda Evangelista, who in the early '90s "gave women the signal to accept change and fantasy in their looks." For others such as Carlos Scharl of Hairline, it was Princess Diana with her versatile, natural look who set the fashion. She proved that the bob could still be fashionable in the 1990s. This hair cut, which first came into fashion in the 1920s with the discovery of Tutankhamun's grave and the resulting Egyptomania, was now styled close to the head and worn in numerous different ways. Stephen Wade even defines this modern version of the bob, layered and sliced, full at the top and narrow at the bottom, as the hairstyle of the 1990s. Today, haircuts need to be easy and versatile. The Freizeitfrisur (cut for leisure time) should be transformable into an elegant evening style. In short, the 1990s can be defined as the decade of anti-styling, with little or no perming and simple colors applied like spotlights to underline the cut. The aim is to create a more natural look in a controlled rather than contrived way. In addition, the last couple of years have seen a return of fashion to the 1970s. Trousers with bell bottoms and platform shoes are not only worn on the catwalk or by such public figures as the Spice Girls. Correspondingly, hair styles have been reaching back to ideas of the '70s, with the flowing or unleashed manes of those years adapted to the '90s. Today, the wild and messy effect is increased by breaking up any clear-cut lines through layering, slicing and even cutting with razor blades. In spite of such international hair trends and stylistic ideals, promoted by companies like Vidal Sassoon who train stylists on both sides of the Atlantic, American and European taste in hairstyles still diverge somewhat. According to Mark Dunleavey of The Green Door, American women prefer a haircut which allows for quick styling in the "wash & go" mode, while at the same time tending to use more styling products, such as hot rollers. European women, on the other hand, ask for more lasting hold and expect their hair style to keep a week before they need to wash and style it again. Stephen Wade, who trained at Vidal Sassoon, believes that Europeans are generally more aware of the international fashion scene and are therefore more open to changes in hairstyles. He meets many American women who still hang on to the style of the 1980s, with their long hair seductively flipped back. But then they might of course be forerunners of future fashion, seeing that Stephen anticipates a comeback of the '80s trend as we move towards the millennium. Hairline's Carlos Scharl sees the main difference as one of attitude. "American women are less complicated," he says. "But European women are more natural." Carlos predicts that curls will be in on both sides of the Atlantic in the future, which could mean a return of beauty aids such as perms as the new century dawns. With all this choice and emphasis on natural hair with no hair spray or perms to support the cut, it is not hard to see why bad hair days have become a phenomenon of the 1990s. Stephen Wade believes that "one clue to avoiding disappointing results is the use of finishing products that give modern hair styles their final textured look." These include products with silicon that give long layered hair extra shine and separation, spray-on gels and hair wax to tuck that longer front part behind the ears. Unfortunately, modern life style and pace of life leaves little time for hair care. This has led many hairdressers to actively tackle the problem. "Part of my role as a hairdresser is preparing my customers to cope with bad hair days as best as they can," says Mark Dunleavey. This can be done by asking questions and talking to customers about their problems, responding individually to a customer's needs and wishes. Some customers' desires might be more unusual than others. The young girl wanting to cut off her waist-long hair for a pixie style, or the Japanese woman asking for blue highlights in black hair, might be interesting subjects for a study of the importance of hair in the psychological redefinition of the ego. But what about the girl who agreed to cut her hair and have the symbol of a TV show dyed into the back of her head, just to win a bet on the show. Did she think of the bad hair days that were bound to follow? Most hairdressers agree that a main stress factor in the hairdressing profession is having to live up to the client's expectations. Mark Dunleavey explains, "you have to change your viewpoint for every client. You want to see everyone as an individual." But "if the hairdresser is stressed, the client will feel it," says Ulrich Graf. A hairdresser needs to take time, about an hour for a hair cut. Stephen Wade prefers to spend a little less time on the cut and take a little more for the actual finishing of the style. But then again, the problem of bad hair days might all be due to the moon. Astro-hairstyling is based on the belief that hair is influenced by the moon and should be cut in harmony with its phases or one's own personal horoscope. This trend is surely another phenomenon of the late '90s end of millennium feeling. Today, up to 10 percent of customers ask to have their hair cut on full moon days. According to Mark Dunleavey, it definitely works for some of his clients. So if you wake up to another bad hair day in spite of good cut, consultation and full moon, just look at it in a Buddhist light - suppress the desire for perfect hair and it will lead you to the end of suffering.

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