The quiff, the bob, the Mohawk, the beatle cut – a catalogue of capillary attraction
For me, music, fashion and hair have always been inseparable. My first awakenings to fashion came via musicians of the late 70’s and early 80’s, in what became known as ‘New Wave’ (excuse the pun!). David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Siouxsie Sioux and Debbie Harry all had iconic looks, due in no small part to their – let’s face it – f*ckng incredible hair!
As a young teen I desperately wanted to set myself apart from my peers and emulate these cool and creative creatures by defining myself, visually at least, though some slightly ‘out there’ and shocking (possibly also quite dodgy) style choices. I quickly discovered black hair dye, kohl and the magical effects of soap in the hair and to be honest I’ve never looked back. To this day, I continuously reference musicians from the early 1950’s through to the mid-90s, when working on ideas and concepts for collections, shoots or shows. To me, this period when fashion followed the true creative, was golden.
The 1950’s gave birth to the teenager and popularised the concept that the young should look and behave differently to their parents – Rock and Roll was born! From Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley to James Dean and Marlon Brando, the quiff was de rigueur for any self-respecting rocker. Greased and combed to perfection, this preened pompadour never looked better than when collapsed and strewn all over a sweaty face, post-brawl or mid-concert. Dishevelled became cool and parents frowned upon this out-and-out display of male rebellion.
The 60’s gave birth to numerous iconic looks, none more so than the mop-tops of The Beatles. In 1963, JPGR cropped their ‘barnets’ into pudding bowl shapes around the same time Vidal gave Nancy Kwan that inimitable ‘Bob’. Whilst those shapes seem cute and classic now, back then they were defiant and at the cutting-edge, some schools even banning boys from sporting such a radical look.
The beehive will also be synonymous with this decade and in particular with US ‘girl groups’, such as the Supremes and Ronnettes. Long hair piled high on the head and teased into a gravity-defying shape still oozes style today – over 50 years later. Famous modern wearers include Amy Winehouse, Marge Simpson and Bette Lynch.
The 1960s’ also lay claim to inventing ‘long hair’. By the end of this decade both men and women alike would let their follicles grow freely and we saw out-there musicians such as Hendrix, Morrison and Zeppelin pioneer a radical and ‘free’ approach to style that brought sexuality to the surface. The beginnings of the long hair revolution gained prominence in 1964 when Cliff Mitchelmore exclaimed: “It’s all got to stop! They’ve had enough! The worms are turning! The rebellion of the longhairs is getting underway!” in his fabulous 1964 report on the newly formed ‘Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men’, which offered David Bowie (then Jones) his first TV appearance. Hair was indeed growing out of control in the mid-60’s, and it was a rebellion – against the squares and norms, which, for most folk, simply meant their parents.
Into the 1970’s and hair was everywhere, literally! Growing your hair long began taking on a more political message amongst African Americans, where the ‘afro’ became a symbol of black pride and the civil rights movement. The early 70’s also saw the rise of a more glamorous trend with Funk and Disco thrilling the charts and the dance-floors in a big way. Bands like Chic and artists such as Gloria Gaynor and Donna Summer gave us bigger hair and beautiful people, opulence and excessive imagery.
In 1976, it all changed forever and there was no going back: Punk was born! An anti-fashion working-class kick in the teeth and a rude awakening for the world of fashion and music, Punk was the antidote to the perfectly produced sounds of disco as it embraced a DIY ethic to everything it touched – and hair was no exception. Self-cut, self-coloured hair was raw and unapologetic and, as such, opened the floodgates not only for our profession but for modern culture as a whole. Its reach was long and the Punk ethos was embraced in all creative spheres and is still felt today. This explosion of anarchic, free-thinking creativity gave birth to Brush cuts, Mohicans, Skinheads, Chelsea cuts, Undercuts and every colour imaginable!
The fall-out of punk gave the 1980’s a green light to experiment and indulge stylistically. This decade saw the birth of countless sub-cultures, including New-Wave, Goths, New Romantics, Rockabilly, Psycobilly, Metal, Hardcore, Oi, Ska… the list is almost inexhaustible. Each of these sub-cultures had a very unique and specific look, code and playlist; members of each different group wore their clan identities with pride and stuck rigorously together. At the heart of this remained the desire to be an individual, to differentiate oneself from not only from our parents but also from the other youth strains, to make a unique statement about taste and style.
By the end of the 80’s we had pretty much exhausted every permutation of style. Hair had been every colour, every texture and every length – often all on one head! We had embraced the spiky, the asymmetric, the permed, the cropped, the big, the bald and most memorably – the mullet! Our profession had thoroughly enjoyed its freedom to create, and the wealth of styles it had created frequently remains the mainstay of magazine editorials and runway collections to this day. It’s almost impossible to escape the impact of the 80’s – its looks are loved and loathed in equal measure by every generation of hairdresser, especially those who lived through them!
By the 90’s there was almost nothing left but…nothing – pared down and minimalistic was the only antidote to the excesses of the previous decade. A new raft of designers and stylists embraced the punk ethos once again and turned things inside out, upside down and back to front. Hair followed suit and by ‘91 girls were wearing bobs and crops (Sinead O’Conner, Gwen Stefani, Madonna), while the boys sported bowls and curtains with a definite nod towards hairdressing’s modern heritage of 60’s mod looks (Kurt Cobain, Liam Gallagher, Shaun Ryder).
By the end of the 90’s everything changed once again and we lost our musical creative leadership and we turned to celebrity for our cues. With the advent of the internet our perspective on what was cool and inspiring had mutated so drastically that Jennifer Aniston was the coolest person on the planet and ‘The Rachel’ was requested by every second client – and nothing much has changed since! We now live in a world where mothers try to look like their daughters and their daughters are okay with that, happy to borrow mum’s clothes and share the same hairdresser. One can walk down the street and not know (from behind) who is the parent and who is the offspring. The look is universal and the desire to set oneself apart from one’s parents has all but disappeared.
In the words of The Stranglers – ‘What ever happened to the heroes?’ Who will lead us into the future? Who will insight the rebellion? One Direction are NOT The Beatles or The Stones; Kanye West IS NOT David Bowie.
Sadly, for now at least, we remained consigned to long layers and balayage until the new Elvis, Lennon or Bowie comes along, filling and adorning heads with revolt. “Kick out the jams – Motherf***ers!”