When I was younger and still obsessed with achieving pin straight hair and doing whatever it would take to subsequently maintain pin straight hair, my mom essentially promised me that eventually, I would feel profoundly grateful not just for my curls but more acutely for the volume with which my curls presented themselves.
I was sure she was wrong. There I stood, a brutally self-aware teenager, convinced I knew everything there was to know about both the world and myself, and what seemed like a universal truth — that in order to be and look cool, you must have straight hair — was going straight (pun intended) over my immigrant mother’s head. Maybe it was a disconnect that she couldn’t catch because she wasn’t from here, but in the Americas during the early 2000s, no matter how great your outfit was, poufy hair made you look 50% less great. It’s an astonishing percentage, isn’t it? I pulled it straight out of the Department of Flocculent Ass Talk.
But here we are! Or rather, here I am, questioning whether (1) sky-high hair is back, (2) it is possible that my mother was right, (3) how I could have believed something with so much conviction only to find I was severely wrong.
So, is volume making a comeback? After noticing the micro-trend of natural, air-dried hair emerge from recent runways, I’m compelled to ask. If you’re looking for proof, I bring you a small serving of Fall 16 looks from Altuzarra, Missoni and Louis Vuitton or Stella McCartney’s spring runway. These aren’t examples of cultural appropriation, like what was arguably on display at Marc Jacobs’ Louis Vuitton Spring 2010 show, they’re just women looking like themselves. Which, frankly, really turns my initial question on its head. Maybe it’s not so much any kind of hair that is “back” as it is just looking like yourself.
But there’s more to it. During a recent editorial meeting at Man Repeller, our social media editor, Harling, pitched a new angle on the time- and Man Repeller-honored Sex and The City story. Instead of investigating Carrie Bradshaw’s outfits, why not instead investigate her hair, arguably her most recognizable and pointed accessory of all? And it’s true: Bradshaw’s outfits were no doubt punctuated by the big blonde locks that festooned her head. But the show’s also been off the air for more than ten years, so why now and not then, when I watched it as a know-it-all teenager?
I believe a larger cultural shift is in motion that’s been propelled by social media’s unique ability to dilute the voices we’ve previously deemed powerful and bring to the forefront new ones that espouse different, more inclusive virtues. Between the runways of today, which perhaps unwittingly promote this same shift through a nascent emphasis on the natural features of a woman (albeit one who is historically and homogeneously amazonian, white and rail thin) and the recent return to a fascination with the style cues of Sex and the City, we’re entering a new era of thoughtful style that is defined by the act of wearing clothes and your own identity like you mean it. A big chunk of that concept is directly borrowed from the heyday manufactured by Patricia Field for Carrie Bradshaw, which surmised you can’t just wear the clothes, you have to live them, too, while the rest of it is a new and positive product of the times. The way we consume media is personal, right? And therefore it is either a prison or a fortress.
So maybe we’re entering a stage of reality where the anticipation is not that we need to improve. On the contrary, we’re far more invested in celebrating ourselves now and in the now — flat, short, long, thin, poufy hair and all.
Runway images via Vogue Runway.