Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Seniors, Our Hair Told Our Story, Looking Back to the 1960s and 1970s

I didn’t realize it until I put these pictures together but I can trace what was going on in our lives as women just by looking at the hairstyles we wore.  This first picture is early to mid 1960s. We were all tightly under wraps with our elaborate flips and bubbles. We obeyed the edicts of the fashion world dutifully like the good girls we were brought up to be. When it was time to be sexy, we were just as controlled and contrived in following those edicts. I like to think of myself as not being a follower of the pack but I did try most of them, right along with everyone else. By the time we all left for college in September of 1966, we were still wearing the rollers and teasing to get these looks.
This was of course torture to produce because the hair had to be put up entirely in rollers, teased (back combed) into the style, sprayed to hold the style and if one wanted it to last till tomorrow, one had to sleep in the rollers too! Touch any one of these hairdos and it felt like a clumped together bird’s nest which had been stiffened with varnish. No one's hair was very healthy as the ends split from these procedures. One had to get cuts regularly because the damaged ends had to be cut off. This was us in our most dutiful incarnation. We didn't even think about rebelling against probably leading the exact same lives as the prior generation of women had lived theirs.
By the late sixties our campuses were a hotbed of activity.  Rebellion was in and conformity to our parents’ plans for us were out. Embracing our newfound anger and resolve, we threw out our rollers and hairspray, plus our Papagallo and Villager outfits. Our hair was going to be every bit as free as we now were so we washed it, towel dried it, let it grow and just hang down our backs and that was that. When we touched our hair, it actually felt good because none of that crap was on it.
The 1970s were where we began to pick up our rights.  We became part of the Women’s Lib movement, some of us more than others, but all of us with a changing set of expectations about the years ahead. Thus we were married, going to graduate school, or working. It was hard to do any of these things with a mass of hair that just fell to the middle of your back. That mass of hair was getting in our way and in this decade, nothing was going to get in our way. We went to stylists who gave our hair very precise cuts, and in some cases perms, so we could still wash and go but now with some purpose. Farrah Fawcett's hair was a unique case as it presented a major amount of work.  I knew women getting that style then and they paid fortunes to hairdressers to cut it, color it, style it and maintain it. I didn’t understand it then and don’t understand it now. I rather liked the way Farrah looked back then but looking at it now I can’t imagine why.  It’s just too much. 
We thought all of this change was the most major thing that had ever happened in fashion.  We were wrong.  Far more basic upheavals had taken place early in the century, changes we now never even thought about. What we discovered after World War I was that the serving class was disappearing and that women had become more active in daily society. We had also just lost an enormous part of the population worldwide due to the war, and even worse, the flu which came on its heels. 

These women were not going to have maids to dress them and coif them nor get them into dresses which one could not get into on one's own. They had at the very least volunteered during the war and were now used to being out and about and doing things. They had to be able to walk and move and their interest rose in becoming even more physically active such as with tennis. And, of course, most of them began cutting their hair, which they had rarely done in the past. The former look of having your maid pin up masses of hair was gone for good.

What was evident throughout the twentieth century was that form followed function. Once we had a new purpose to pursue, the styles we wore had to follow suit. As the century wore on, more and more people began to look like the former serving class because they were all doing some form of work even if it was at home.  
So we can literally see how society is changing just by watching the styles change and our hair remains one of the major early indicators.

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