by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
April 11, 2006
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- The hairstyles in 1910 were directly from France; otherwise, why would a pompadour or a Marseilles (commonly mispelled "Marcel") wave be the way to describe my mother's hair-do in this fading photograph? It's a pink-tinted, sepia tone, tintype and although fading, her titian colored hair catches the light and it's as if I myself am the cameraman.
Her hair was truly her crowning glory, and yet no different from all the young women of the day. It was piled atop her head, just skimming the top of her ears and revealing her neck as she tilts her head - just so.
My mother used to tell me about "rats" - yes, I got squeamish, too - designed to be hidden under shanks of hair to add height and volume when pinned in place. A rat was a weave of horsehair covered with netting. Those shining tresses were smoothed over the secret lift. It took time and loving attention.
We've all seen enough movies to see m'lady (or her gentleman) remove one or two hairpins, thus releasing her tresses to cascade over her shoulders. However, I never saw a rat fall out as the cameras worked their magic. Then as now, fashions change. Not as rapidly as changes are made today, but times did change. A dozen or so years after this portrait was taken, my mother's hair was bobbed and her dress was not the full-bosomed, whittled waist, full skirt of 1910, In a picture taken in the mid twenties, she wore a shapeless dress skimming her knees - fashion was dictated by what the Flappers were wearing.
Just as today when the shops cater to those who look like Angelina, Jennifer or Britney and not Roseanne or Kirsty, in the 1920s, even housewives and mothers were in short skirts and had cropped hair.
I've been thinking about hair a lot lately. Frankly, I don't understand the changes, the unflattering changes, that spread through our society today. We did have "movements" in style when everyone wanted to look like Charley's Angel Farah Fawcett and then a decade later, the "Rachel" hair do was the cookie-cutter image with Jennifer Anniston as role model. But, today's change is not "one style fits all."
In "You Got Mail," Meg Ryan had short hair chopped below her ears the way the mother of a five-year-old would cut hair to remove gum. Oh, well, she must have wanted to show up on the set without the bother of a stylist taking up her time. She's so good, her hair and makeup do not need special attention. Or, so I thought.
But, no. The hair stylist for that movie was a guest on one of the morning shows. She won an award! Slowly after that, women, young and old alike, started having their hair cut in uneven, blunt cut, layered styles. The crown of the crowning glory is no longer admired as it once was. Instead, it can be compared to a crown cut out of aluminum foil and bent into shape by a child.
I read this in Trends for 2006: Peaks, Swirls, and Waves. Directional styling, if you want to sound technical. This look is funky and daring, and offers a lot of room for individuality. Since every head of hair is different, your unique character can shine within the peaks of this hot new hair style. Use a wax, clay, or mud hair product." That's what it says, word for word.
The reader is then instructed to put that goop in the palms of their hands and with their goopy fingers, do the wave and swirl routine. (To think husbands used to complain about the pink, foam, hair rollers!)
Saturday morning I watched a televised lecture. The woman at the podium was portly, fiftyish, red-headed and her hair was spiked. Picture Woody Woodpecker.
The Trends for 2006 offered instructions, saying every head of hair is different. And, I say, every face and form is different. Why do we listen to these experts?
In my twenties, the poodle, the pixie, bangs, buns and pony tails were popular. We wore what worked for us. I took the easy way out and let my curly hair find it's niche with the poodle. It's still better for me than the options. Following that period, the beehive, the bouffant, and the high hair that Texans still wear became popular. I have a sneaking suspicion "rats" made a comeback in Houston and Dallas.
Today, asymmetry is touted as bold exploration with unexpected texture and length differences. Unless the gal has an on-call stylist, that asymmetry is bold in the shop but impossible to duplicate looking in the bathroom mirror. It's ob vious that our Network News, Stocks and Weather Analysts have someone to blow dry, comb and brush those long blonde tresses into silken perfection before the "you're on" light flashes. Of course, we've noticed they all look alike.
We've always said and believed and taught our daughters a woman's hair is her crowning glory. So also have we insisted that clothes make the man and passed that advice along to our sons. Now we're forced to look at both those old opinions in a new light.
Some of those Barbie Dolls on television are delivering up-to-the-minute news and opinions with intelligence and clarity; their male counterparts may sport shirt-and-tie for the cameras but often arrive and leave the building in tattered jeans. Fashionably tattered, that is.
Perhaps the truisms my mother left with me have been more a hindrance than a help. The one suggesting I not look at the speck in someone else's eye and ignore the log in my own annuls the idea that beauty is all in the eye of the beholder. For instance, I thought the spiked red hair on a hefty fifty-year-old was unbecoming and just plain ugly. I must need glasses.