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Is Your Awkward-Phase Hair Making a Comeback?

Or rather, is being yourself finally en vogue?

08.04.16

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.

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  • Yes.
    ( 🙂 your mother was right, volume is beautiful, so is your hair (*sigh*) and we are all headed for more sartorial authenticity, probably 🙂

  • Alyssa G

    For a solid chunk of my awkward-phase, I had straight, sleek, hair… But around 13 years old, my hair went wavy and super frizzy! I used to straighten the crap out of it, but once I started high school, I sorta gave up due to laziness. Throughout high school, it got a little healthier (sans daily straightening and blow drying), and now, I’m pretty happy with my natural texture. The only pain is my bangs… I feel like I have to straighten them every day! Curly bangs, please be in soon!!!

    • They are!! There’s a couple of models that have them and I am seriously considering getting bangs for that reason…not sure yet though lol

  • Marie Johnson Lewin

    This hits home soooo hard. Naturally curly hair since birth and the struggle was the REALEST in middle school. I made my mom blow dry and set it in curlers every day of 6th grade. It didn’t help that I would be told by friends and boys that it looked better straight all throughout high school…. hmph. Finally, my wise and stylish older sister convinced me to embrace them and taught me some styling tricks and essentially changed my life. I still did straighten my hair about half the time (and still do when the mood strikes) but I have totally grown to love and embrace my curls. I love how unique and identifiable they are for me. Just wish people would appreciate that they are not in fact easy to style and very fickle!

  • Marie Johnson Lewin

    This hits home soooo hard. Naturally curly hair since birth and the struggle was the REALEST in middle school. I made my mom blow dry and set it in curlers every day of 6th grade. It didn’t help that I would be told by friends and boys that it looked better straight all throughout high school…. hmph. Finally, my wise and stylish older sister convinced me to embrace them and taught me some styling tricks and essentially changed my life. I still did straighten my hair about half the time (and still do when the mood strikes) but I have totally grown to love and embrace my curls. I love how unique and identifiable they are for me. Just wish people would appreciate that they are not in fact easy to style and very fickle! Also, not ideal in windy situations….

    • elise maiberger

      Ha ha! I have a similar photo — all hair no face. There’s no controlling curls on a windy beach.

  • dk

    I would even argue that this shift is not solely based on the social media age we live in. But rather in conjunction with changing trends every two to three months. One used to have a whole decade to look like Kurt Cobain, now you get maybe 8 weeks till the next resort/scheduled fashion week rolls in. And now you have one season per decade. No sane person can actually keep up. No sane person can scrap a big chunk of its wardrobe and start a new. While one can follow some trends, it’s now became impossible to even have a full overview of them.
    This leads to the more relaxed look at fashion and trends, imo. It may be that the Birkenstocks are no longer ‘in’ for the fashion clique. But as a mass, the majority of us have stopped looking at them as a red flag. Now they just look normal.

    And as for the hair, count me in the curls club. I have always liked mine and have to always battle with the hairdresser who is so eager to flatten them. Honestly, I am just lazy. I can’t be bothered with a hair-straightener (which I don’t own). Also, I am so fearful of looking like just another girl with straight hair. It’s boring. I like the volume, the frizz, the lack of control. Maybe this is why I don’t care if I stand out?

    • Aydan

      on your last paragraph ditto!! have curls makes us unique and beautiful! We stand out but we ROCK IT!!

    • I have pin straight hair and I have to talk hairdressers out of curling it. I’ve concluded that the best hairdressers are not the ones who try to prove that they can transform my hair, but the ones who can make my natural hair be the best it can be.

    • BK

      snap to not owning a straightener – I stopped using one 5 years ago and it was such a relaxing decision. Now I just go out into the world, boldly inflicting my waves upon others.

  • Sarah

    This resonates so hard with me. I have naturally curly/wavy hair. It can be loose & wavy in spots and tight in others. In recent years I’ve been brushing it out & wanding the tight curls to make it all the same loose wavy texture. But something snapped in me this spring & I decided I was allowed to let my hair be what it wanted to be (this was also around the time I saw the Lemonade tour. Female empowerment ballads helped). I think it was partially because I was so sick of seeing that “beach wave” hair everywhere, the time (I’m lazy), and the health of my hair. But these points were all fueled by the recognition, “Oh my god. Screw it. It’s ok (awesome?) to just be me.”

  • padutchchick

    I am an old and torturing myself for years with styling my very thinning hair I decided to just let it grow. I don’t wash it much — maybe twice a week — so I’m not overstressing it. It’s a tad wild sometimes but I think it looks better than it did my whole life, even as a kid. (ps the photo isn’t me)

  • Andrea Raymer

    we all want what we cant have. my hair is pin straight, like looks like a bad flat iron job from 2004 sometimes. it is so straight it untangles itself as it dries so i rarely have to brush it. But i always hated it. I even got a perm in middle school because i hated my straight hair so much. i also think i may have gotten this opinion from the American Girl Doll book where Molly hates her straight hair and does everything in her power to make it curly. i learned how to pin curl from that book.

  • ESW

    I still mostly hate my curly hair, but I try to channel Christina Caradona (model with curly hair – google and fall in love)

  • Hannah

    So good. Loved the transition from voluminous “awkward” hair as a trend into the novel idea that we’re all finally letting go of some of our most deep-rooted (puns, amirite) insecurities because same is lame. When you step back and look at your own unique quirks, you realize your individuality has so much more to offer than a culturally-accepted look. As a lady with a curly mane, this has been resonating with me the past year as it’s the first year I’ve really let my poor hair be itself, and we’re both so much happier and healthier. I think there’s some power in loving your natural beauty : )

  • It might be that the big hair is ‘back in fashion’ – the long hair def seems to have its comeback, but I find it harder to see the “dictated” trends that were more obvious before the media as we know it today. Earlier this year I cut my hair from a midi bob, to a short caserole/mushroom cut. I’ve been thinking of chopping it all off for 10 years, but always felt too insecure. And then as I’m nearing my 30’s, I care less what others think – and I think that might be most of it: Your mom was right, getting older and more confident, getting wiser and maybe changing beliefs will make you embrace your full self rather than try to be someone else (as we more or less do growing up). Having the trends change more often, increase chances of it being in favour of your natural look – that might help a bit with this whole cultural change as well.

  • Christine Russo

    YES! I have never felt more comfortable in my own skin/hair/style as I do now, and I would absolutely agree that social media has taken our voice back from authorities in culture and fashion to tell us what’s cool. I keep saying it is such an exciting time for PERSONAL STYLE, even if the fashion industry/machine is having a hard time keeping up. I would also say, (and I know you’ll agree, Leandra) that Gucci and Allesandro Michele has a heavy hand in this whole, celebrating-individualism-thing happening.

  • Inkygrl

    Having had both straight and curly hair (pregnancy does weird things. With each of my three babies my hair got curlier. Had been straight until then), I am of the opinion that curly is more fun, manageable, and at least on this head looks more attractive. Have been able to experiment with fun cuts and color options, scarves and accessories, and it’s way more forgiving of going a few too many days between washes. Love my curls.

  • sky

    I’ve been trying to own my whole self – which not only includes my very curvy body think a white kim K . And my very thick out of control hair. This year has been a bit freeing and say quietly in my head to the world fuck you this is who I am. I’m loving the big hair trend right now and have to admit media being the way it is I think it has also helped curvy women like myself as well:)

    • Elise

      Hey, no hate but just fyi–Kim is half European, half Armenian–technically, she’s fully white!

  • gwyn sise

    my hair is perpetually in an awkward phase.
    i’ve embraced it

  • BK

    I think that after a while people just get sick of having yet another damn thing to keep up with and with and let themselves do their own thing, which is admittedly a bit easier in the hair department because everybody’s hair is different, is an individual special snowflake etc. I love seeing your natural hair, Leandra!

  • elise maiberger

    My hair has always looked like Roseanne Rosannadana’s, I’ve just finally embraced it.

  • LalaN

    My goal as of late is to get ready to go out in public in as little time as possible. I’ve always wanted long, straight blonde hair. Now mine’s short, curly and wavy, I have 4 inches of roots that are coming in semi-white, and I totally don’t care. Having kick ass skin helps me feel pretty, and if I want to get all dolled up, I still own the tools to do it. I think seeing the extremes people go to on social media has made me fed up with even trying. I do still wax my brows. I occasionally shave my legs. But it’s 100 degrees and humid here. Nobody has time to fight the elements, and the last time I went out I saw way bigger disasters that the one on my head.

  • Greer Clarke

    I already have pin-straight hair, but LOVE it curled on special occasions. Two days ago I used a different set of rollers to curl my hair before a ball, got really impatient while taking them out, so just brushed the shit out of it. Next minute LORDE / PRINCESS MIA THERMOPOLIS (pre-Genovia make over) is standing in my bathroom.

    I blame it on the shock, but I straightened it all back out and just wore it straight 🙁 now have major #ragrets at the opportunity I threw away.

    (Side note: I have this assumption in my head that very curly haired people are always more creative, intelligent and interesting. Anybody else?)

  • b.e.g.

    I have a self image of straight hair. Why? Because my hair didn’t curl until puberty. Luckily for me it was the 1970s. After straightening it through middle school (clothes iron, yes, it’s true, we did this, but also with large plastic rollers) in the feeble attempt to don the then coolest haircut ever, the Shag, when I reached high school the shag was no longer in fashion and the Savage (I believe that’s what we called it, horrible moniker) took over as the coolest hair. Well, I had the required curls au natural. No one believed me, everyone thought I got a perm like every other girl in school. Didn’t matter, I knew how to control mine, whereas they insisted on brushing theirs out. Mine looked awesome, theirs looked frizzy. I won. But still, my self image is with straight hair. So I own a hair iron, and I do the drill. These beasts are like heroin. Once you start using it you can’t stop because the hair loses its natural form from all the heat to the curly cuticle. So I’m a slave. To go back to my curls I’d have to cut it to a pixie and start over. Can’t do it.

  • Surprising how many of you could relate the characteristic of volume to your awkward phases! My awkward phase hair was no hair. I was ridiculously fussy when it came to my hair so my mother was always threatening to make me cut it, and then she did. Awkward phase started at 1 cm of hair on my head, moved to TWA, from TWA to not-short-enough-to-be-cute-but-not-long-enough-to-do-anything, to OMG-finally-there-is-actual-hair-on-my-head. 🙂

  • Getting back to the roots, embrace it BIG! just let it do whatever it wants! I’ve been with my curls since forever now, embracing it now more than ever and trying to find a solution for the frizz (not the curls), but that wouldn’t/ couldn’t stop me from embracing my frizzy curls, my 15% grey hair, nor my braces.
    I wanted the “change” and did layers+ shorter length (huge move, more like no.8 but longer) with shorter bangs (I do have bangs that doesn’t effect my curls but do good when I straight it which happens once or twice every… month (when hair trends get into me).

    Note:I rather to be always in a curly knot and I’ve started my “Curly Girls Unit” here http://www.fashionparadoxes.com/2016/04/22/back-to-old-school-natural-curly-hair/ if you’ve got any secrets for the frizz tell meh!

    • Your hair is freaking amazing!

      • Omg, Thank you so much, your words warm my heart! xxx