Hair today, gone tomorrow
I’ve decided it’s time. This afternoon I will be picking up pair of scissors and trying to cut my own hair. Why don’t I just go to a hairdresser? Well, because I find the process of having my hair cut increasingly… traumatic. I never come out happy with the result, and always assume this is because the person cutting my hair just doesn’t understand my hair like I do. But then there’s no reason why they should- they haven’t lived with it, they don’t know where it kinks and how it doesn’t lie flat if it’s cut too short. Also, in a city like Oxford, a hair cut (to me at least) seems expensive. Cutting hair well is a skill and deserves remuneration like any other skill. For some people a hair cut is money well spent, but value is such a relative thing. I just come out thinking how many skeins of yarn, vintage patterns, groceries, etc, I could have spend the money on. (Plus I always seem to get sat in the window which means I get peered at by passersby. And I always seem to get blowdryed for half an hour and covered in Product which I will never have the time or inclination to do at home on a daily basis). Asked to make a choice between visiting the hairdresser or the dentist and I’d probably have to think about that decision for quite a while.
So, in short, I’m going to give it a bash myself. Even if I make a total pig’s ear of it, it’s only hair after all. And it’ll grow back.
I dug out a couple of photos from Harpers Bazaar 1938 to illustrate this post and realised that the man in the pic just above is actually hairdressing icon Antoine de Paris. He is said to have invented the shingle bob in 1917. Born Antoni Cierplikowski in Poland, in 1912 he opened his famous “salon Antoine” in Paris at 5 rue Cambon. His success was so spectacular that he opened the first of his American salons at Saks Fifth Avenue in 1925. (Apparently Antoine worked on hair for some MGM movies and was also a bit of a designer. The Central Museum of Textiles in Łódź, Poland has an archive of clothing and accessories he designed.)
Such was Antoine’s influence that the 8th April 1929 issue of Time magazine carried the following statement:
Antoine, famed Parisian hairdresser, last week issued a quasi-dictatorial prophecy: “Hair will remain short.” Hairdresser Antoine has already built his own tomb over which rise the figures of bobbed-haired women, symbolic of a freed soul. His latest inspiration: ancient Greek and Roman coiffures.
In her novel Mistral’s Daughter Judith Krantz sends one of her beautiful heroines, Maggie, to have her hair cut by Antoine in the 1920s. Antoine gives Maggie “the extreme Eton cut which only the most beautiful women could wear” and (of course) transforms her into a raging beauty. Entertainer Josephine Baker sports an Eton crop below:
However, Krantz points out in Mistral’s Daughter that
In this period a haircut could make or break a woman. Women who only ten years before had been considered lovely in their Edwardian draperies and the floating clouds of their elaborately dressed hair, were denuded and exposed to the cruel light of day without any grace or charm left to them all in the name of fashion. Women who would once have been reigning beauties were revealed as scarecrows, with scalped heads perched like knobs on top of unfashionably plump shoulders. A poorly shaped skull could ruin a young woman’s future.
The fun F. Scott Fitzgerald short story “Bernice bobs her hair” has a similar message. (You can read the text here.) I didn’t realise until I googled that Fitzgerald probably named his heroine after Berenice II, wife of the Egyptian Pharoah Ptolemy III. During her husband’s absence on an expedition to Syria in c. 246 BC, Berenice offered her hair to the goddess Aphrodite for his safe return, and placed it in the temple of the goddess when he did indeed return. Then the hair mysteriously disappeared. The astronomer Conon of Samos (who was either a bit of a creep or trying to save the temple priests from being put to death) explained the phenomenon by saying that it had been carried to the heavens and placed among the stars. A constellation became known as Coma Berenices (or Berenice’s Hair). Berenice appears on a coin below (image from Wikipedia Commons):
I won’t be doing anything drastic like bobbing my hair. I’m just going to give it a trim. I must be sure to offer myself a cup of tea and ask myself if I’m going anywhere nice for my holidays this year. Now, where are the scissors…