Once America pulled itself out of The Great Depression and the boys were home from WWII, women started wearing elaborate time-intensive hairstyles; notably the beehive and the bouffant (popularized by Jackie Kennedy). Throughout the sixties, the sky was the limit to how high a woman could pile her ‘do.
Ah, yes. A class full of eager beauty school graduates ready to make their mark upon the world. In the 1960s, the salon was the headquarters for the suburban mom; it was the gossip hub and bored housewife central. Women had to be well manicured and those Sixties hairdos required a lot of tender loving care.
Yes, big was “in”; but who had the greatest head of hair in the 60s? In film, I think the award goes to Marjorie Lord…
Marjorie Lord’s titanic bouffant in the Bob Hope comedy Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! (1966) is the bouffant by which all bouffant’s shall be judged.
Even as we moved away from the Mad Men era of wigs and bouffants, the Swingin’ Sixties brought with it a new variety of bold hair styles. Yes, you had the close cropped Twiggy and Mia Farrow look; but you also had perm Xtremes as shown above.
What better place to look for big heaping mounds of hair than in these old girly magazines. 1960s were all about the bouffant, and the skin mags were not about to show you drab girls with limp hair. Quite the contrary – big was in, and it is a beauty to behold.
Of course, a lot of these big hairstyles weren’t exactly natural. Wigs were not at all uncommon in the 1960s…
Starting with the counter-culture movement in the late Sixties, a more flat hippie style became trendy. The glory days of the massive do’s were seemingly over, with only the afro keeping the big hair tradition alive for the early part of the decade.
While the white girls sported the limp unwashed look, blacks went big. The afro was an affirmation of Black African heritage and a rejection of Eurocentric standards of beauty. For an entire article looking at all time greatest afros, go here.
But it wasn’t all flat and boring among Caucasians. Country music singers had their share of big hair.
The gospel/religious singers also sported a goodly number of massive domes…
For more on this, read an entire article on religious album covers and their sins of fashion.
I should also mention that the wig was by no means dead in the 1970s. The advert below is from 1977.
Then came “The Farrah”
Jackie Kennedy inspired thousands of women to sport the bouffant, and Jennifer Anniston, decades later, popularized the layered look…… but none will ever compare to the hair style craze inspired by Farrah Fawcett on Charlie’s Angels. Every girl was sporting one, and the style even became named after her: “The Farrah Do” or just “The Farrah”. It wasn’t as enormous as the bouffant, but it definitely qualified as “big”.
Basically the style goes like this: (1) approximately shoulder length, (2) layered around face (3) feathered back, (4) flipped, and (4) bangs. Blow dry the shit out of it (upside down) and hairspray. That’s it.
Amazingly, big-ass hair kept on truckin’ through the 1980s. The bouffant and beehive were long gone, but enormous hairspray drenched mounds of hair were as synonymous with the decade as skinny ties and Ray-Bans.
The picture above is from 1984, and I think as good a representation as any as to the status of big hair in the 80s. It certainly couldn’t be called “extreme”, but it was still all about the hair back then.
A few years later, the 80s hair band thing was big, and I the gargantuan hairsprayed look reached its logical extreme. There was nowhere to go but down.
Since then, I don’t think big hair has made any sort of comeback (although it still may be in effect in parts of New Jersey). I must admit that I kind of like the big hair look, but I understand it was a hassle, and like most things these days, quick and easy is the name of the game.
Yet, I feel a hankering for another round. There’s just nothing better than those big domes of hair, oftentimes appearing to defy gravity with vast curls spiraling into the upper reaches of the atmosphere. The decades of the 60s-80s were home to mighty swaths of hair curled and folded upon itself beyond reason and wigs that needed shanks of rebar to maintain their girth. They say al of fashion is cyclical – so, I think big, big hair is due for a comeback.