Humour: Happy new hair
The two seasons of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag were filled with acute observations about the messiness of modern lives. Its humour stemmed from the tragic-comic lengths we go to straighten them out, as if we were dealing with an unruly mop of hair. The analogy becomes literal in the salon meltdown scene in Season 2, when Fleabag’s severe sister, Claire, has a haircut that she says makes her “look like a pencil”. Throughout the show, the troubled character uses hair makeovers to cope better with – and even reinvent – her life. It may be said that, to an extent, we’re all Fleabag’s sister.
The bald truth
Haven’t you, dear reader, often contemplated a dramatic break from the monotony of your life with a clean-shaven head? The urge is primal. As for those who are already there: despite all our jokes and sniggers, we secretly admire you. Confronting life head on, without the distractions of thick or thinning locks, you inspire us. Personally, I advocate a gender-agnostic approach to the issue; Persis Khambatta, that beautiful beacon from the ’70s, showed just how powerful an image a shaved female head can be, in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). But those of us less confident about the shape of our heads and robustness of our spirits still have some way to go before we can surrender to the cold comfort of a razor.
I have, over the decades, heard women of all ages express the urge to go bald in moments of rebellion, even as men usually speak of it with dread and disappointment. If only we could all, by universal consensus, rid baldness of all pejorative labels. From fashionistas to footballers, there is no dearth of pioneers. All we have to do is channel our inner radical, down that bottle of whiskey left over from the NYE party for three, and get into an unfamiliar salon, where there’s no danger of being stopped by a faint-hearted stylist.
I have been trying to change my “hairdo” (which one kind friend recently described as “modest but self-assured”) for ages now. Entirely devoid of personality, its unremarkable waves lie locked between the unforgiving teeth of a cheap hair clip. But every time I ask Imran the stylist to give me a chic haircut, he assures me I wouldn’t be able to pull off anything “funky”. All around me, I see people getting bangs and layers, buzzes and crops with fine flourishes. I, meanwhile, am condemned to a lifetime of insipid trims and invisible styles. Perhaps I, too, should visit one of those posh salons where you’re pre-emptively handed a list of questions that range from ‘What’s your party style?’ to ‘What’s your spirit animal?’, followed by a brainstorming session over chamomile tea and House music.
From Elizabeth Harmon in The Queen’s Gambit to Lady Diana in The Crown, hair couture has never been more in your face. We have these immaculately coiffed actors in our heads all the time, thanks to the intimate nature of OTT shows and how we consume them. There’s not too much to like in the period drama meets promcom, Bridgerton, other than the racial diversity in its casting, but the petulant queen’s a riot, from her love of gossip to her elaborate and absurd wigs – a reminder of how irreverence is a timeless style statement.
Fifty shades of grey
For those who are too timid for bangs or baldness, highlights offer the perfect middle ground. They add just a bit of novelty to mirror-gazing, and provide just enough fodder for conversation, without dominating it completely. A situation that echoes the memorable election slogan from the satirical political drama, Veep: ‘Continuity with Change.’
I’ve grumbled about using colour to subtly cover greys for years now, each time vowing that I’ll kick the loathsome habit. Then I tell myself how this ageing gracefully business is oversold. Why can’t I go kicking and screaming into middle age, and from there into the Great Beyond, with a shock of coloured hair and pair of mismatched socks? More power to those who embrace their crown of grey with dignity and refinement. But how uplifting are those who brighten up our bleak times with halos of neon green and unearthly purple.
From HT Brunch, January 17, 2021
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