hair rant: the bangin’ 80s


Minniedrivercurlybangsmarch2002cons There is no way in hell I’ll ever, ever go shoulder-length with my curly hair again. Ever. I hated it even more than my McHair. The whole reason I mentioned the country western singer thing in my previous post is because I KNOW IT’S TOO LONG. I also currently have, and always will have, long layers. I refuse any cut where I HAVE TO blow dry any part of my hair, including bangs. It’s just too strange to me having curly hair with straight bangs, and ringlet bangs, even on Minnie Driver five years ago, simply don’t do the trick. Or even having to put a curling iron to my head every single morning: no way. It’s hard enough getting myself to shower.

I’ve tried pulling the hair across my forehead and tucking it behind an ear to dry. It doesn’t work. It just dries straight-ish, and it won’t stay over there. I have a cowlick that just begs to be renamed.

I also HATE, while I’m on the subject, places that specialize in curly hair. "Yes, we really carve the curl," they’ll tout. What-the-fuck-ever. You do not. They give you shorter layers near your face, and say this undercutting will really make it so much "lighter." No it won’t. It will make it shorter. Here’s the biggest problem; they try to convince you that because they’ve left some length in the back, that your hair really isn’t short. What it is, is an incognito mullet. If you pull all your hair back behind your shoulders, then shake your head, the shorter layers move forward, and it looks as if you’ve two different haircuts. Quite frankly, you look like a Springer Spaniel.

200402211_spotp343218702vThose curl specialty hairdressers drown your hair in product, sit you under a heat lamp with clips clamped to your scalp, all after sopping up a shellac of gel by scrunching your curls with paper towels. I hate the whole technique. I believe in going to a good all-around salon, seeing a top stylist if you can, WHO HAS CURLY HAIR HERSELF. I’m quite aware than many a man-stylist has curl talent, but without knowing them by name, I’m going to someone whose hair I envy. Otherwise, it’s like being stuck with the teal eyeshadow chick at the makeup counter who thinks orange lipstick is the way to go. Though she’ll argue, "No, no. It’s a soft coral."

And, just FYI, if there were ever a picket line fighting for the rights of Henna, I’d cross it, then flash it my cooch. In the meanwhile, I’m considering a few thin blond highlights, and actually checking out Curly Girl.



  1. omigosh your junior high look just like mine! I remember the fight as I daily tried to tease and and flatten my curly bangs into the dreamy high rooster like wave, but all I got was strangely curved crunchy droopy locks! no amount of Aqua Net would allow my bangs and hair to look like the rest of my friends! And I agree, after a lifetime of bad haircuts and salon fear, I found it took a stylist with curly hair in order to be able to cut my hair! I remember being a girl and believing the stylists that claimed they would trim" just an inch", and all of the sudden, instead of an Alyssa Milano dreamy hairdo, your curls were bouncing up past your shoulders and poofing into a big halo.

  2. I was trying to explain to my boyfriend why I will never have short hair, even when I am older with kids running around and my friends will have fallen for the traditional 'mom' haircut. But, a curly-haired girl like yourself, you just can't do it. Every couple of years, I THINK I can do shoulder/shorter length and it is a lie.

    The longer my hair is, the better it looks and the more I love it. All the straight-haired girls can get excited about side-swept bangs and bobs and 'framing their face.' I secretly think all guys prefer long hair.

  3. I agree. Growing up with curly hair, the hairdressers who claimed to really know curly hair were the worst. They either treated you like a topiary or left you with that awful triangle-hair.
    It left me so fed up with my hair that I just straighten it now. And I find that the normal straight-hair layered cuts I get look better curly than my curly cuts did. Maybe someday I'll go back to curly but…. not in a long while.

  4. this post made me laugh. i have straight hair – stick straight hair – that i have only this past year accepted. im 49 and i have finally made peace with the fact that in this lifetime, i am never going to have curly hair. we always want what we dont have :).

  5. My friend swears by the book, "Curly Girl." She said it changed her life.

    Good luck in finding a curly girl stylist!

  6. I loathe the patronizing, twee attitude of those curly-only places– "oh you've been drying your hair with a TOWEL? No no no, you must gently blot with a paper towel."
    Actually I hate any stylist who wants to tell me ANYTHING about my own hair.

    I had bad eighties bangs, too. Like big hair but not on purpose. Now I go back and forth with curls and blowouts– blowouts make me calmer I swear– but last year I got bangs for the first time in like 20 years. I love them. They took away the unruliest part of my hair: the front. Now they look great blownout, and I clip them aside to dry curly. They just sort of blend. Love them. For years I thought they'd never work. My hair is sort of Felicity or Bernadette Peters.

  7. I've had many days when looking like a springer spaniel would have been a vast improvement.

    FWIW, I think your hair looks stunning in both the previous post shots. I also think both outfits are perfectly nice. However, all the comments make it very clear to me that I do not spend even half the amount of time I should dissecting the minutiae of cut, drape, length, etc. On the other hand, I can get ready for almost any occasion in about half an hour, shower included.

    Love the photos. You were an adorable child, and I still cannot get over the mindfuck your parents pulled on you.

  8. I think my favorite is the wonderful Benetton rugby in the photo THAT brings back memories..

  9. Oh my God…you have the best Curly Girl Stylist in Austin…her name is Georgia and she is at Pink on South Congress. I fly in from Dallas just to have her do my hair. Amd I TOTALLY agree with you about the 2-haircut mullet! She does not have curly hair, but she has been giving me the best long layers, that are not too texturized…taking all the weight off of the ends leaves my hair a big frizz ball, and that's what most hairdressers want to do…Georgia knows better. I get compliments on my hair all the time since I found her.
    Good Luck-

  10. Man, I sooooo feel you with the bangs! Thing is, I completely rocked the 80's bangs look because my curly hair was really easy to tease, poof and aqua net. Unfortunately, I got stuck in it. Until I completely grew my hair out. After I had my duo, I had NO time for a haircut and did nothing with it for over 3 years. I'm in my mid-40's (ouch), though very young at heart and completely rebelling against the whole 'your age' thing. I love my curls, I love bangs. I cut 11 inches off my hair a few months ago and was shocked I didn't miss it a bit. Unbelievably, I received many, many compliments on it and I completely forgot how when my hair was short it just sucked up into these ringlets on my head. It's growing fast and I want my length back, I like my curls, I just wish I could find a bang style. I feel your anguish about the bang and mullet thing, it's going to be a tricky re-growth. I want layers, bangs, length; but NO MULLET!!!! See, I have a five-head, not a forehead… with a ginormous crease. I. Need. To. Hide. The. Forehead. My five-head is very aging. Please review curly-girl and post about it.

  11. Brian at Roar, on 5th street, is probably the best stylist i've found in Austin, or even NY or DC area. He cuts hair exactly as he says he will, and always listens to suggestions and will have a conversation with you about it before cutting/dyeing. He also cuts hair so you can shower, towel dry and then get on with your day. I've never had to use a blow dryer or product, and usually not even a brush with his cuts.

    He does completely shave his head though…

  12. I actually had wavy-straight hair growing up and it became curlier as I got older. Now it's very very curly underneath and wavy around my hairline. I do not trust any hairdresser to touch it! I cut it myself in long layers. It doesn't matter as long as it's semi-even. I let it air dry-overnight for the best curls. I would never ever cut it shoulder-length. There is so much poetry in long, curly hair. Enjoy it.

  13. HI Stephanie!

    I love reading your posts!
    Thank you for your honesty, vulnerability and amazing gift for touching others who read your work.

    Quick question: I just recently moved to NJ. I also have curly hair. It is up to my shoulders! (Eeekk..I know!) I am trying to grow out my hair. Is there a hair salon in NYC that you trust and recommend? That won't cut my hair, and leave me with never ending shoulder length curly hair! Any products that you swear by, besides "Be Curly"?
    Thank you so much.

    FROM STEPHANIE: I really only swear by Infusium leave in conditioner (almost like water). I'm still really working on finding the rest of my way. I might have to go back to Ouidad and get their Tres/FX gel. I've tried oh so many things and I can't find anything right after L'Oreal discontinued their anti-frizz gel.

  14. Im cracking up over those pics. I totally did that shit with my bangs. Squirt 'em up after gym class. Hehe. And is there a heavy silver heart attached to that chain? Damn. I feel old.

  15. Ahh – I loved this post. I have your hair exactly, which I dare to wear past the bra strap at 33. And people who suggest that you cut it are just jealous. My only issue is that I have a very hard time feeling formal or professional without blowing it out.

  16. As a fellow curly redhead, I feel for you. Just a warning that the author of "Curly Girl" founded one of those dreaded "curls-only" salons in NYC — Devachan. I actually have my first appointment there this weekend. Wish me luck.

  17. My sister has curly hair and she swears by the Ouidad hair products and even goes to an Ouidad trained stylist. Her hair looks great—defined curl without the fuzzball effect.

  18. I think cutting 5 or so inches off would be good for you. Nothing drastic, just get rid of the old stuff. The rest will be so healthy and bouncy!

    FROM STEPHANIE: I am willing to part with three inches (never five) and believe I may just have to bring a ruler with me. I'll have to make the appointment in New York while I'm there. Getting though security with all that luggage, all that toddler, and that carriage and all that mouth. Well, it's work. I wonder who I'll see at Nubest Salon.

  19. I had no idea there was such thing as "curls-only" salons! I need one in Orlando in case anyone knows of one, or someone that is great with curly hair…

  20. Love the mall hair photos, Stephanie! My Mom has super thick curly hair and has just discovered Kerastase salon products for curly hair- for the first time in years, her hair is manageable and looks great.

  21. Oh, how I feel your pain. I can't get my hair cut without looking like Cher circa "If I could turn back time" because the stylists insist on diffusing it, even when I warn them ahead of time. Other times I look like the triangle-haired woman from the Dilbert comic. When it's long, it's the romantic Waterhouse Painting look, but it's the 21st century! What's a girl to do? I'll have to check out that book.

  22. I have curls too, and I live in Florida. Where it's HUMID. Straightening it is useless three hours into the night it only ends up looking as if I BRUSHED my hair. FRIZZ city.

    YES! Stylists say that they are good with curly hair and then proceed to do EXACTLY what you said. So, I sit in that chair and tell them HOW to cut my hair.

    I totally agree with going to someone with curls. When I was calling salons here after the move, I asked the receptionist if any stylists had long, curly, curly hair. The answer I repeatedly got was "ALL of our stylists are GOOD."

    I was sorry to correct the new stylist I went to (I moved away from my most wonderful stylist) when she started to cut my hair with a RAZOR! That right there told me she knew NOTHING about curly hair…she then tried to load my head up with three different products. My curls get Clairol condition Mousse (it's like, $1.99 and on the bottom shelf!) and NOTHING ELSE. I hate it when my curls crunch.

    I'm interested to know what your "system" is- how do you get your curls so big and springy? I rinse my hair upside down and NEVER NEVER touch it again except to scrunch mousse into it. Air Dry summer, blow dry scrunching upside down in winter.

    and..I'm rockin curly bangs.

  23. I have majorly curly hair, I have tried the curly cuts, by someone who had curly hair and actually uses the Devachan technique and products, (which is what CurlyGirl- is all about btw), and I was happy. My expectations were not out of this world though, as in- to have beautiful waves of curls like Jenni Pulos on Flipping Out, or Salma Hayek when she has cascading curls (my dream hairs…)– I have very very difficult hair, I think more difficult texturally and lengthwise than you Stephanie.

    I think the bottom line with regards ~to bang or not to bang/ to layer -not to layer/ to chop off more or not to~ is what will it do ultimately to your face. Hair ultimately frames the face, and i'm sorry but not everyone can get away with certain styles of their hair. I wish so much i could wear certain styles with my curls, but i know what can be pulled off with this face of mine and what can't. It would be great to look at hair as it's own entity. But I'm sorry, really when i look at Minnie Driver, it's almost sad that her hair is her only (immediate, superficial) beautiful quality. Girlfriend is a bit fugly imo! Hair is not it's only thing, I dont get when people define themselves from it. People see your face overall, and body, and from there form those immediate first impressions.
    Hair frames, that is its truest function. You need to really find a great stylist who can do that for you.
    PS the Deva (curlygirl) products are great, though i'm sure Ouidad is comparable, as are the new HairRules products which are just for curly girls, and the MoroccanOil line of products- which also have their own thing for c'girls.
    Also, as negative a connotation as many may have with it, there is this curlytowel product that Bed Bath Beyond (and others) sells that dries your hair differently than a towel, and i do measure some minimal frizziness. Hey if it helps.
    When in doubt i just return to Kerastase or Loreal Professionel. Never let me down everrrrrr.
    last resort if you really hate what is going on and can't find an adequate stylist Stephanie, there is the Brazilian keratin treatment to get, but that is a) $$$$ and b) full of chemicals, but i know tons of gals who have rave reviews. And that is not just for curls, it's for overall thickness and frizziness problems. And it washes out and ultimately only moisturizes.

    Good luck!

  24. Caroline, there is poetry if IT LOOKS GOOD ON YOU and your face. I'm sorry, i partially agree. And shoulder length is not the only answer- there is below that as well!

  25. Jenny you really ought to try HairRules stuff, great new stuff out now. Deva products are pretty good. Ouidad is good as well. Good luck!

  26. Stephanie, sorry one more thing– your hair was so softly curly when you were younger, hardly curly! you were so lucky. I wish i had your hair, then or now!
    ps your eyebrows were adorable. I wish i still had my brows from youth, but i overplucked in HS and now they are not the same.

  27. I have curly hair that was cut to a godawful shoulder length (when straight, I didn't even bother to ever let it curl up) currently on my chest and I sooo feel your pain. I swear by Frederic Fekkai's Glossing shampoo and Lucious Curls cream with Kerastase Bain Oleo-Relax conditioner and serum, and now I can kind of, sort of deal with the mane.

    Just for curls salons are simply atrocious. Sigh. Anyway, it's nice to know that there's someone else in the trenches.

  28. I have hair just like Stephanie's, though brown. Here is my regiment: towel dry a bit, use a quarter size of Paul Mitchell 'The Conditioner'(leave in), following by KMS Molding paste (dime size). Then I use a wide-tooth comb and comb my hair flat to my head, run my fingers through to get ringlets, flip my head over, spray with Loreal Mega spritz and hair dry without a diffuser (but with a hair dryer that doesn't push too much air). Then I use the Body Shop 'Coconut Oil Hair Shine' to smooth out any frizz. Works like a charm….

  29. I feel your pain, I, too, have curly hair and have tons opf horror stories. The best advice that I have received so far, has been from you. I just adore the Melting Gel that you reccommended. I could not live without it and I never would have tried it if you hadn't suggested it. Merci!

  30. I have crazy curly hair and Curly Girl is the best thing that I ever tried. Check out the forum at naturallycurly. com. It will answer a lot of your questions and give you some great ideas.

    I do agree 100% – long curly hair always looks so much nicer that short curly hair.

    Good luck!!

  31. Posting again to warn against that Brazilian treatment. Much has been written about the fact that it contains dangerous levels of formaldhyde that is linked to cancer.

    Moving on, I have a great and cheap curly stylist at Amour D Hair on 89th and Lex – her name is Julie and she makes me look like she never did a thing and my hair just feels great. I went to Fekkai and they chopped it all off.

    Finally, I think if you start with Sebastian Potion 9 any other styling product works.

  32. Just a quick FYI – Curly Girl is the Devachan bible… so being that your explanation of the curly salon you hate is undoubtedly Devachan, beware!!

    And, try Garnier Fructis' Smoothing Milk. It's a cream, but amazing… i too was in love with Anti-Frizz Gel – it was the first and best thing i ever used in my hair – and Smoothing Milk is fabulous too. I put it on the top and bottom layers, then make myself into Cousin It and put it in the middle of my hair too… give it a shot!

  33. We have almost identical hair from what I can tell (though I admit my color isn't natural like yours…). So far, my best hair bet has been my former drag queen hairdresser. He had long curly hair and definitely knows what to do with mine (even if he leaves a little more length than I like). Mine is past the bra line at 31, and I finally love it. I am so over mullets. And blow outs. I just wear it curly or pull it back. Period. But, then again, I'm lazy.

  34. I'm totally caught in that trap between secretly preferring my hair a little on the longer side (somewhere past my shoulders but above the bra strap) and pining for a more sophisticated shorter look.

    I'm 27. I don't want long, flowing, big-barrel curling iron Jessica Simpson hair. I don't want to look like I think I'm a teenager or in a beauty pageant or on the red carpet. I see those people at Starbucks in the morning and think "who do they think they're kidding?" So I keep chopping and then regretting it and letting it grow out.

  35. Everyone's head is different but one of my curly haired gfs recently cut off about 10 inches of her beautiful ringleted mane to donate to locks of love. I didn't think she could possibly be any prettier but the much shorter, curly bob on her is downright glamourous. Never say never and don't get in a hair rut. I love my hair dresser because she can tell me why my hair won't perform like the magazine photos I bring in–like because my hair is wavy, the model's is straight and I refuse to do anything but blowdry mine upside down or use more than one styling product. Still I never end my pursuit of the perfect cut that will render my hair fabulous without any work on my part.

  36. We called it 'wall bangs' – lean against a wall and spray until they stood up. Ole!

    It's better for your hair to air dry anyway but since I moved to Austin I gave up heat styling. It gets so humid it doesn't matter what I do to straighten my wavy hair. I just use leave in conditioner or some anti-frizz stuff (I like the Garnier smoothing milk someone else mentioned) and I'm set. My hair actually looks better and has less heat damage so is growing long finally. I see Kelly at Platypus salon in Austin; a one man salon and he's excellent. He listens and never chops too much. That has been so hard to find for me.

    Do not cut your hair. I really agree with Olive; long hair is pretty but it has to suit the person's face. Someone else said they suspect most men like long hair and I really agree with that. I can count on one hand the men I've talked to who've said they prefer short. Even so, I think we should wear what suits our face shape (and lifestyle). You have a nice oval face so you're fortunate to be able to wear long or short if you want. But when we're old and gray (and our hair starts thinning) we'll look back on the unruly curls with nostalgia. So keep 'em long!

    @ Kat, are you the same Kat who had the Kitty Can Scratch blog? If so I miss it!!
    And Barbara E, I love how protective you are! You're probably a wonderful mother:)

  37. That's the kicker–make sure your stylist has curly hair herself/himself. It took me twenty-five years to find "my guy", but we've now had a ten year hair love affair. I've followed him from Nashville to L.A. and back, and it's been worth every penny.

  38. What cracks me up about these photos is that I used to pay tons of money to make my hair look like this. I have stick-straight hair and from the time I was 9 until I was in college, I permed the heck out of my hair. I loved it. All of my school pictures look like yours.

    I finally embraced the straight, but I miss my fake curls!

  39. Finally someone voices my pain. I went to the mall and I just wanted a trim. I told the stylist…."no product, I just want to deal with it when I get home". So after the cut she took what looked like a babies head size blob of mousse…no exagerration, and she said "this is just moisturizer" I walked out of there looking like Fran Dreiser from the nanny. My roomie at the time was male and he laughed so hard when I walked out…because I was wearing overalls and no make-up with "big mall hair". I just said "get me out of here now".

    .S. Melting Gel…it is good stuff, my boyfriend uses it now too and he has straight hair!

  40. Well, I have straight hair….no, I used to have straight hair. I now have aging white hairs that have no control at all and zig and zag and stand straight up and it is awful…so I just let it grow and wear it pulled up and back and each day is an adventure to put it kindly. Whatever hair you have a young woman the day will come when you long for it.

  41. Ah, you were so cute! I love your little innocent face. Thank you for posting your adolescent photos.

    I have straight-ish hair but my 7 YO daughter has red curly hair and the book Curly Girl has saved us. I'm so glad you're reading it. I can't follow the advice to the letter, because she's 7 mainly, but the book has done more four our mother-daugher relationship than anything else I can think of.

  42. This is funny…I had to pay BIG bucks back in the '80s for perms to make my hair look like that!

    The grass is always greener, but I don't miss the huge, satellite dish bangs I was kicking. Oh the memories!

  43. I too have been "blessed" with curly hair. I only learned to accept it about 5 yrs ago (I am 34 now). I started going to a Ouidad salon in Pineville, NC (right outside Charlotte) called Blis. I am a penny pincher, and I am frugal in most parts of my life, except my haircut. I do not use all the Ouidad products, but I do get the cut. My hair is all one length, no funny side and back differences. It is barely past my shoulders (in its natural curly state), but I think that is a s long as my hair goes. It is NOT a cut you can get and decided to be curly some days, and straight others. There are not layers.
    As I said, I am cheap….so I use LA LOOKS yellow gel. Cheap but hold the curls togehter and no frizz. I air dry.
    I just decided to get bangs this past week, and again like last time, I am not sure what to do with them. I am blowing them out, but I feel like an 80's throwback. So I will probably find some middle ground that leaves them a bit curly, so it doesn't look like I fastened fake hair to the front of my forehead.

  44. Unless you have had curly hair, you really don't understand the 'issues'. As a girl of mixed racial heritage, I got somewhat 'lucky' as I got hair half way between my mom bone straight thin hair and my dads tight kinky afro. I still went through everything you speak about trying to make me hair straight with every product under the sun….nothing really worked well for longer than 2 hours. I have resigned myself to layered natural hair with highlights and I am fairly satisfied most of the time. Having curly hair is great but can be a curse at the same time. The grass is always greener, I always say! Thanks for sharing your photos…I think we were twins.

  45. Amy i totally totally agree w you on the Brazilian Keratin- trust me i wouldnt do it to my hair– there was a fantastic article in Allure about 6 months ago about it.
    But if i tell you how many girls i know dont care and do it anyway! Even my pregnant friend wants to do it and i keep telling her no one will do it to her. Ha.
    My local salon even does it outside because no one can stand the chemical smell inside. They all wear masks.
    But it really is an option for some people, even non-curlies.

  46. I agree that you have to be super careful when you have curly hair. I love "What Not To Wear," but Nick the hairstylist (who has curly hair) always cuts curly hair way too short. He definitely mullets them and they always have a deer in the headlights look when they see the results.

  47. Well I have stupid, stupid wavy hair! Not curly, not straight just thick and wavy and it grows out instead of down just like your curly hair. I have to keep it long too otherwise it makes me insane.

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