Hair: Failing funky

My head was turned by new salon on my street: orange Vespa parked in front, orange and high-gloss white decor, retro bossa nova groovily wafting. Pitchers of water with fresh mint and orange slices, croissants, espresso bar. Nice people, cool place. 

And hey, the name is "The Redhead" in French. Was this not meant to be?

"Brigitte", a flame-haired stylist in a sequined t-shirt, told me I should have something "un peu plus 'funky'". I believe in letting stylists do their thing; my only stipulation was to be able to dab in some product and go, no hot irons or blowouts. Though shocked by the amount of (my) hair on the floor, I walked out happy– it was a change– but almost immediately began thinking "I need to get used to it." 

Day 1: Trying to make friends

Here's that cut. I am already questioning it in this photo. At my left, out of camera range, sits a largish glass of chablis.

Yesterday, Brigitte had casually achieved a Janelle Monae poof on the long side which I could not replicate. It's hip, but looks odd with my Hermès scarf. I remove the scarf; the cut is still kind of jarring. My hair is now loaded with a wax that leaves residue on my pillow.

Day 4: Party

A few nights later, I join three girlfriends with great hair. We are all over 60. Though Francine, at far left, looks grey, her hair is actually that sixteen shades of blonde thing.

R., on my right, and I have been close friends since '82. She said nothing, which said something, know what I mean?

I ask myself when, in the last three decades, I had seen this style, and the answer is, on me in...1985. I begin to have serious reservations. Like the Dorothy Hamill wedge, should this 'do come back?

I receive this party photo and like everyone's hair but mine.

Day 5: Seeking expert advice

After studying the photo evidence, I Skype another longtime friend, the forthright Susan, and ask what she thinks. She always looks terrific in a natural, breezy way and has worked as an image consultant. 

Susan does not hesitate a second: calls it dated and dreadful. We decide the cut is like a mullet rotated 90 degrees and about as current.

Day 6: Get this thing off my head!

The next morning, I take another chance at a different nearby salon, Blush. Totally different vibe: Femmy and formal, with crystal chandeliers like an opera house's. I simply enter on a whim and beg for book the first available slot.

The stylist, Maggie, is a calm, 50ish woman who handles my curls deftly, evincing thirty years of experience. Her first words are, "Passé", and "I can fix this".

The fix is more or less my usual style, if shorter over the ears. "We are going to get more length here", Maggie says, tugging down both sides like the 'do is a pair of misbehaving Spanx.

And this costs 30% less! No fancy bevvies, but I am offered samples of masques and a pen.

Someone might prefer the funky cut. If so, I have some Pat Benetar albums for you.

What did I learn?
1. Let a stylist experiment, but realize that you may not be suited to his or her idea.
2. Funky after 50 (OK, well after) is unwise unless you're maintaining your signature look. Think Suzanne Bartsch, Suzy Menkes, Lynn Yaeger.
3. Everyone needs a friend with a good eye and absolutely no qualms about being honest.

I suspect, the "If you wore it the first time, don't wear it the second time around" aphorism goes for hairstyles as well as clothes.

I'm not sorry I took a chance; you have to, if you wonder what you'd look like with something different. But I didn't return to Brigitte for the fix; her sensibility does not correspond to mine.

How wild a departure have you taken? Did it work out?


Anonymous said…
I think I had that haircut, or its cousin, in 1983, when I came back from Paris.

My most recent "big change" was growing my hair WAY out when I moved to California in 2004 (I blame Dyan Cannon). It was a lot of fun being able to do millions of things with it, but now when I look at the pictures I wonder what I was thinking.

From now on, it's never much outside the framework of earlobes to shoulders.
Susan B said…
I think your second cut looks great. The mind immediately went "80's" but not inherently terrible. My hair really doesn't do "funky" (unless I were to shave one side of my head) though some consider my current short Jean Seberg pixie funky. But I am about to go redder. ;-) If it weren't for the maintenance, I'd do a full Christina Hendricks right now; that's just the mood I'm in. And I'm letting the bangs grow out just a bit. What actually looks worst on me, IMO, is a very classic bob. My hair has no body and it looks lank and frumpy. One of the best, best haircuts I ever had was from a little Puerto Rican bluehair salon in NY back in the 90's that I stumbled into from desperation on a business trip. Man that woman could cut hair!
jeda21 said…
Congrats on your success the second time around. It suits you much better. Some stylists tend to impose a particular perspective/personality on the client, rather than really understanding the client. At my current stylist's, I keep getting the helmet/Beckham style cut that looks best when ironed...even though my hair is naturally wavy and I wear it so every day! I think it's time for a new stylist. A bientot.
Nancy K said…
I liked the first picture, but the second one with friends looks to big, and yes dated. The fix looks great. Curly hair needs a great haircut and not everyone is good with it. Stick with the second stylist.
Viktoria Berg said…
I´m very envious of your red curls, and I think the second cut is more you. I do see these 80´s cuts on 20-somethings now, and it´s kinda fun. On them.

Personally, I have cut my own hair for years, and my style usually involves an updo of some sort. It´s gone from hiplength to shoulder and after many miscuts and experiments I am now quite confident about my skill. Wouldn´t recommend it though, unless you are crafty and have some sense of humour about looking temporarily a bit off. (Which you have just proven can happen even with an expensive stylist.) Hair is important, and taste varies a lot.
LPC said…
Interesting. I quite liked the first cut. Maybe it's the Northern California influence? The second is nice too, and certainly more soigne, but I kinda liked the 80s look:).

Fun to see more photos of you, no matter the reason...
I like the first cut but think it would need large earrings to make it pop.
The second one seems less edgy, softer and relaxed. I think it looks better.
I have a fabulous stylist who is my age and she has so much experience that I trust her completely, when she retires I'll be lost!
Wendelah said…
I have had my hair cut every which way, from Twiggy short, to half-way down my back. I've worn a curly perm, dyed my hair blond and dyed it back again to light brown. Right now it's shoulder-length, with long layers to soften my jawline, in my natural color. I like it.

I'm going to go against the crowd and say that I liked the first haircut better. Much better, actually. The length balanced your face, the asymmetry softened your look; overall, it was eons more attractive than what you've been doing for the past however many moons. I think you should have given it a chance before going back to the same old, same old. Luckily, it's making you happy and in the end that's the important thing.
Anonymous said…
My reaction was Une Femme's, exactly: the first haircut very 'eighties but not awful, the second much better. I like the shorter length; it looks crisp and youthful. And of course the great thing about short hair is that even a week or two will soften it considerably. I've had some bad haircuts--even the best haircutter can have a bad day--but generally just shrug and think, "It will grow."

Marsha said…
I live vicariously through posts such as this - and I so admire your determination to find a cut that looks and feels right to you! (I like the first cut, and I like the second, for different reasons - your curls are beautiful!) That said, I am heaving a large sigh of relief that I never succumb to the temptation to cut my own hair. I prefer to let it grow out of my head as nature intended, to put it up when it becomes too unruly, and to otherwise leave it alone. The very idea of "product" gumming it up weirds me out. And the idea of struggling to avoid being "passé" (how often must I check, and why does it matter if it looks good on me?) is exhausting. I thank you for reminding me of my own limitations and learnings.
Kristien62 said…
Your red curls are wonderful and I applaud the brave move of trying an unknown salon. I am almost married to my stylist who I found 7 years ago. She developed my current style which may very well become my signature style with little variations.

Your friends are a gorgeous and stylish group of ladies. Makes me happy to know that so many women of a certain age are maintaining their style and youthfulness. I find my 60's a self-affirming and exciting time of life.
Susan said…
I really liked your hair in the first photo, but not as much in the second photo with your friends. And, I question the maintenance issue with the funky cut.

I'm glad you are happy now. The short curls suit you and look easier to manage.

I have long hair and took the plunge to get a few layers cut into it during the summer. I feel it gives my hair more movement. I've had it cut this way twice now. I've had layers previously which did not work out, so I was taking a chance.
Duchesse said…
rubi: Too funny, I can just see you with big hair, but there is something to fitting in to a place and time.Une

Une Femme: Yes, it was well-cut in that style. Red is lots of fun, but the most fragile of colours if you want CH red, you will have to give it a booster rinse at the two week point. (Mine used to be redder, and this was the drill.)

Jessica: One stylist told me "We have 30 seconds to 'get' you. So maybe she saw someone else in those seconds. And some stylists fall in love with a style (like that Beckham) and everyone gets it, till they go to another seminar and get a new favourite.

Nancy K: The second stylist had the most amazing way of touching and working with hair; I can;t really describe it, it was like she had eyes in her fingertips.

Viktoria: I'm a pretty quiet hair and clothing woman, and do not like eccentric effects, so yes, it is more me.

LPC: I liked it too, but it clashed with my wardrobe and personality.

hostess: Oh go, no- then I'd feel even more '80s! Just not my look.

Wendeleh: I knew someone would prefer the first one, and my husband loved it!

C. The length will grow, and has already. She had to go that short to deal with the asymmetry.

Marsha: Your words, Why does it matter (if your hair is passé)? made me think. I don't mind looking my age, but to look stuck in another period of my life doesn't please me. W

I don't believe one can give "nature" a voice (the device of personification always gives me pause), or because hair *can* grow to whatever length it is
therefore somehow better to let it
do so. (You cut your nails, don't you?)

But if you enjoy your long hair, great! Hope you trim the ends, though, to show that glorious mane at its best.

Kristien62: It's great when you find 'your look'- you can relax and enjoy the services of a great stylist. That second cut is pretty much what Ive had for 4 or so years, with tweaks and forays into various tones of red. Before that I had an ultrashort pixie, which required a cut every 3 weeks.

Yes, they are vibrant, interesting women.
Duchesse said…
Nancy K; The first pic and the second were taken a day apart- my hair is bushes out like that in any humidity. That's one reason why I wear it short.
Duchesse said…
Susan: Sounds like you are happy with the layers and good for you for taking a chance, because that's quite a regrowing period if you decide you don't like it.
Duchesse said…
Viktoria: Exactly, the cut looks cute on 20-sometings, on me it looked like "Let's Do the Time Warp Again".
Unknown said…
Quite liked first pic of new cut but not group pic so much. Maybe something in the photography. Good to try something new you never know till you try. A few yrs ago I went to a posh salon in France and although it was a lot shorter I loved it. Might try again next week.
I actually like your hair in the first photo - but think it's best in the last. I've had some wild departures in my time but we're talking student days ie ancient history.
Mardel said…
I like the cut in the first picture, but in the second not so much. It seems out of character somehow. I do really like the 2nd cut on you.

I am particularly intrigued by the descriptions of the salons and the resultant haircuts.
materfamilias said…
I like the cut in that first picture, but I'm perhaps influenced by the colour being more mellow in that light.
We curly-heads! So much depends on a good stylist who really understands the very particular quality of our curls as well as our aesthetic and our lifestyle. I feel so fortunate -- extra glad that mine is 15 years younger than I am and has a mortgage that will keep her working for at least another 15 years. . .
Anonymous said…
Oh, I feel your pain. I foolishly went into a cheap hairdresser and foolishly said 'yes' when she said 'this much off'. Now it'll take months and months to get enough hair back to work with...

I agree about the first time around thing. I think my hair is pretty 80s (and was before it was cut too). My husband likes it curly (permed) and messy but I think I need to go to something tapered up to the back of my neck.

Duchesse said…
chicatanyage: The second pic was really how it looked, *very* asymmetrical. Sometimes a fresh eye on your hair is just fantastic, too.

That's Not My Age: Oh that takes me back! Bad streaks, superfrizz perm, broomstick cut...

Mardel: 'Out of character' nails it! Have since discovered that Blush (the second salon) makes clients wonderful cappucinos too.

materfamilas: I laughed! My first thought when I saw how good the second stylist was was, "How long before she retires". Yes, it is hard to cut a distinct style into all that curl that we both have.

Eleanorjane: Sometimes just a tweak like cutting up the neck or angling the sides gives a style a fresh spin. I love messy curls and have several friends with terrific cuts like that- but the curls need a shape or they just kind of hang there. Materfamilias has a great messy-curl cut.
william said…
Duchesse, you look very pretty in both pictures. I like the second cut better because it looks younger, more innocent and unself-conscious, and straightforward. Also more dignified. A good friend of my Mother's said her rule was to change something every month. I thought that was interesting. You have such a nice-looking group of friends! For me, the wildest thing I've done lately is to let my hair go gray. It looks silvery blond and I really like it this way. My sister said she thinks it looks more dignified not to be a bottle blond when one is 60 and I agree.

All best,
sisty said…
You look lovely either way, though the "fix" is more classic, and more "you." Keep the basics simple, an save your extravagance for those crazy pearls.
Jill Ann said…
Oh, hair! Think how much of our lives we have wasted in dealing with our hair! I am having a bit of a hair crisis myself lately. I've been going to a local stylist for several years. She has always done a pretty good cut & color, although I *hate* the way she styles my hair. But that didn't matter, I could always go home & fix it. But the last few cuts, something has been off. I have curly hair myself, which is always more challenging, plus it's started thinning in the last couple of years (horrors!) The cut just isn't working lately, and she can't seem to get it right. I want to go somewhere else, but that's so awkward when you've developed a relationship with a stylist. I may have figured out part of the problem, though: last couple of times I was in the salon, I was by far the youngest customer....and I'm 55! True, it was a weekday morning, but still. I need something more "edgy"!
materfamilias said…
Keep wanting to tell you that I posted a Nola photo a while ago
Always think of you when I do that, but I suspect you were still on your blog break then. . .
Duchesse said…
materfamilias: Oh, *thank* you! I so enjoy seeing N. grow. Delightful photos and I'm so glad you pointed me to them!
Anonymous said…
I'm okay with experimenting with my hair - it grows fast......I always remember the maxim you are only ever 2 weeks away from a good haircut. I stopped going to a hairdresser who was an expert cutter (in my top 3 of all time) because he didn't listen when I wanted a change. I think you used a great test for a new cut - try it with your regular jewellery/clothes. Love your hair - it's gorgeous!
M-C said…
I like the funky, but you're right that it doesn't really go with hermes. And if you insist on hermes, then you need the rest of you to be that staid too. I like it shorter in any case..
Duchesse said…
Caroline&Peter: Yes, and hairdressers say they look at the clothes you wear into the salon to 'get' what you would like.

M-C: Hermès is only "staid" if the wearer is. However, I am not "funky", either. Guess the closest description I'd offer is 'approaching-elder BoBo".
HB said…
Lovely curls you have - I can see how the second cut just works better for you. Especially since humidity does *thing* to your volume and shape. And what a great photo of your friends!

I recently cut off my long, but thinning, hair and changed the color (very dark with brid-of-frankenstein grey streaks). The cut I have grown to prefer is a bob with or without bangs. It's a throwback to the 80s but it works with my hair and my wash-n-go temperament. There is a struggle going on with my stylist who keeps trying to "release" the waves and curls I have by adding layers or texturizing the ends. It adds frizz. The blunt bob goes up for a more formal appeal, which I like, and keeps the frizz from taking over my day. My hairstylist is a genius with color but sadly I am not convinced on her abilities to cut and I may go in search of a different salon. When you have what feels like 10 hairs to the square inch of scalp, a good cut is essential.
Duchesse said…
HB: It's hard to leave when one element (cut or colour) is great and the other is off, bu the best colour cannot obscure a lackluster style. So- I'd change and keep moving till you find the right person. Texturizing guarantees frizz and an unfocused shape. A bob is always a good choice and a friend to to thinner hair. Wondering if the volumizing products work for you. Here, extensions (not to lengthen but to add more thickness from mid-crown down) are an immense business, but whoa, costly. Even women with relatively thick hair get them.
diverchic said…
I love the second cut. It is fun and bright and a change.

The posts with the most