Hair: Give us a crack at current styles

Classic bobs, ponytails, pixies and the shoulder-length mane: popular styles for women past 50, and I'll head off defensive comments by saying these are beloved classics for a reason: cut well, they look current and pretty.

I also see the retiree buzz job, the the man's-cut-on-a-woman helmet. I'm more leery of this one; only the rare grown woman doesn't look like she's out on a day pass, but stylists dole it out anyway.

Some of the current looks seem off limits to clients who need bifocals to read the bill. I'd like to see them at least offered, even if we decide against them.

It's not always the stylist's fault; my friend Alice looked at her 8th grade graduation photo one day and realized that she had not changed her cut for 45 years. (She found a new salon and got a fab makeover.) 

The styles below are all riffs on classics; it's the little detail that updates the 'do. None may be for you, but just like window shopping, it's useful to see what's current.
1. Undone braids and twists

We were the genration to own the ponytail, and it still lends a crisp, classic vibe to long hair, which more of us are keeping. But there are some updated long styles that would look stunning with grey hair.

I love the insouciance, the wink of the fan of ends, and the fact that you can garden in this style and not have to keep pushing it back. Yes, you do need to essay a side French braid, but that's a fun life skill to acquire. 

Girl, if I never see a lank ponytail trussed with a banana clip again, it's too soon. The young'uns deconstruct the updo with twisted sections. Works well on medium to long hair, just taking sections and playing.

Here's a curly version with the twists moved to the nape:

Directions and ideas are here; and take a look at another romantic braid, the fishtail. If you are worried about the pins showing, get some good-looking "tortoise" ones  and they'll seem deliberate.

2. Po-mo pixies

A pixie shows off our eyes, and we love the carefree charm, but too many  hairdressers see you're past fifty and the next thing you know, every bit of softness can get sheared off.

The "relaxed pixie" with its longer top and nape updates this super-short cut. A good stylist can create your own variation.

Note too that the sweeping bangs start a little further back on the crown, a good trick for thinner hair.

Its downtown cousin, the undercut pixie, with a versatile long top layer, can be worn with that top tossed back or to to the side, as Garance Doré shows in a cheeky 30-second video of herself playing with her new cut:

3. New bits for a bob 

The classic side-swept bang, ubiquitous and practical, does avert the need for a precise trim every few weeks. But the asymmetrical bang, which works with any length of bob, is edgier. Why don't we get us some edge? 

We own classic bobs, but how often does a hairdresser suggest we try a half-up knot as a looser, lighter effect?

It comes down to a hairdresser's sensibility, which may not coincide with his or her technical skill. 

As wardrobe stylist and author Sherri Mathieson observed on her blog:
"I've met people over 80 that have more sense of real style than 20 year olds. So it has less to do with age than the more important—exposure (geography, family, friends, job), curiosity and interest. 

And then your true ace is—(drumroll please!)how you absorb the information of what you see."

Some stylists are not absorbing the information; they're wearing Gran Goggles when a client over 50 gets in the chair. 

And when they do, what an improvement! Here's an example, retrieved from Good Housekeeping's site. Maryellen is 60. Here's the "before" bob. As she herself said, "I look like a mushroom."

A new cut and colour (and more current clothes) take Maryellen from the '90s to now:  

(I'll bet some of you are hankering to offer suggestions for the glasses, too.)

Too often they let us drift along, asking "Same as usual, right?" If you've found the stylist who has both eyes that see and hands that create, you're a lucky woman! 



Susan B said…
I've been liking my layered bob with the recently grown-out bangs, but now that I have some length on the top am pondering trying something like Garance's cut, (or a slightly less extreme Kate Lamphear style) maybe in the spring. Hair *texture* is really important too, my very fine hair pretty much disappears when it gets longer...just gets weighted down and lank, so keeping it at earlobe length provides the most movement and volume. Here's Kate L.:
materfamilias said…
I'm so lucky with my stylist! We've just switched up my look a bit by going slightly shorter and adding a side part. I'm not completely happy yet with the part, but I trust her enough (and keep getting compliments!) that I'll stick to this style for at least the 7 weeks between visits. . .
I'll have to work on doing a French braid on myself - no trouble doing them on others. Four strands behind one's head are a challenge. But I really like them as they combine practicality with a touch of elegance.

While Maryellen's "before" hair was definitely dated, I don't like the very short after cut on her. Perhaps it could be a starting point for her growing out her hair more, though. She has nice thick hair, seems a shame to have it all shorn off.
Susan said…
I think the shape of your face has to be taken into consideration. And, as une femme says, the texture of your hair as well as the amount of hair (individual hairs) you have.

In my opinion, many older women (50+) need to also think carefully about the color of their hair. An all over dark color is extremely aging. In fact, more aging than an out of date haircut.
Mardel said…
I've been lucky with my new stylist. And sometimes the problem is me, but I am learning.
Unknown said…
Duchesse said…
unefemme: I think hers and Lamphear's are pretty much the same and like this style very much as it gives short hair some options.

materfamilias: Parts are murder for showing roots but if you do not have them, 7 weeks is possible.

lagatta: I find it is a vast
improvement on her former 'do, and usually like short cuts.

Susan: The monochromatic dark colour job can result from overprocessing, which has happened to me both at the salon and at home. Then there is colour choice and some women want the dark shade they had when 25 or so, which is often a mistake when older.

Mardel: Sometimes it's us; but then again we do have to keep up the style they create. Not interested in styles I can't maintain no matter how great they look when I walk out.

Sissy: I most often let them go for it; after all, it's only hair. (BTW, wonder if you know that all caps is considered shouting in the online world?)

Susan said…
Duchesse, One of the big issues for me is not wanting to maintain a certain "style". I loathe styling my hair. I tend to dry it while sitting in a comfortable chair in my bedroom reading the NYTimes online. I want easy. Add to that, that my fine (but thick) hair doesn't have automatic body. Add to that, my round face. I'm all for doing the most flattering thing--if it is not onerous to maintain.

And yes, over processing can be an issue--even for those of us who lighten our hair rather than try to maintain a youthful dark color.

I applaud this post. The styles you posted were fun to see, even if they won't work for my hair.

Yes, it is a great post. Of course that woman's makeover was a vast improvement, but I deliberately tried not to be unkind (aka bitchy) about her prior cut and clothing.

I admit that I don't often like "senior" short cuts, unless of course they are necessary for thinning hair, or conversely to set off a very delicate face and frame.

I have a harder time about colour. Not everyone has a lot of grey at 50, and women with naturally dark hair look fine with it at any age. I certainly don't think a person with naturally dark hair at 50 or 60 should feel the need to "lighten" it.

My hair was very dark, almost black, but my skin has Celtic pale influences as well as darker, more southerly ones and I have blue-green eyes. So when the dark brown became too harsh, I went for that Parisian "reddish-black", but eventually that too became too harsh and I resigned myself to letting it go natural. Not because I dislike silver hair, but because the transition makes one look rather a bag lady, and I do NOT look pretty with a pixie cut.

Fortunately it is attractive now, silver with dark undertones, but I know grey hair can be draining too; no rules!
Anonymous said…
Oh, Duchesse, your very timely post has prompted me to come out of lurkdom and reply. You see, I am realizing with increasing dissatisfaction that I have the man's cut on a woman's head, and am pondering my next move. It began innocently enough a year ago, as a means of coping with my thinning hair from chemotherapy. Throughout the summer, it has been wonderful for traveling in our (topless) jeep. I am returning to another series of chemotherapy as of today, so short hair seems the most prudent course. Also, I have found over the years (I'm 50) of long, short, long, short hair, that I feel the most like myself with short hair. I love the sexiness of Garance's cut. If my fine but thick, very straight, increasingly silver hair can look as good as hers does that way, then I'm sold. It's time for a style consult. Thank you for opening my eyes to something I had not completely seen yet and for showing me some lovely ideas.
I have enjoyed your blog and comments for several years now. Please accept my apologies for such a lengthy, rambling comment.
Sandy B
Sisty said…
What? Where's Claire Underwood in this mix? (actually, now that I think about it, Claire's is similar to Garance Dore's cut, just more buttoned up, or plastered down, no?).

This is a very timely post for me -- I have a haircut scheduled for Thursday and my stylist suggested something like Michelle Williams' pixie, which is also another longer-on-top style. Still trying to decide.
Sandy, I hope above all that your health will improve and hold!!!

We have a friend with the same problem as yours; she is wearing a wig for work as she does not want to be seen as "ill" and thus not capable of doing her demanding work (simultaneous interpretation).

By the way, she has always been one of those with delicate features who looks good with a short but stylish cut. But health is far more of a priority!
Susan said…
Came back to read more comments. Certainly no one who is still sporting their natural hair color (and it is dark) should have to lighten their hair. I'm talking about those who dye their hair dark, trying to match the color of their youth. THIS is what can be aging--because it looks harsh and sometimes is not a good look against older skin, in my opinion. Others may see this differently.
Duchesse said…
SandyB: A style consult is a terrific idea (even if you have to pay for it). Amazing how different stylists have different takes on what looks good. Also, with fine short hair a lot can be done re texture, and I'm not talking '80s gelled spikes :) Fond wishes for an effective course of chemo and thank you so much for de-lurking.

Susan: I knew exactly what you mean and suspect others do, too. Most advice articles counsel women using colour to go a shade or two lighter than their young-adult years- but then there was Diana Vreeland, who kept a very dark black-brown till her last illness. But then she was hardly your typical woman!

Sisty: The Claire Underwood cut is more or less like the relaxed pixie photo, but more plastered to her head and maybe a touch shorter on top. The Garance cut is hipper, with the undercut sides.

Susan: re face shape, I've mused over those drawings for years, but in real life, I see women of all shapes of faces in bobs, pixies and long hair. I wonder if face shape really matters that much?

But I have seen stylists turn down requests for a certain style because of hair texture and condition.
Anonymous said…
I live in a senior area and the hairdressers here only have 3 choices, short on the top and sides, the spiky pixie or the Mamie Eisenhower. I cut my hair myself keeping it past collar bone length and use a Ficcare clip. There is no way that a messy bun is less flattering than anything these so-called hairdressers churn out.
Duchesse said…
Anon@3:12: Is it out of the question to travel periodically to a locale with good hairstylists? (Not you, necessarily.) I had a friend who lived in rural NH and made the drive to Montréal every 7-8 weeks.

That is a great-looking hair clip!

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