Thursday, May 20, 2010

Remembering 80's Hair

The 80s was a fun time to be a teen or a young woman.  It was a time of some interesting fashions, a lot of bold makeup and most importantly, big hair.

I wonder just how much mousse, gel and hairspray was used back then, by both young men and young women. I know I used more than my share.

I turned 18 in 1979, and it was not long after when most of the girls my age finally gave up our Farrah Fawcett hair attempts and started emulating the New-Wavers.  The disco generation was ending and New Wave was king.

I started the 80s with a pageboy, with full bangs.  Both my bangs and the ends of my hair were turned under with a small barrelled curling iron.  Not the most natural look.  To get more volume, often I would make several tiny braids in my hair, pre-coated with gel, before bed time.  It gave a slightly fuzzy but definite fullness to my hair.

Once finished off with both heavy eye makeup, lipstick and bold slashes of blush on my cheeks, I was ready for action.  Photos of me at that time make me blush for real now, but at the time, I felt quite glamourous. I was a cosmetician in a high-end department store back then, and neither my co-workers nor my clientèle seemed to think that I was overly made up.  It's only now that I see how truly hideous the makeup styles in those days were. 

I began getting light blonde highlights on my naturally dark blonde hair when I was 20.  I really felt like a blonde now. This was getting good.

After my pageboy, I had my hair cut and permed into an Olivia Newton-John styled mullet, which required a lot of care.  The perm on its own was not enough to keep up the style, so I had to curl every bit of my hair with a curling iron every day, and touch it up again for an evening out.

When that started to grow out and look damaged, I went for a bobbed style. By 1985 I grew that out to just about or below shoulder length, and my stylist cut long layers into my hair and piecey layers around my face.  This style would be my signature look for the rest of the 80s.

I have to admit, it was a good cut, and if worn today without 80s embellishments, it wouldn't look out of place.  However, of course I had to add my own touches to it, which meant using a curling iron on every layer of my hair and my bangs.  My every day look was relatively conservative and really not over-the-top.

Nevertheless, being a flathead just didn't do for going out to nightclubs or parties. I can't even recall all of the heat appliances and tricks with curlers that I tried back then to achieve big hair for a night out.

The greatest revelation was the crimper.  There is nothing that says '80s quite like crimped hair. The good thing about crimping was that it really did stay in until the next wash. That was something that my fine, straight hair had never really experienced before.

Of course, hair isn't meant to be bent at right angles, so there's no point in even mentioning how damaged my hair was.

Then a new product came out.  The waver. It was just like a crimper, except instead of a zigzag pattern, there were small S-waves. This was my holy grail. Like the crimper, the waver made patterns in my hair that held. Of course my post-wash glob of mousse and final touch of hairspray helped.

Honestly, when I think of the hours I used to spend to get my hair ready for a big night out, I roll my eyes.  When I think about how much I abused my hair with blow-dryers hot rollers, crimpers, perms, highlights, back-combing and styling products, I can only laugh.  I do recall using a "heat protectant" before using my heat appliances, and thinking that it would prevent damage, but naturally it didn't. Even at shoulder length I would already find split ends and often there would be breakage--tiny hairs falling--when I brushed my hair.

Of course I didn't do all of that for every day, but I can say that I don't think I went a day in the 80s before my daughter was born in late 1988 without putting at least a curling iron to my hair.

I honestly didn't think I was fit to walk to the corner store without full makeup and my hair done.

Were there self-esteem issues at play?  Undoubtedly. But I can honestly say that I had the time of my life playing with makeup and getting my hair as big as it could get for a night on the town or a swanky party. Good times

Sadly, I don't have any photos of me decked out for the clubs. We didn't have digital cameras then so we didn't take pictures as frequently. Most photos I have from that time are just of my everyday self.

I'm happy that I had that time to just do whatever I wanted to my hair and with makeup.  It enabled me to get that need to be like the glamourous girls out of my system.  I don't ever see a perm in my future or a renewed relationship with my blow-dryer or any of my trusty curling irons.

Now I'm content to just let my hair be my hair. While I still love makeup, I go days at a time without it.  I do wear it to varying degrees depending on where I'm going or what I'm doing.  I still do feel much more put together when I wear makeup, but I'm not a slave to it anymore.

Yet back in the 80's, the fun I had experimenting with too much makeup and with glamourously damaging my hair in the name of beauty!  I wouldn't have missed out on it for anything.


  1. I wore my hair shoulder length through most of the 80's. I did have several perms and they made my hair look like a tumbleweed. I wore make up occasionally. I never could get the hang of using a curling iron. Didn't like having to stand there so long doing it.

  2. There was a time I wouldn't leave the house without makeup...Somewhere in the past ten years or so, I've lost the care. I also used to spend hours trying to fix my own hair, but more with an eye to smoothing it out and pulling out the frizzy aspect of it...all of which involved either rollers and a dryer or a curling iron or hot curlers. Nothing ever worked. I guess I felt the most glamorous when I stuffed myself into an uber tight pair of designer jeans and a sexy, filmy top. And that didn't happen often either. Sheesh...I miss that I just don't have the face, body, or hair for glamour.

  3. SchnauzerMom, I know of that tumbleweed of which you speak. Intimately. I do wish I could have been more like you--wearing makeup just occasionally and not fiddling with a curling iron every day. Once in a while would have been fun. But not every day.

    Well, AutumnLeaves, When you mentioned the designer jeans, it brought back a lot of good memories. That is how I always felt my best too. In my jeans and a nice top. I remember that we used to wear long jeans with high heels. It made it look as though we had such long legs! Did you ever have to lie down on the bed just to do up your freshly washed jeans? Good times.

    I miss the ability to be glamorous at times these days too. I can't even fit into any of the jeans I have now, and there is no way I'm buying fat jeans.


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