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Happy is the woman whose hairdresser protects her from her worst instincts. Unhappy is the woman who never gets what she wants. Hot hairstyles followed by the wishes of Karen Krizanovich, a mouse who wants to roar.

Photographs by Glen Erler

I'm a sucker for what's in. Sentences that begin, "The big thing you have to have now is..." get me all hot and bothered. I've been that kitten-heeled, leopard-printed and Guccied fab thing. Although I am now in a transitional phase, I have been completely fashionable.

All right, so white woman speaks with forked tongue. I'm lying about being completely fashionable. It's true that fat calves will never be in fashion and neither will my hair. As Fred Allen said about a friend's hat, my hair will never go out of style because it looks ridiculous year after year. Well, mine and Jilly Cooper's.

Yet I live in hope that some day fashion will dictate that thin, mousy, dishwater blond will finally be "in". I know what you're thinking: "Grunge hair has been in for yonks, dahling. Why don't you take advantage?" My snappy retort is unimpeachable: "Because when I leave my hair messy, people keep putting coins in my coffee cup."

It all began back in Big Rock, Illinois. I must have been some kind of follicle experiment. My hair was so fine, scientists would ask for samples. The minute I was born, my mother put a ribbon in my thread-like hair and took a photograph. The flash knocked the bow off. I'd spend hours in pin curls only to have straight hair by the time mom had finished taking out the rest of the curlers.

No wonder I would regularly burst into tears at the salon. My mother would have to coax me home, uttering the mantra, "It'll grow back, it'll grow back." They always say that when you get a bad cut. Once home, I'd rush to my room, hoping my brothers wouldn't tease me to death. Good ole mom even covered the mirrors with pillowcases for a few days until I calmed down. Hair equalled pain.

My teenage years were a struggle for control. At the salon I was given an illustrated book full of hairdos. You'd come into the salon looking like crap, glance through the book, and choose a style which was then rendered exactly on to your head by the hairdresser. You'd leave beaming, happy and probably discovered by Hollywood by the time you got home - or at least married.

I'd show up looking like a rat's behind. But the bit between the choosing and the leaving looking swell went amiss. I'd fall in love with a style and show it to the hairdresser. She'd dash my hopes against the lock-covered lino by saying, "Hon, that's for thick hair, You don't have thick hair. Ha. Ha." Or "Missy, to get that effect I'd have to perm and colour your hair after you'd let it grow for a few years." I learned to control my trembling lower lip, at least.

It took me years to realise that I never wanted those hairstyles in the "do" book after all. I wanted the model's face. That conclusion was pretty darn major, second only to my most recent admission that I am not Michelle Pfeiffer's twin sister. Thank heavens for the 12-step programme, DA - Delusionists Anonymous.

I've also been a member of the grow-it/cut-it brigade. This particular school follows a binary philosophy: you are either growing your hair out long from a short cut, or you are growing your short hair to a length where you can cut it back. All this really means is that I get a trim of an eighth of an inch every six weeks. It doesn't matter what the result is, that's what you do.

Of course, I've found it helps to have an instant cultural reference handy when you go to a new hair stylist. (Note: "stylist" means more expensive, harder to get an appointment with and more chichi. Not a hairdresser. Definitely not a barber.) To break a new boy in, I chirp little nuggets like, "think Purdey on The Avengers"; "think a huge blond football helmet at the Superbowl"; "Think Sharon Stone in Casino before she loses her mind". This is because I am a big chicken when it comes to new hairdos. I am curious but yellowy-blonde.

But why should I cower in the face of style? I should just do it. Puzzled as to how people like me get that fresh nouveau-coif that everyone's talking about, I called Franco, who runs his eponymous salon Franco Hairdressing in D'Arblay Street, Soho - and gathered his ideas on today's hair.

"Hair of today is androgynous," says Franco, "but very individual. That really does typify the feeling at the moment. But when people ask me what is the cut of the moment, it is not so much the cut but the colour. To complement a great cut you need a great colour, and 'undercolour' is what is in, like a darker colour underneath and a lighter colour at the top which shows off the hair's depth."

Hey, my hair is blond on the outside and mousy, dishwater blond underneath. Heck, that's the way my hair is naturally. Surely Franco doesn't mean the natural look is back? I breathe a brief sigh of relief.

"Oh no. The natural look in colour is finished," says Franco firmly, "especially for spring." He says "finished" the way a film director would say "cut". There is no doubt that the thing is over. "The colours are strong - strong yellow, a blond caramel, earthy reds, off-black." Does that mean we should all be sporting Katie Puckrik's zebra-hair? Franco opines, "Well, we're talking strong colour. We're talking statement. It's definitely not tasteless."

Well, what about hairpieces? Can I at least cover my shame with someone else's tresses? "Hairpieces will always be in," says our guru. "They'll be big but not tasteless. But any hairpiece that looks as if it was dragged across five bars is out."

Like it was ever in - unless you count those fright wigs of Tina Turner's. What I'd really like to know, though, is who's to say what's In and what's Out? Where does all this weird stuff come from?

"The catwalks have a hell of a lot to do with it, especially in hairdressing," says Franco philosophically. "The catwalks have pushed it to the extreme. But real fashion comes from the people who work one-on-one with clients and have to give them hair they can deal with. Fashion rarely comes from a session stylist, who is only looking for that image for that one moment. Those people are only interested in what they are shooting that day. A hairdresser has to deal with a day- to-day cut."

So, the style I saw on MTV and loved so much - the one with the two girls who have their heads braided together - is out of the question. According to Franco, there are certain things you need to know before you have your hair cut, coloured or permed (although Franco swears the word "perm" is finished, having been replaced with the catchy phrase "curl enhancement").

Before a cut, you must remember to: 1) ignore fashion and other people's opinions; they are not good reasons to cut your hair; what you think looks good on you is most important; 2) book an appointment for a free consultation, telling the receptionist that you want to talk about having a restyle; 3) use photographs to get the length right, and be realistic about your lifestyle - do you really have five hours to spare for styling? 4) make sure you attain mutual understanding with your stylist. Always ask, ask, ask! 5) relax, you're in the hands of a professional. (Personally, my number 5 is: watch his or her every movement like a hawk.)

Paraphrasing dear Franco here, colouring your hair can: 1) not only do wonders for your hair, but also enhance your skin and eyes; 2) create a whole new personality; 3) transform yesterday's hair into today's fashion statement; and 4) leave you with such natural results, no one will know.

For curl enhancement, Franco's guidelines are: 1) ask yourself why you need one and what you're trying to look like; 2) get a photo of the perm you like - your idea of a loose perm may be different from your stylist's; 3) get that free consultation again. Ask loads of questions. Make sure you are on the same wavelength. (Franco's joke, not mine.)

I'd really like the easiest way out. Maybe I should give grunge hair another try. I've seen dirty mop-heads on many celebs and models. It's still in fashion, isn't it?

"It's funny, because the grunge look went out in clothes and we got all the glam stuff in - velvet, hip-huggers," he says, "but grunge hair is still hanging on. It's easy. Just don't wash your hair."

On second thoughts, Franco, what about the I've-just-had-a-shag look that Gucci seems to be trotting out this year?

"Don't bother coming into Franco's for that one," he smiles. "Go and have a shag instead."

Alas, for me, that would cost more than my stylist