let's get it straight: curls are history...

...skinny hair's in. Michele Kirsch untangles a trend for hair straightening

Women with natural curls often receive backhanded compliments. "Nice hair, is it a perm?" is only a few bad manners away from "nice cleavage, are they implants or does it come with the bra?"

For in the age of skinny hair, who in their right mind would volunteer for curls? They may look good on little girls, okay on your Anita Roddick eco-friendly types, fantastic on Andie McDowell, but on anyone else they're at best untidy and at worst dated.

The perm is dead and hair straightening is all the rage. Cindy Crawford and Brooke Shields would look like Harry Enfield's Scousers Glam Sisters if they let their curls out of the closet. Nothing typecasts a girl quite like a head of curls. In her late teens and twenties she is a new age hippie. In her thirties she is too cerebral to bother. In her 40s and 50s she is an ageing hippie. In her 60s she can go for the Miss Havisham look.

No wonder that natural curlies are going straight in droves, opting out of a bad hair life to become slaves to the professionally wielded blow drier, straightening serums, tongs, and most seriously, chemical relaxers.

Though permed curls go in and out of fashion, artificial straightness has come into its own largely through the over exposure of cover girl natural straights, from Patsy Kensit to the Spice Girls. Sure, there are some curlies who just want to experience the impatient flicking of frontal fronds, which always look so cool in a beautiful-when-they're- angry sort of way on straights. Others want to know what it feels like to have a lover run their hands through her hair, knowing there's a chance he'll be able to extract it again. Others, sadly, just want to look like Rachel in Friends. Sarah Simpson, 28, a copywriter, has been unravelling her curls "since straight hair has become fashionable. I was at the hairdresser and there was a copy of Vogue with Patsy Kensit on the cover, and everybody in the salon looked just like that".

What the hairdresser achieves in 15 minutes with an industrial strength blow dryer and a round brush takes Sarah 40 minutes. "Because I've got brown curly hair, my dream is to have long blonde straight hair. The hairdresser straightened it, gave me fronds and highlights and everyone told me how nice it looked." Sounds suspiciously like the Rachel cut. Jennifer Aniston, who plays Rachel, is another closet curly.

Gary France, creative director of the Toni & Guy Academy, says there were so many requests for the Rachel cut last year that "we had to watch the show to see what the fuss was about". He admits that technically it's a good cut but it's "really commercial".

"Last year, we did straight hair all over the head, but now we're looking to straighten hair in areas, keeping root lift so you get that bit of volume, and straightening the middle and end. We're looking at hair with more texture volume and movement."

Though Toni & Guy will chemically relax curly hair if the client wants it, it's not something they advertise. "We prefer to work with the natural texture of the hair".

It's ironic that Europeans are now resorting to the same processes they developed to make Afro-Caribbean hair more European. June Watson, of CJ's Salon in Upper Clapton, London, has been styling Afro-Caribbean hair since the 1960s. "European people made Teda relaxer for anyone's hair. We used it at first and it made black hair semi straight but it only lasted for six weeks. Then there was Magic Hair Straight. We had to check for strength porosity and abrasions on the scalp, because the relaxing agent was sodium hydroxide which burns. We'd have to grease or base the scalp so it wouldn't burn, but now they have products with no lye."

Are there any signs of a return to the Afro or is chemically relaxed hair here to stay? "It will never go out of fashion because it makes our hair so much more manageable," says Watson. "You have to keep up with the times so when someone comes in asking to look like a pop star, you know who they mean."

And the Rachel of the Afro-Caribbean community? "People say they want to look like Diana Ross. We just laugh and say 'great, but have you got the hair for it'."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Cabinet Maker / Joiner

    £22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This bespoke furniture and inte...

    Recruitment Genius: Graphic and Motion Designer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Do you get a buzz from thinking up new ideas a...

    Recruitment Genius: Media Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

    £14500 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Female Care Worker

    £7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This expanding, vibrant charity which su...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones