Thirty used to be the cut-off age, but now the fashion crowd is changing the rules on length
Some people do it after university, others when they start their first job. Maybe you made it to 30 or perhaps you held out until 40. I’m talking about the rite-of-passage salon booking; the severed ponytail on the floor; the unmistakeable sense of having finally reached adulthood.
Until recently, long hair was something best left behind in one’s 20s, along with leather trousers and unsuitable boyfriends. However, having successfully reclaimed the trousers (you can keep the bad boyfriends, thanks very much), grown women are now growing their crops, bobs and mid-lengths into veritable manes. Long hair on women over the age of 50 once may have brought out the ducking stool and pitchforks, but the likes of Demi Moore, 53, Elle Macpherson, 51, and Julianne Moore, 55, are proof that the mutton-lamb axis is a fallacy when it comes to modern coiffure.
“It’s more youthful to have longer hair when you’re older and shorter hair when you’re younger,” says hairdresser Luke Hersheson. “You don’t have to cut it short now — that’s what your mum did.”
Witness the Identikit newsreader helmets of the 1990s and how tastes and social order have softened since then; as 50 becomes the new 30, the motivating factors behind requesting a Lady Di cut feel less pronounced, less urgent. You no longer need to cut your hair to get a proper job.
Not only that, but long hair is now longer than ever. Ten years ago, anything below the shoulder used to feel positively Rapunzel-esque, but in fash- ionable circles below-the-bust tresses are increasingly normal. Trophy hair no longer comes from a glossy blow-dry or the must-have cut of the season but from how little it looks like you’ve had done to it.
By that token, growing it to extreme length is the ultimate style statement, especially given the current fetish for dressing down to an almost ascetic degree.
Model Laura Bailey, 43, is noticeable for her longer-length, au naturel locks and flaxen rope of a ponytail on the front row. Parisian stylist Caroline de Maigret, 41, has made an art form of turning up to shows with still-damp curls hanging down her back. More street-stylers have a thick curtain of hair to pose behind than don’t, while for some hair has become an accessory in its own right.
British Vogue’s fashion features director Sarah Harris, 36, is known for a mane of silver hair that reaches almost to her waist. “I like the versatility,” she says. “I love older women who wear their hair long, but it’s easy to get stuck in a rut.
“Keeping the same style from 20 to 60 doesn’t often work, but I think the rule about turning 40 and chopping your hair off has completely changed.”
Beyond the minimalist fashion crowd, there’s the glossy posse of women for whom super-long hair is glamorous and sensual.
Amal Clooney, 38, and Victoria Beckham, 41, for example, have also toned down the bouncy blowdries of yesteryear to something less overtly styled, but their hair still comes with the sort of high shine and sleekness only a salon visit can bestow. To them,
long hair is as much a status symbol as an it bag — with almost as much investment having gone into it.
Sydney hair stylist Brad Ngata of Brad Ngata Hair Direction is a fan of longer hair for all ages of women, with a couple of caveats.
“It all depends on the quality of the ends,” says Ngata. In terms of longer styles, “I’m partial to onelength, beautiful, glossy hair, it just needs to be trimmed regularly and kept fresh. When hair starts to look brassy or yellow or split, that’s when it becomes ageing.” Ngata says all hair companies now have age-appropriate products that focus in particular on the midlengths to ends because this hair is so much older than hair closer to the scalp. “These shampoos are designed for time-weakened hair, so it builds a scaffold around the hair and makes it feel stronger, therefore the ends look happier and healthier.”
He cites Schwarzkopf Professional’s Q10 BC Time Restore shampoo ($26.95, beautyheaven.com.au). He also suggests a nutritional supplement, such as silica, or those by British hairdresser Philip Kingsley (available at net-a-porter.com).
Models swear by Viviscal’s hair-growth tablets ($179 for a three-month supply; viviscal.com.au) to fix damaged, distressed, overly styled and coloured hair between seasons, and the brand has just launched a “densifying” shampoo, conditioner and elixir, too (from $19.95).
However, if your efforts at long hair are frustrated by an inability to grow it beyond your shoulder, this may well be a cross you have to bear. Some clinics have warned against extensions; many trichologists believe they can weigh down hair and cause traction alopecia.
Meanwhile, those with early-morning starts, grabby-handed children and little time for deep conditioning treatments also may find that the trend for extralong hair is one responsibility too many.
It’s more youthful to have longer hair when you’re older and shorter hair when you’re younger. You don’t have to cut it short now — that’s what your mum did
Hollywood A-lister Julianne Moore (above); British model Laura Bailey (above right).
Clockwise from main: Nicole Kidman leads the post-40 long-haired posse, which includes Caroline de Maigret, supermodel Cindy Crawford, designer Vera Wang and human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.