Whisper it, but the Eighties perm could be on its way back
Back in 1983, when I entered a hair salon for the first time as an employee, pretty much everyone — and I mean everyone — had curly or at least voluminous, chemically treated hair. The guys, the girls, the grannies and in many cases those unfortunate kids who had lank straight hair who had a family wedding or some other special occasion and would be dragged screaming and kicking to their local salon for “the perm”.
The perm covered all aspects of hairstyle requirements in the 1980s. It was low maintenance (wash and go), one look suited it all, it was unisex, inexpensive, could last a long time and in some cases for life, and most of all... it was stylish (well, perhaps not!)
There were some great hairdresser lines too: such as advising a freshly permed client “don’t wash it for at least a week!” Do you remember how bad a perm smelt?
Or, a hairdresser might have said: “I know it looks a bit tight but it will drop in a month or so.” What was the client meant to do: wear a hat in the meantime? Stay indoors? Become a Leo Sayer tribute act?
Or the classic: “It’s so natural looking on you.” To which the response was usually utter disbelief from both the client and everyone in the salon who looked in the mirror at the waist-length hair that had been transformed into what can only be described as a head of steaming chop suey.
So today, in 2018, I can’t believe I’m saying this but I truly believe the perm will make a comeback. Over the last 20 years, and possibly because of the rise of a certain cult straightening iron, hair has been in various states of vertical, occasionally with a little bit of wriggle or wave but rarely a full blown curl.
But hair represents life, the times and the mood, and we can sense a more liberated atmosphere, individual style and expression. There’s a loose but authentic attitude, hair is as much a statement as it ever was but there is non-conformity, there is wayward, unstructured, unruly, rebellious hair and, above all, it has life and vibrancy.
So, is it time to perm? Well, not quite, but the major product manufacturers have already sensed this counter movement and are hastily putting together products, campaigns and imagery that expresses the sentiment and vitality that is gradually becoming a style story. The fashion press, bloggers and YouTubers are already giving tips on creating temporary volume and movement, and that indicates there is sense of anticipation. But the companies are ahead of the game, coming up with semi-permanent and permanent volumising solutions and techniques, carefully worded and sold so that the dreaded “perm” word is avoided. Its association with the very worst of Eighties bad taste was beyond damage limitation, but these new products will guarantee condition, molecular improvement, strengthen and quite possibly transform how people not only style their hair but how they actually feel about what their hair is capable of.
Are perms coming back? In the guise we remember, probably not, and the new products on the block will take some time to filter through. But take a look around at the cool kids with their Eighties style and ask yourself: do they know something we don’t? ÷ Paul Stafford, 671 Lisburn Road, Belfast, tel: 028 9066 2554
FULL VOLUME: singer Rihanna and (below) actress Jennifer Lawrence