Whis­per it, but the Eight­ies perm could be on its way back

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - FASHION/BEAUTY - PaulStafford

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

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