How Will We Do Our Hair in the Future?

Hair is a problem. We’ve been grooming, preening, and adorning it since before we were human. And when I think of hair in science fiction movies, I can’t help but note that whatever the century being depicted, the actresses’ hairstyles usually reflect the decade in which the movie was made.

In the wonderful Forbidden Planet, Anne Francis, as Altaira, lives in the 23rd century on the planet Altair-4, and sports a lovely mid-50s chin-length coif. This type of do was historically created and maintained with weekly shampoo-and-set sessions at the local beauty parlor, which makes us (if we bother to think about it) wonder how on Altair-4 this girl, who was raised without a mother, ever managed to attain such a style. Oh well, it’s still a great movie.

In Star Trek, (1966-69), Uhura sported a series of iconic sixties styles, including the bouffant shown below. I don’t find this style as jarring, as by the sixties, hairstyles had become more do-it-yourself. Could the bouffant, recur in the 23rd Century? I don’t think so, although Nichelle Nichols wears it well. All in all, though, the hair of the original Star Trek is way less strange than the female crew’s wearing ice skating costumes for uniforms.

By Alien, the female crew had ditched the skating costume for way more believable jumpsuits. Nonetheless, Ripley’s long perm was planted firmly in 1979. I had the same style myself ca. 1983. I don’t think this one is coming back in 2122. The strength of this style was its ease–totally wash ‘n’ wear. We’ve come a long way since then.

Hair arouses all sorts of emotions in us, in a way that make-up, clothing, and jewelry don’t. The musical question asked way back in 1986 by the group Timbuk 3, “Hairstyles and attitudes/Are they connected?/Are the styles we embrace a matter of taste/Or of values rejected?” must be answered with a resounding Yes. Hardly anything about a person’s attire is more likely to offend another than his or her choice of hairstyle. It is said that the Vietnam protesters of the sixties met a negative, sometimes violent, response from authority, because–unlike the civil rights protesters a few years previously–they had unseemly hair. The musical, Hair, rest on this premise. and it keeps getting revived. So that must be true.

So how will we wear our hair in the future? I put the question to a hairsylist.

Ron Matranga of Ronald Edward Salon told me, “Everything old is new again, and the Egyptians started it all.” He told me that Vidal Sassoon went to Egypt to come up with his architectural, asymmetric cuts, which changed everything as far as Ron is concerned. Before then, he says, you would never “cut out the ears,” or cut one side shorter than the other.

In other words, it was the beginning of the end of rigid rules for hair. The mullet, shag, and Mohawk would be along shortly. So how will we wear our hair in the future? However we want, I suppose.

It seems probable that we will be able to have hair wherever we want it, not not have it wherever we don’t want it, and we will notice who has hair in the wrong place, and look upon them with disdain. Strategic hair removal was important to the Egyptians as well. Maybe that was Cleopatra’s secret. I further predict that voluntary total baldness–for those with nicely-shaped heads and balanced features–will remain a valid style choice. If involuntary, hereditary male-pattern baldness is cured, it will then become an option.

I also predict long life and prosperity to all short, natural cuts, whether curly or straight, to ponytails, and to various sorts of braids, whether Heidi-style or cornrow. Ron votes for the bob–I presume he means chin or shoulder length–because it never goes out of style.

For the story set in the future, however, there is no way to get it right. The problem is that we are stuck in the moment with our hair. We will have our moments when we look awful and not know it. We will foist our bad and dated hair on future generations, not only through old yearbooks, but through our entertainment.

A little big, but not the worst future hair by a long shot.


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  1. #1 by marjoriekaye on February 28, 2011 - 11:28 pm

    The mullet and the shag are coming back? Noooooooo. Say it ain’t so.

    Nothing drives me crazier that seeing a movie made in the 60’s about something that happened in the 40’s and all of the women have bouffants, flips and beehives. A movie I saw recently on Netflix, “The Night of the Generals,” which was made in the late 60’s, did this. Peter O’Toole is brilliantly peculiar as the crazy Nazi General but there was only one (and it was puffed out like twin beehives) pompadour in the whole movie. I loved the movie, but whoever did the hair should have been stopped.

    • #2 by speculativemartha on March 1, 2011 - 9:20 am

      I have come to believe that there is nothing more difficult to overcome than the “hairstyle blindness” of whatever period we’re currently in! But the mullet? No. That always looked bad. An extreme shag is bad, too. Makes the person look like an upside-down artichoke.

  2. #3 by marjoriekaye on March 1, 2011 - 10:52 am

    Jane Fonda pulled it off in KLUTE. That’s the only shag I remember looking good. Great subject and blog.

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