If you’ve followed this blog at all you know that I fully support the desire for and pursuit of beauty.  But when I read about a new trend of going to the salon for weekly updos (Return of the Weekly Salon Visit, L.A. Times), I felt a bit perturbed – not terribly so, just enough though that I had to try to understand (a) what bothered me about it and (b) why the trend is occurring at all.

To answer question (a), I asked myself what makes going to the salon once a week for an updo, or any other hair style, any different from a lot of women’s weekly blow-outs?  It probably takes the same amount of time and costs the same amount of money.  After ruminating a bit, I concluded that the idea of seeking the tight, untouchable bouffants of the Mad Men era is maybe what bothers me more than the time spent.  I guess it feels so constraining, so un-liberated, and, in turn, sexist to get our hair shelacked into styles we have to sleep on, wash and style differently from the easy, breezy flowing, wash n’ wear styles of the past few decades.  But is it any different from me wearing Jimmy Choos or a Versace pencil skirt?  Both are equally constraining, but I couldn’t live without them!

So now that I’ve reconciled my discomfort, I have to ask why do people NOW have the desire to spend time every week at the salon to look like Joan Holloway?  A woman in the article states that while her life is chaotic at least she has the “hair thing together.”  As the world is falling apart around us – bad economy, terrorism, 24/7 work life, beauty – is the one thing that we CAN control.  No matter what’s happening, we can make ourselves look and feel better.  I’m not advocating spending necessary time away from critical activities or throwing tons of cash at this pursuit, but beautification is a much needed mood lifter.  And it’s no coincidence that we’re looking for the most controlled looking styles as a symbol of this control.

Moreover, whether consciously or not, copying styles of the late 50’s and early 60’s is no coincidence.  This was an era that reflected America at its strongest and most controlled.  While we know that many issues were bubbling underneath the surface as Mad Men creatively points out, the nation as a whole seemed “under control.”

Don’t look at this sense of control as a temporary fix.  It can do away with some of that sense of helplessness in other aspects of our lives.  Ironically, the tight, “controlled” look that at first signaled restriction and even sexism to me now communicates empowerment.

In fact, I’m certainly looking forward to “taking control” at the manicurists this weekend.

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