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Hairstyle Trend: red carpet luxe

When we think of Hollywood bombshells, it’s almost inevitable that we picture a head of immaculately-coiffed, bleach blonde hair. Since the earliest days of movie marketing, leading-lady glamour has been all about curvaceous shapes; from undulating curves in snug-fitting gowns and cherry-red full lips to sensuous, snaking curls.

Jean Harlow was the first blonde bombshell; the term was actually born after her starring role in the 1933 film of the same name. Naturally mousy, her fortunes changed after she transformed into a platinum blonde. Her stylist Alfred Pagano used “peroxide, ammonia, Clorox and Lux flakes” to achieve her shade – unsurprisingly, this potent cocktail of household cleaners wasn’t a healthy option and many have suggested that Harlow’s early death was down to the effects of a weekly dose of neat bleach on her scalp. However the image was born, and blonde curls have been a staple of red-carpet style ever since.

Glamour stepped up a gear in the 40s, with a host of Hollywood actresses inspiring young women and providing a welcome distraction to the grim realities of World War II. While the world was in turmoil and everyday hair became practical and appropriate for work in factories and fields, movie star beauty was a pleasing dose of escapism – and elaborate hair for nights out made up for the limited fashion available under rationing. Lana Turner and Betty Grable became pin-ups for 1940s hairstyles and inspired young women to get creative and curl their hair with rags, or stack it around ‘rats’ to create voluminous Victory Rolls – allegedly named after a manoeuvre undertaken by fighter planes. 

Image: @chusghd

Less overtly sexy but still oozing glamour, Lauren Bacall, Veronica Lake and Rita Hayworth opted for longer, soft wavy hair worn in a peekaboo fashion – covering one eye for a seductive stare. It might sound outmoded today, but looking ‘feminine’ and maintaining a standard of glamour was all considered to be an important role in the war effort, keeping morale high and putting a brave, beautiful face on for the world.

Image: @albaliagaghd

The 1950s was very much about the heyday of hairstylists as guardians of the glamour experience. Leading names like Alexandre de Paris and Raymond ‘Mr Teasy Weasy’ Bessone became celebrities in their own right for their skill in creating bouffants and updos that dripped elegance. In 1956, Raymond was reportedly paid $2,500 by actress Diana Dors to fly to America and wash and style hair for a red-carpet event – the price of a small house at the time. Both Alexandre - whose clients included Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy - and Raymond boasted luxurious, enormous salons, which made an appointment a ritzy experience in itself.

Hollywood’s leading ladies continued the blonde bombshell aesthetic into the 50s, too. Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield were about as far from girl-next-door as it’s possible to get and made platinum blonde, immaculately-coiffed curls the look to emulate – slotting straight into the 1950s hairstyles hall of fame. While stars like Marilyn had god-given curves and a career that most could only dream of, hair was an element that could easily be copied. Setting patterns inspired by actresses’ looks were widely available, so you could get the look whoever, and wherever, you were in the world.

Notions of glamour have come and gone over the years as trends have changed, but the original stars of the silver screen have always remained the ultimate reference point for the concept of sheer, unadulterated, high-octane glam.

In the 1980s, Madonna experimented with a series of looks – but it’s her Blond Ambition era, Marilyn-inspired curls which stand out. Even cartoon bombshell, Jessica Rabbit was based on old Hollywood, with the cartoonists basing her hair on photos of Rita Hayworth and Lauren Bacall. For Gwen Stefani in the 90s, it was all about Jean Harlow’s influence – she even went on to play her in The Aviator. Dita von Teese brought retro, pin-up girl glamour to a new generation in the 00s. Although she’s a natural blonde and admits to being most inspired by Marilyn Monroe and Veronica Lake, her raven-black hair, styled in sculpted waves has become her trademark.

Today, we live in a society that’s more celebrity-obsessed than ever. While paparazzi have been hounding the stars of the stage and screen since the concept of celebrity began, these days the cult of celebrity has reached new heights. Thanks to social media, we can see our favourite stars whenever we want; we’re more inundated than ever with visions of inspiring beauty ideas – or unattainable ideals, depending on your viewpoint. Like it or not, the Kardashians are the ultimate beauty icons for a generation; and we can follow their hairstylists every move through Snapchat, buy the products they use and then share our own attempts at their looks with our own followers.

"wear it matte, add bedhead texture, use accessories, wear it on blunt, short bob hairstyles, pair it with grungy roots and a slicked-down fake undercut… the possibilities are endless. "

While the Kardashians change their hair - or hairpieces, at least - on a regular basis, it’s interesting to note that traditional ideas of Hollywood glamour have never really disappeared from the red carpet. A glance at any Oscars ceremony from the last decade will show actress after actress sporting masses of tumbling curls, slung over one shoulder. Aside from a few rule-breakers who dare to rock something different, glamorous vintage hairstyles are never far from the red carpet.

Is it all down to a nostalgia for the good old days? Or is it simply down to the fact that this look is a classic – and a classic for a reason. There are few that this style doesn’t suit and there’s enough variation possible that it can be changed up to reflect modern trends and tastes: wear it matte, add bedhead texture, use accessories, wear it on blunt, short bob hairstyles, pair it with grungy roots and a slicked-down fake undercut… the possibilities are endless, even if the base is the same.

Advances in technology means it's never been quicker, easier or safer to achieve these oh-so-glam curly looks. Clients and stylists alike can create a head of tumbling curls or waves in an instant, with no damage to the hair. It seems unlikely that this trend is going anywhere anytime soon, but when a trend is so homogeneous, it's inevitable that there'll be some creative backlash.

After the immaculate curls and curly updos of the 50s and 60s, red carpet 1970s and 1980s hairstyles featured more undone looks and colourful, avant-garde styles. The same looks set to happen again, as looser, more beach texture feels immediately more fresh and 'real'. Equally, after years of long, pretty hair, cutting will enjoy a resurgence for a fresh, modern take on what it means to be glamorous.

In this image it’s about high-shine, perfectly sculpted, deep wavy hairstyles. It’s unabashedly glamorous; made for selfies and showcasing on social media. It’s not too serious though; there’s room for a playful modern pin-up touch; a twist or a roll, or retro-inspired hair updos – glam with a cheeky wink to the past.

Image: @morenaghd




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