Sunday, 27 May 2012

Boy toys

Men's haircuts which are parted down the middle are fairly rare. Middle partings are a default female style, and so on men signify 'femininty' even if only slightly. There are two exceptions in terms of style periods. The first ran from c.1967-1976 beginning with the move to psych-mod (Steve Marriott definitely had a middle parting at one point) and then on through hippies and general 70s long-hairiness.

The other was the 'curtains' style popular in the  90s. I can't really decide on the genealogy of this cut: is it an indie bowl cut made smarter? (Damon Albarn had a sort of middle parting c.1994-1997) Is it rave related, a freeing up after the flat-tops and hairspray of the 80s?

There was both a loose and long version and a more short and controlled one. There was also an 'extreme' version with an undercut. Interestingly it's a haircut that suits both curly and straight hair, perhaps explaining it's appeal.

It was very popular with younger actors, boy band members, footballers and with suburban boys such as my self and fellow classmates. Curtains was a fashion cut which wasn't going to upset anybodies gran. I know realise this must have meant it wasn't very hip and possibly a bit provincial, but we had no awareness of this at the time.  What I particularly associate it with is hair gel - without it your hair just became a bowl cut again. After it had grown to a certain length this meant that the spiky tip of either parting could poke you in both eyes at the same time. Possibly a reason I abandoned it.

It's the hair gel which is the dark heart of curtains. Whereas in the 70s Charlie George's lank hair flapped around or stuck to his face, Beckham's hair never moved. From the predator boots upwards you could be in control of everything at all times. It is a narcissist's cut. Curtains were both girlie and boyish at the same time. So I suppose one way of analysing it would be to say that it was an early example of metro-sexuality. The 90s did have some gender ambiguous aspects to it, including reciprocal 'boyish' hair cuts on girls.

Donna and Justine of Elastica.

But it's also about the blurring of ages and I see it as part of the expansion of children's consumption beyond beyond sweets, comics, toys. It certainly introduced me to a cosmetic product other than toothpaste. It sat alongside Lynx, a key 90s product, which I remember 10 year boys dousing themselves with after football, even though they probably didn't sweat very much. A curtains wearer could also enjoy an alchopop and progress rapidly from reading Shoot to gawping at FHM.

The king of 90s boy-men curtains wearers was Dawson Leery in Dawson's Creek.

He talked like a 35 year old, endlessly dissecting high school relationships, whilst never actually doing following it up with any practice. Fussy hair, fussy nature. With either more messy, out of control hair, or a ruthlessly practical style (like the crew cut sported by love rival Pacey) he might have had some adult fun for once.


stovey said...

this brings back some memories, i'm welling up here ;)

all the real hard lads would either sport a "tennis ball head" (number 2 all over) or a "french cut" which was also closely cropped all over but with the addition of a stringy, gelled fringe that stopped just above the eyebrows.

i have a brother ten years younger than me and i was surprised to see how many of his teenage mates in the mid-00s had long, untamed locks, much more of a rarity in the 90s on boys under 18.

Matt Moore said...

I don't think it's a pure "rave-related" haircut but possibly has its *ahem* roots in a baggy/Madchester vibe. Shaun Ryder's hairstyle begins as a crew cut (24 Hr Party People) then grows into a pair of curtains (Hallelujah) before becoming a full-on 70s footballer/rockstar mane (Step On). Where as Damon Albarn moves from bowl cut to curtains to towselled spikes over the course of the 90s - each stage requiring more gel and, presumably, effort to look like he was putting less and less effort in.

Someone could put forward an argument that 80s young male haircuts were modernist - the flat top being a profoundly artificial act of skull topiary - whereas 90s young male haircuts were postmodern. The artful cultivation of artlessness. The shift from the confronting to the cheekily acceptable. But I'm not sure that I have the follicle or philosophical knowledge to make that call.

David W. Kasper said...

I just remember lazy barbers thinking I wanted to look like Noel Gallagher, from 1994 to 96 ("NO NO NO. I didn't ask for that! Start again...")

Shocking to think there's still twats around who think that's a 'cool' look. There's also men in their 40s who still zip their cagoules up to their noses. A-holes.

William said...

Judging by the fashion parade in East London retro style is currently at about 1991. This is ALL going to be revived by 2014 - curtains, the Gallagher look, Kickers etc.