Category Archives: hair

Bending gender rules with black & white bobs

Bijou Karman

Bijou Karman

I’ve been wearing the bob for almost a decade now (with a handful of interludes and infidelities). Originally, the printed out images I would bring to the hairdresser would be those of flappers and silent film stars I had seen dancing the screen and longed to emulate. Lately, however, I’ve been finding myself captivated by the 1960s bob. Ironic, in a sense, since a large part of the resurgence of women wearing their hair in short, cropped bobs in the 1960s was a new spin inspired by those very same newly liberated young garçonnes of the 1920s, four decades prior.

When it comes to haircuts, I’m not only lazy but a cheapskate. The idea of shelling out 40 or 50 bucks every six-to-eight weeks for “upkeep” is laughable to me and my budget, as much as I enjoy getting my hair cut. When I lived in bigger (read: queer-er) cities, it was also much easier to rope friends into trimming my bangs, or even getting them to cut my hair in exchange for a case of beer. Low-maintenance is the name of the game for me, and I often let my haircuts grow out longer than I like or ever intended to. In 2011, when I donated 12 inches of my hair, so many people asked me how I did it – how I grew my hair out that long. A simple combination of moving to a new city and not having a hairstylist, being broke, and indecisively lazy. Huzzah! Three years later, 12-14 inches of hair to donate.

But I’m not interested in having hair past my shoulders any time again soon. My last haircut was this past December, and as I have for the past few years, I brought in a photo of Louise Brooks to show the hairdresser.

dec2012

December 2012

Fast-forward two months, and we’re here:

self-portrait in the bathroom - mod 1960s black and white dress and earrings

February 2013

A slightly overgrown bob. Now that I’m getting into “bangs over my eyes” territory, and pondering making an appointment with the hairdresser, I can’t help but wonder… is it time for me to go full-on 1960s?

Nancy Kwan with her famous Sassoon haircut. Pic by Terence Donovan

Am I patient enough to let it grow out a bit more, and go for Nancy Kwan’s gorgeous bob circa 1963? Or finally give in to my affection for Mary Quant’s 5-point bob? Or Peggy Moffitt’s iconic close-crop?

Mary Quant, designer, wearing Vidal Sassoon's 5-point bob in the early 1960s

Mary Quant

Sassoon’s 5 Point Bob by Eric Swayne, modeled by Grace Coddington

Grace Coddington

Film still from William Klein's 1966 satirical art film, "Qui êtes vous, Polly Maggoo?"

Film still from William Klein’s 1966 satirical art film, “Qui êtes vous, Polly Maggoo?”

The films I’ve been watching these days are partly to blame for all of these haircuts dancing in my head. All of these visual references are namely from having recently re-watched Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo ? (1966, William Klein) and a perennial favourite/criminally underrated Québécois film, Le Chat dans le Sac (1964, Gilles Groulx). Both thrilled me, and reminded me why I have such affection for style and art from this period – so much was new, so much was made possible in such a short period of time, the radical potential for renewal was everything.

I also finally bit the bullet this past February and watched the documentary on Vidal Sassoon. Fastforward about 30 minutes in, watch the bit with Mary Quant, and at about 46 minutes listen to this bit by Professor Caroline Cox (one of the very few female voices in the documentary):

When you saw somebody dressed in a Quant outfit with a 5-point Sassoon haircut, you didn’t know if they were a countess, you didn’t know if they were someone who worked in a shop. That really dramatically changed how people thought about Britain. It was no longer this hide-bound, class-oriented society and also it really changed how women thought about themselves, because women weren’t only liberated socially and sexually in the 1960s, they were also liberated through their clothes and very particularly their haircuts. They were no longer having to go to the salons every week to have their hair permed and set, tweaked and backcombed… they could have a haircut that they could go out, wash once or twice a week, do it all at home, and it would look fantastic!

This is the parallel I find striking between the 1920s and 1960s bobs: how something as simple as a haircut can change the way we think about things we often see as set in stone, like class and gender. The immediate post-war years, following both the Great War (1914-1918) and the Second World War (1939-1945), lead to stricter moral gender codes. During the wars, women often had no choice but to find work to support their families, whether they wanted to or not. But when men returned home from the war, women were simply expected to go quietly back to their previous roles as mothers, wives, and sisters. The way that resistance to these ideas presented itself could sometimes be in the subtle form of slowly shortening hemlines, more comfortable clothing (re: clothing one could move, work, and exhert oneself whilst wearing) and simpler hairstyles.

And by “simpler,” I mean hairstyles that did not require the assistance of someone else, with the use of products and tools only in the possession of the live-in hired help or the professional barber. The gender and class dynamics that could change partly as a result of this were astounding.

While researching hairstyles of the mid-1960s, I couldn’t help but be reminded of those from the mid-1920s. The moral outcry about an attack on femininity, the fashion designers who collaborated with hairstylists to push an androgynous agenda forward, is equal parts laughable and terrifying. All because of a snip of the scissors…

But back to the movie the quote came from: I must emphasize – this is pretty much the only part of the Vidal Sassoon documentary I found refreshing or interesting. Watch it at your own peril. I would summarize it succinctly as a myth-making circle jerk of a bunch of old white guys putting Vidal on a pedestal shortly before his death. So many choices struck me as so wrong! Using Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue (1959) to illustrate how modern and cutting edge Peggy Moffitt’s fashion poses in the mid-1960s were? I’m a fan of both, but no. Not to mention my distaste for using faux-vintage footage in something presented as a documentary. Bad. Poor form. And how many times do we have to counter the myth that Sassoon was responsible for Mia Farrow’s pixie cut? Listen to the woman herself!

Glad that’s out of my system.

After looking up all these images of 1960s models, I couldn’t help but give in to the urge to strike a pose of my own.

mod-bw-2

I leave you with some recommended watching:

Recommend Reading:

Wish me luck in my quest for the perfect bob…

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style icon: silent film star louise brooks

over the years, many people (online and off) have asked me who my style icons are. i don’t really like idol/hero/celebrity culture, and so i’ve always managed to avoid answering the question. plus, i always prefered admiring “real people’s” styles, like my friends, as opposed to celebrities i’d never met (who more often than not have a team of stylists orchestrating how they present themselves) and consider my own personal style a mishmash of influences… but! if we re-word it, i can make it work for me. if someone asked me, “which historical figure has had the biggest influence on your taste, style and aesthetics?” there are three or four faces that come to mind.

one of them is louise brooks.

you may not know her name, but you most likely know her face… or at least her trademark bobbed haircut. there is, of course, debate around whether or not silent film stars like colleen moore and louise brooks can be credited as having “started” the trend of the bob, or if they are simply responsible for having popularized an already quite popular hairstyle… but that’s another story.

louise brooks was born in 1906, in cherryvale, kansas. as a young woman, she loved literature, dancing, and the cinema, and soon all three would become major parts of her life. she worked as a dancer before lighting up the silver screen, and after she ended her acting career, she opened her very own dancing studio. as she aged, she continued longstanding letter writing friendships with friends and fans. but that is just a small window into a long, full life. she is probably most remembered for her role as lulu in G.W. Pabst’s 1929 film Pandora’s Box, which also happens to be one of my favourite films.

i could go on and on about her, but i’d rather recommend you watch her films and read up on her yourself. personally, i’ve been smitten with her since i first saw her on the screen when i was in my late teens, and soon after came across barry paris’ biography of her. i wouldn’t quite call it love at first sight, but i quickly realized it was more than her gaze and her face that so entranced me.

Louise Brooks autographed picture- “Dear Winston- These earrings are a bit extreme-even for the 1920’s.” “I wish I still had that bracelet. I adore that dress-such an interesting pattern. Sincerely Louise Brooks”part of the deep fondness i have for louise brooks is that she was such a intelligent, whipsmart, and yes, gorgeous, person… over the course of her entire life. in fact, the most interesting aspect of her, in my opinion, is her life as a whole, not just the short decade in which she was a celebrity. many writers bemoan the fact her acting career was so short lived, but if you hear what she recounted in hindsight in the 60s and 70s, she never sounds bitter or angry about it. hollywood wasn’t a particularly friendly place for outspoken and badass ladies (then, and we could argue even still, today). instead of just moping about it, she lived the rest of her life, opened a dance studio, watched movies, read, and wrote. independent, savvy, passionate, unapologetically sexual, brimming with wisdom and wit. this autographed photo shows a bit of that side of her. signing autographs in 1979 for a picture taken in the 20s, and being nostalgic in a healthy way, all the while acknowledging she was always a bit of a black sheep, a little ahead of the curve.

and that’s why her style, the photographs of her short career, have entranced me so. here are just a few of my favourite louise brooks outfits.

film still from pandora's box, 1929, g.w. pabst

i don’t know what it is, there’s just something about her i’ll always admire and hope to one day emulate myself. maybe it doesn’t need explaining. so obviously, over the years, i’ve tried in vain to emulate brooks. unsurprisingly, i jumped at the first chance i got to do it for others. back in 2007 i participated in amelia raley‘s vintage vivant project. one of the assignments was to take a “star portrait”:

Submit a photo of yourself that mimics a photograph or artwork from 1920 – 1949. Include one portrait of yourself, and the original photo you’ve based your submission on.

julia posing as louise brooks

it’s not quite perfect, but i’m still pretty proud of how it turned out.

clearly i’m not the only critical fashion lover enamoured with her, either! one of the folks over at the always wonderful WORN journal even shopped up this image of her:

aaaaaaand i’ll leave you with this lovely gif. how can you resist that smirk?

a .gif of louise brooks looking queer as fuck. hot damn that smirk/smile of hers!

happy birthday, louise!

RECOMMENDED READING:

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september: fresh start

a photo of julia, a young femme presenting person, standing next to a silver graffiti that reads SMILE. she is not smiling.

i’ll be the first to admit, i’ve fallen off the wagon. i promised myself i wouldn’t become one of those bloggers who starts off every blog post by apologizing about how they haven’t been blogging lately… but looky here. i have valid excuses, however. i’ve been working full-time (researching, writing, and reporting for a local radio station that i love) and i’ve let myself get wrapped up in it. not to mention a whole bunch of other summer adventures i won’t mention quite yet.


poster by flexib, for the “something from the meatcase, linda?” tour

since i last posted, my life has changed a whole lot; namely for the good. scratch that, namely for the exceptional. august brought nearly everyone i hold near and dear to me to one of my favourite places in the world. i caught up with old friends, the wonderful salima and helped throw together an event for the amazing karol who was on tour with a bunch of friend. two of my best friends in québec city moved to greener pastures (guelph and yarmouth, respectively), and i’m starting to miss them lots. hurricane irene hit me surprisingly hard, breaking my camera and ripping the electrical wiring out of my house. eleven days without power helps put things into perspective, let me tell you. not to mention, since i last posted i’ve lopped off 14 inches of hair and gotten a new pair of specs. i’ve got a lot of thoughts i want to put to paper (what’s new?!) but in the meantime i felt like i should assure you the dead air is not a bad thing. it means things are good.

without further ado, here’s some photos of how i look these days!

photos of julia walking down a staircase, and smiling in the sun

- slip worn as a dress thrifted from emmaüs, 5$
- vintage (deadstock) blue cardigan, free from le vestiaire. i would bestow upon it the title of BEST cardigan ever if only it had pockets. it’s got these great scallopped edges
- new glasses from clearly contacts which set me back a whole 10$. best sale ever.

a close up portrait of julia wearing large cat eye glasses looking at the camera

earrings by anne-louise laflamme snatched at le coeur de loup flea market. i’ve always enjoyed her designs but it wasn’t until i spotted her latest record ones that i found a pair i felt suited me to a t. similar ones here.

bag thrifted from value village in ste foy, summer 07. if only i had one in every colour of the rainbow!

the buttons are both gifts from wonderful friends: typewriter from karina and hand reading pin from sves.

ta-dam!

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Filed under hair, vintage, what i wore today