The fringe is the beauty treatment that has received the most attention, even though ‘haircut’ has been the most searched in lockdown. DIY bangs have become the new normal, according to everyone from Angela Rayner to Normal People.
Our contact with the outside world has shrunk to the size of a screen and once private things are being pushed to the forefront.
Bookshelves that were once hidden from our coworkers have taken on meaning. After a few Zoom meetings, our tired faces, once suited for work with concealer and a nice neckline, are starting to show signs of wear. Headshots are now the new hemlines for those who work remotely.
There’s also our hair. Our hair is a mess, 10 weeks too long, and we can’t fix it without breaking the law or wearing a headband. Dominic Raab plans to close salons in July.
The number of Google searches for haircut have increased by 1,379% in the last few months compared to 2019. The top search for women is “fringe”. This is not surprising. This will not surprise anyone. The dos and don’ts of trimming your “lockdown bangs” have been discussed everywhere from TikTok and the New Yorker. Jonathan Van Ness, Queer Eye’s hairstylist, offers a primer in this latter to New York’s literati about the differences between a blunt and a point cut. Van Ness, who did his own bangs last Wednesday, has two great pieces of advice. “Try not to cut it wider than your eyebrows,” and “only do it if it makes it feel more peaceful.”
The lockdown fringe, like many other successful things in 2020 began on social media. It was also consolidated in Britain by the TV series of “Normal People.” Connell’s silver chain may have had its own social media account, be “comparable what James Dean did with the simple white T shirt” (according its costume designer), but Marianne’s evolving fringe has its own story arc. It was choppy in her youth, blossoming during her sexual peak, and now it has its own Instagram account. @Mariannesbangs, with 5,000 followers and counting. Vanity Fair published an essay called “Fringe Watch” earlier this month. Sandra Kelly, the show’s hairdresser, refers to Marianne’s reactions as “Fringemania.”
A sharp, face-framing Zoom fringe has been added to the beauty standards. It reflects self-improvement rather than pandemic restriction. While Bella Hadid shaved hers with remarkable precision to match Audrey Hepburn’s in Roman Holiday, and Anna Wintour appears to have a hairdresser on call, it seems that Angela Rayner, deputy Labour leader, has not touched hers. She had done her hair artfully and shaved it to one side during her last appearance on The Andrew Marr.
Hair has become a topic of conversation – further proof that personal grooming is crucial to our wellbeing regardless of the external world (the reopening of Italian beauty salons this month allegedly outranked restaurants in demand) DIY fringe cuts are an expression of this new norm. Although lengths may vary, the sentiment is the same: a good fringe shows professionalism, even when they seem to be falling off.
George Northwood, the go-to stylist for fashion media, says that it’s more about “change”, about trying to feel normal or appear normal to the outside world. He says, “I understand that this is a time for experimentation, and while it’s not something I would recommend, there are some things you can do with scarves or hairbands which will prolong the need – but I understand that this is more than just a haircut.” “I’m all for doing what you can to keep sane.”
However, this wasn’t always true. We didn’t know what would happen in the last days of March. A haircut was not something we thought about. At least, not for women. Clipper sales have risen by more than 200%. This suggests that men have been trimming their hair for several weeks. However, there is no data available on the sales of hairdressing scissors.
Now we’re 10 weeks into lockdown, well past the sweet spot for a recommended trim. Northwood, who invented and nurtured The Alexa (Chung), and The Claudia (Winkelman), said that this is “absolutely six to eight weeks”. The fringe has a generally four-week shelf life. If you were locked down with one, it is likely that you have already given your hair one trim. Northwood has been guiding clients such as Winkelman into cutting hers at home, using clips, point cutting and texturising scissors, videos of which have been uploaded on to social media. According to him, YouTube is where he does most of his work.
Rachael Gibson is a hair historian. She says that cutting your hair now is a necessity. It’s a way to feel in control and not lose yourself. Many people see going to the hair salon as a return to normality, after a long and destabilising period. In this case, we are able to cut our hair as close to normal as possible.
According to Gibson, recent history shows that there is a “certainly correlation” between changes made in grooming and crises. During the Great Depression, for example, cosmetic sales initially dipped in the US, though by 1939 they were up 35%. After the 2008 financial crisis, the British economy suffered a dip. However, nail polish sales rose by 65%. In the early 2000s, Leonard Lauder (chairman of Estee Lauder’s board) coined the term “Lipstick Index.” This suggested that women would use their purchasing power to purchase smaller luxury items like lipstick in difficult times.
Could we be at the edge of a Fringe Index in these screen-driven times?
It is possible to see a subtler element in politics, especially when you think about the meanings behind how they dress. Boris Johnson’s untidy hair may be a way to identify with the working class, but it just makes him seem more sophisticated. Rayner, on the other hand, is trying to make her hair look more grown-out than shabby. This gives Rayner a sense of authenticity. Liam Allmark is a hair stylist at Bristol’s Kings & Queens Hair Salon compares her hair with Brigitte Bardot’s. She suggests that if your fringe is too long, you could chage the parting and sweep it to one side it while it grows out. Matt Hancock is either close to a hairdresser, or has access to one. Allmark says that the Houses of Parliament have hairdressers ‘in-house’. However, a quick visit to the John Simon salon reveals that they are also closed.
We are now in deep uncertainty because of the pandemic. Northwood says that fringes are a popular option for people who want to reopen salons in July. It seems that cutting your hair can be one thing. But focusing on fringes is more of a mood shift, something that marks the beginning of a new chapter.