Hair up? Hair down? The Upswept is losing, says this writer, because it won't stay up
MARY LOWERY ROSSFebruary11939
Hair up? Hair down? The Upswept is losing, says this writer, because it won't stay up
MARY LOWERY ROSS
ABOUT THREE years ago the hair stylists of Paris decided it was time to do something about women's hair. So they invented the Upswept
Since women’s hair is everybody’s business, the stylists counted on the customary arguments, delays and opposition. Women would have to get used to the new idea, and the usual outburst of masculine indignation and derision would have to be met and overridden. But that has always been the history of style revolutions. The promoters of the Upswept were confident of success, and for an immediate example could point to the triumph of the Irene Castle bob.
Most people will rememlxr the violent controversy raised by the innovation of Ixibbed hair. Newspapers ran symposiums in which the pros and cons were furiously discussed. Foreign visitors were required to state their position, for or against, at the ojxning of every interview. 1 lusbands threatened divorce or vowed to grow beards until their wives' hair was back where nature intended it to lx* i.e., on top of their heads. Conservative business organizations refused to employ women with bobbed hair, and hospitals declined to accept probat ioners who couldn't produce a seemly hairknob along with their other credentials. But the click of shears went merrily on, and in the end the sensation died down. Husbands came home. Bob-haired stenographers everywhere took down the nation’s correspondence, lx>b-haired nurses flitted about the wards, and everybody wondered what the fuss had been all about.
And so three years ago the stylists counted heavily on this streak of feminine obstinacy to put the new Upswept Trend across. Abetted by the fashion magazines, and the hairpin, hair-net and side-comb industries, dead these twenty years, they threw themselves highheartedly into the campaign, attacking on three sides: The new hair do was different, it was feminine, it was smart.
The advertisers, falling into line, showed beautiful ladies with upswept hair applying cosmetics, admiring jewellery and stepping into motor cars.
And after three years intensive publicizing and campaigning, ninety-five ]x-r cent of the feminine population is still wearing its hair bobbed, rolled, ringleted, or any way but Up.
Debs and Matrons Both Resist
CURIOUSLY enough, the opposition to the new trend came from the two quarters that the stylists should have been able to count on most confidently from the movie stars and the debutantes. Until recently the movie stars resisted almost in a body; for the career of a screen actress is short at best, and she will hold out as long as possible against a style that adds ten years to her age. “As for the debutantes, we simply don’t count on them any more,” the representative of a famous beauty salon said to me, pointing out that America’s most famous fashion magazine devotes one issue in the year to the debutante and the remaining eleven to the femme élégante, the woman of forty and over.
Now the woman of forty and over is precisely the woman who twenty years ago rashly cut off her hair. Today she is old enough to want to lx* elegant, young enough to want to lxsmart, and enterprising enough to seize on any new
style that promises elegance and smartness combined. Moreover, the Upswept style, while it makes the young woman look older, tends to make the older woman look younger. So the advocates of the new trend had every reason to count with confidence on the support of the contemporary middle-aged matron.
But the contemporary middle-aged matron is holding out with the rest.
Most of the matrons of my own acquaintance have tried it. Influenced by the fashion magazines, as well perhaps as by nostalgic memories of the romantic past, they reverted to hairpins, side combs and puffs. The first day it looked smart and different. The second day it looked different without looking smart. The third day it looked terrible. Within a week they were all back to the comfortable rolled bobs.
And they all said the same thing: It’s too expensive; it’s too much trouble; it isn’t comfortable.
“The Bride of Frankenstein”
TJOR THE Upswept vogue presents none of the advantages of the Edwardian mode it pretends to revive. In the Edwardian period you “did” your hair yourself, arranging it firmly over a pad and skewering it with hairpins into a substantial topknot. The matron of that era may have looked as though she did her hair with a monkey wrench, but at least she felt secure. A high wind or a violent embrace might ruffle her coiffure, but they couldn’t bring it down about her ears. All she had to do was rake it fore and aft with her side comb and she was herself again.
Naturally, no hair stylist wants those days back again. His best offering is meant to last for one evening’s gaiety. With infinite care, you may nurse it along so that it will do for a minor engagement the next evening. But you can’t take it down. You can’t even go to bed with it. You have to sit up with it as though it were an ailing child.
And you can’t do it yourself. You may, if you insist, sweep it upward in your own home with your own untrained hands, but the result is more likely to remind your friends of the Bride of Frankenstein than of the contemporary portrait you had in mind.
In the hands of the expert, of course, the Upswept can lx* a thing of wonder and beauty. Recently I attended a private showing given by an internationally famous hair stylist. The stylist demonstrated his art on the head of four young and lovely models.
The coiffures were erected with delicate care, curl by curl. The curls were swept forward and backward but always upward, until at last the whole spun-glass arrangement. was complete, the artist fell back, the models glided out on the floor, and the audience held its breath. It held its breath partly in admiration, and partly from fear that a current of air might find its way through some unguarded transom and the whole beautiful illusion be destroyed.
They were, all four, coiffures suitable to a drawing-room presentation where every-
thing moves with infinite decorum and the most violent action required is a deep court courtesy. But how long would they last, one wondered, on a ski slide or in a roller rink, or even at an ordinary party once the evening started to liven up?
The modern woman is willing to lavish a wonderful amount of time and expense on her hair. The sum of money spent yearly at the hairdressers would probably launch a national housing project; and the amount of time spent under the nation’s driers, if added end to end, would probably run into light years. The woman of today is determined as never before to look her best. At the same time, she is both active in body and practical in mind, and she wants some guarantee that her investment won’t be gone with the wind five minutes after she sets foot on a golf course.
This is what the hair stylists have failed to take into account. Deceived by the alacrity with which women fell into line twenty years ago, they have overlooked the fact that women bobbed their hair, not because the style wrs dictated to them but because they wanted to. It was different. it was smart, but before every thing else it was comfortable. It soon stopped being different, and now it is no longer smart. But it’s still comfortable. And no woman who has ever worried over her back hair, or suffered from a gnawing hidden hairpin under a tight hat, is going to give up her hairpinless comfort without a fight.
Stylists Still Fighting
THE stylists aren’t going to give up without a fight either. At the Official Show of New York Hairdressers and Cosmetologists held recently in Manhattan, the Uptrend principle was resolutely supported.
“The Uptrend is a fashion, not a fad,” was the official statement. “It satisfies the four fundamental requirements for a successful hair do. It is different, it is beautiful, it is adaptable and it is practical. It has given women a new poise; they hold their heads gracefully as though they were balancing jewels.”
The photographed coiffures released to the trade magazines were undoubtedly different, and many of them were beautiful. But only a group of hairdressers with a will-topersuade bordering on sheer fanaticism could ever have called any one of them adaptable or practical. They were without exception complex and bewildering works of art; and the masterpiece of the show, which drew its inspiration from the World’s Fair, was a wonderful upswept arrangement of puffs, swirls and lunatic fringes, topped by an illuminated trvlon and perisphere.
Try7 that one some time when you want to go out for an evening’s fun.
The hairdressers have an honest and legitimate stake in the new trend. It’s all in the interest of good business if women everywhere can be persuaded to wrear on the tops of their heads a labyrinth of puffs and swirls that requires expert and constant supervision. Obviously there is a determined and organized trade push behind the Upswept Principle, and there is little sign at the present moment that the stylists are ready to abandon the enterprise and let women go back to their slack comfortable ways. If after three years of high-pressure campaigning the battle hasn’t been won, it hasn’t been lost either. There is considerable evidence, for instance, that the Hollywood sector is at last beginning to ydeld. A recent fan magazine reveals that Myma Loy, Joan Crawford, Gloria Stuart, Danielle Darrieux, Frances Dee, Joan Bennett, Shirley Ross and Olivia de Havilland have all joined the ranks of the upswept. And very charming they look, most of them, in a mature sort of way.
Hollywood is undoubtedly a key position. But even if the movie colony should capitulate altogether, it is doubtful if the rest of America would follow suit. The basic objections to the Upswept—that it is expensive, impractical and uncomfortable —still hold. The screen star can’t afford to spare expense, she isn’t expected to be practical, she has had a long training in sacrificing comfort to appearance and she has a hairdresser constantly on hand to do the repair work. In a word she is special, and most of us can no more imitate her style than we can duplicate her circumstance. Women are ready to seize on any Hollywood fashion that is simple and workable—the Garbo long bob has had a universal vogue, since it required nothing more of its adapters than an end-permanent and the traditional hundred brush strokes a night. But the Upswept is another matter. One glance at the elaborate and fragile creations of the Westmore Brothers should convince any reasonable woman that she is defeated before she starts.
Wanted: A New Style
TN THE meantime, women everywhere -*• are ready for a change. They are tired of their hair short, and they won’t wear their hair long. The girl with the shingle or the Eton crop has vanished forever down
memory’s lane, along with that other oldfashioned heroine, the girl who could sit on her hair. At the present moment it looks as though the girl with the plain long bob were getting ready to join them. What women are looking for now is some happy and workable compromise—a hair do that will be neither long nor short, up nor down ; something that will combine the feminine vogue—since the feminine vogue is upon us—with some simple utilitarian principle. It will possibly come as a modification of the Upswept, with the brow and ears exposed -but the brow must be pure, the ears small and the nape of the neck covered. For the nape of the neck is the vulnerable point of the whole Upswept movement. No woman can be satisfied and serene as long as she is conscious of her back hair. And back hair, do what you will, won’t stay up. The brush of a collar, the touch of an arm, and it falls down in a dejected fringe.
Even if the Battle of the Uptrend ends in nothing better than a draw, the modern woman will have reason to congratulate herself. She has been exposed over an unprecedented period to a relentless barrage of influence from the world’s stylists, and she has still managed to hold out for a compromise in her own favor.
The woman of today wants her coiffure to be beautiful, distinctive and smart. And then she wants to be able to forget all about it. The stylist who can invent such a hair do won’t have to launch a three-year campaign to put it across. It will be sold before he starts.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.