I’m finally winning the battle with my hair - I think
- Credit: Archant
Ellen Widdup’s escape to the country
Coco Chanel once said that a woman who cuts off her hair is about to change her life.
She may have had a point. Certainly it’s a sure fire way to make waves.
When Michelle Obama unveiled a new fringe last year on her 49th birthday she claimed it was the only way she could express a midlife crisis because “I couldn’t get a sports car and they won’t let me bungee jump.”
Her predecessor Hilary Clinton, who has had more haircuts than her husband has had scandals, once remarked: “If I want to knock a story off the front page, I just change my hairstyle.”
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Kate Middleton is another whose trademark tresses are always being commented upon.
In fact, the poor girl was lambasted last week for her “long and lank” chestnut locks and has also been on the receiving end of snide remarks about her grey roots.
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I feel for her, I really do, but maybe she does need to think about an image overhaul.
After all, according to recent research, the average woman goes through an incredible 104 different styles in a lifetime – and many of those mark significant milestones.
A trim here, a bob there, a few curls, a rash red phase and some honey-hued highlights are just the start of my relationship with my hair.
It began aged 15 when I first discovered the blow dry.
Up until then I had a crazy, wild mop of frizz. Think the Simpson’s character Sideshow Bob with a smattering of Tina Turner.
Only my parents (blinded by unconditional love I imagine) thought it looked attractive.
I absolutely hated it until I eventually found my salvation in the power of the hairdryer nozzle. And after that there was no stopping me. Overnight I went from gawky kid to wildly confident teenager.
I experimented with Henna which made my hair - and the back of my neck - vibrant orange. I then dipped the ends into temporary neon pink.
I layered it, shortened it, chopped and coloured it and invested in a set of ludicrously expensive hair straighteners which gave me split ends and a third degree forehead burn.
Looking back at old photographs I can still remember how I was feeling each time it changed – from the chic dark brown bob which marked the end of a long relationship and signified a new me, to the caramel highlights I had to celebrate my first job.
As Melanie Griffith’s character Tess in the 1988 film Working Girl, said: ‘’You wanna be taken seriously, you need serious hair.’’
In short, it would appear that every overhaul I have had has marked a moment, trauma, achievement, or upheaval in my life.
But apparently this is fairly normal.
Victoria Beckham, who unveils a new image every few months, has a well-documented fondness for fiddling with her looks.
A coiffeur chameleon she has sported everything from the “pob” to WAG ghastly extensions, an elegant updo, a blonde pixie crop and long and luscious dark locks.
Actress Jennifer Aniston, who became renowned for her ‘Rachel’ cut, is also famous for making subtle changes in hairstyle, from curly to poker straight. And believe it or not, science suggests the chop we choose says a great deal about who we are.
In fact, apparently, the semiotics of a woman’s hair are so complex that they are inextricably linked with the story she wants to tell about herself.
Perhaps that is why it was so shocking when Britney Spears shaved her head in full public view in 2007. It was seen as evidence of her mental health.
And what about those women who defy change completely? Are they too revealing more than they realise?
Take the Queen, whose helmet style is, arguably, a reflection of her conservatism. Her daughter Anne has also worn the exact same style for well over 40 years.
Then look at ageing rock stars like Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart who have clung to their style well into old age, perhaps nostalgic for their glory days.
Of course we could be reading too much into this. A survey of 3,000 women found 44% changed their hair simply because they were bored. But there must certainly be a level of vanity which contributes to the fact that the average British woman spends £26,500 on her tresses over her lifetime.
The truth is hair has a hold on us like no other physical feature. I know that when my hair fell out in great chunks after the birth of my daughter, I wailed for days.
To be honest, it is only now, in my mid 30s, that I feel like I am winning the battle with my hair. I know what suits me and what does not, I have pictures to remind me of my mistakes and more importantly, I am confident and happy enough in my life not to desire constant change.
One thing is for certain however – I will never go back to my roots.
Find me on Twitter @EllenWiddup.