Fringe Benefits: This 60s Cinematic Icon Taught Me to Love my Hair
‘As a Beauty Editor, I often consider the ways we self-fashion to communicate how we’re feeling to the world’
image Nellie Eden
words Nellie Eden
Homer Simpson’s two lonely strands; Lauryn Hill’s dreadlocks, Wayne Rooney’s bald spot, Freida Khalo’s plaits and Anna Delvey’s strawberry blonde. Hair often contributes to how we characterise people; their personalities and predilections. Villains have arched hair lines and afros can be a form of activism. Princesses have golden swishy hair, punks wear Mohawks and artists wear theirs long and greying. So pervasive is the meaning that we attach to hair that some of us spend a whole lifetime escaping the mousy brown we were born with.
Being born, as I was, with a thick black mop of Groucho Marx hair, my own hair has been something of a forgone conclusion. “I like the hairy one” a passing, pointing teenager reportedly told my mum as he strolled past her twin buggy in the park, my ginger (twin) brother buckled in next to me.
As a Beauty Editor I’m always considering the ways in which we self-fashion in order to communicate better to the world how we’re feeling. Nothing seems more personal or political to the people I meet and talk to than their hair, and so that’s where I’ve landed when considering my own ‘signature’ beauty look, if I can call it such a thing. While I’ve experimented with make-up, piercings; tattoos, nails (and nail rings) skincare, peels and lasers; my hair has remained steadfastly, my hair. I am but a cartoon character, trapped for infinity in long auburn hair and parted fringe.
My obsession with fringes began one rainy Sunday afternoon in my early teens (pre-social media) as I watched terrestrial TV next to my napping mum. Luchino Visconti’s 1963 film The Leopard was playing. Set in Sicily, Burt Lancaster who plays Don Fabrizio, Prince of Salina, falls madly in love with Angelica (as does everyone else) played by the then 25-year-old Claudia Cardinale.
At the time Cardinale’s womanliness was overwhelming to me. Her (bra) cup ranneth over, her eyes gleamed, her hair shone. An obsession was planted. As Angelica, Cardinale’s glimmering dark hair whispered of a fecundity my prepubescent brain couldn’t quite process. As I delved deeper into the life and style of Cardinale, her hair became an increasing fixation. It was like mine, but much, much better. In real life she wore her hair with a cropped parted fringe that was a staple for lots of women throughout the ‘60s.
It’s important to note, that in my own less glamorous life during this period I was listening to a lot of guitar music, reading and writing poems, discovering beatnik culture (lots, and lots of hats and fringes there) and being generally all-round cringe. Fringes were coming to me from every angle, my decision was made.
Having connected to the Wi-Fi via the landline, I trotted along to the nearest Toni & Guy I could find with a grainy, printed picture of Claudia Cardinale’s do. I emerged, out into the shopping centre, fringed.
The fringe was not easily won in the months and years following the first cut. Having been cursed with a cowslick at birth, it’s been trained in, ironed in, sprayed into glossy submission, clipped down and conquered. To this day, I will fiddle with my fringe from dusk until dawn as if it were a part-time job. I’ve left groups of friends at festivals, traipsed solo, back to the tent to clamp the fringe into place (it was 2006). I lament over pictures where my fringe looked almost perfect and shake my head: “I had no idea” I tell myself. Friends comment when my fringe starts to grow out, seemingly other people are as attached to the curtains as I am.
I might be paranoid, but I’m sure other fringed people look at me, across the tube, approvingly or critically as they mentally compare our fringes. I’m saying this because I’ve done it. It has to rank as one of the least adventurous beauty decisions ever (I wish we were discussing my facial tattoo instead) but really it’s what makes me feel like me.
I still screenshot Bridget Badot’s bangs, Jean Shrimpton’s fringe and The Ronette’s sweeping cuts and take them to my hairdresser. I bulk with deep offence whenever someone describes my fringe as looking ‘70s. It does not fall into a feathered ‘do, there are no layers in the rest of my hair, ‘tis not… “shaggy.”
For a moment, in 2017 there was a year minus-fringe. Whenever I look back on those pictures, I only gaze directly at my forehead and think “yep, confirmed, much better with fringe.” To this day I wear my bangs as a badge of honour. If they’re happy, I’m happy. If, as I grow decrepit (god willing) and the fringe loses its bounce and verve, and my head balds, I’ll have a specially commissioned wig glued permanently to my skull - I’ve thought it all through- and it will have shining, glorious bangs.