I have a friend who thinks the great Dallas novel, when it is written, will be titled Hair Talk. The friend, who moved away a year or so ago, says that it when he returns to Dallas for visits, the follicular subject arises in conversation without fail, within a matter of minutes. Sometimes it is the main subject; at other times, it is a mere subtopic, but there is no verbal interchange in Dallas that does not touch on the stuff on top of our heads.
This seems perfectly reasonable to me. Hair is, after all, destiny; but it is an aspect of destiny that you can do something-any number of things-about. All the great philosophers speak of this: Plato, Descartes, and Paul Rudnick, who has written the great New York hair novel, Social Disease- “Hair is central to city life,” Rudnick observes. “Every head puts forth a (Certain quantity of hair, and it demands tending, fuss, decision. Man is the only animal who owns a comb.”
Cartoonist Nicole Hollander, who draws “Sylvia,” also understands the centrality of hair to the urban, post-modern psyche. She believes that a really good haircut is as effective in changing one’s life as six months of psychotherapy. Of course, this would also suggest that a bad haircut could set you back six months.
As a recovering hair victim (bad perm a couple of years ago, followed by a bad cut to get rid of as much of the perm as possible, followed by the ongoing horror of growing out the bad cut), I can testify to the terrible power of hirsute misfortune.
Rebecca O’Dell, fashion editor for this magazine, has it right. She says: “When you decide to grow out your hair, you have to accept that for quite a while, you’re going to look like Moe of the Three Stooges.” Rebecca, who has great, shoulder-length hair, started growing out her hair back when the rest of us were still in the thrall of the short, quasi-punk look.
For my part, I have sworn never, never, never again to get my tresses whacked in a major way. No more rash hair acts-extremely short hair may look great on actress Sylvia Kristel; on lesser beings, though, the effect is more Gertrude Stein than Emmanuelle.
[ am, however, having trouble learning to leave my hair alone. I know that writer Susan Lydon is right. “One would think,” she says, “that even a half-wit could grasp that if your hair is already too short, cutting it more will not make it longer, yet I have seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by ignoring this elementary principle.” But I still can’t stop getting my hair cut.
Therefore, my hair, though evolved from its near crew-cut phase, has, two years after the decision to grow it out, barely achieved chin length. As a result of my cut-happy tendencies, I know exactly what the narrator in David Byrne’s song means when he sings: “I’ve changed my hairstyle so many times, I don’t know what I look like.” (The other great hair song is Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London,” which includes the couplet “I saw a werewolf in Trader Vic’s/His hair was perfect.)
My need for frequent haircuts is partly the result of a character disorder-namely, the inability to wait for anything-but I also blame it on Lawrence Bonanno, Jamie Lula, and their hands. Lawrence owns Oltimo, my hair establishment of choice, and before he departed for Los Angeles, Jamie took care of the shampoos and neck rubs there, and I’ve found that if I go for more than a month, six weeks max, without experiencing the magic fingers of Oltimo in my hair, I have to rent Out of Africa and watch Robert Redford wash Meryl Streep’s hair a couple of times in an attempt to obtain vicarious hair thrills.
For most women I know, having someone cut their hair results in sensual gratification of the highest order. This, fellows, is why we willingly shell out $35, $45, whatever it takes, for a cut (before tip). This is what the movie Shampoo was about. This is why Bar-bra Streisand and Jon Peters lived together. I would propose to Lawrence, but I don’t think his wife would be pleased.
Perfectly happy as I am with Lawrence, I would never try to evangelize on the subject of his virtues. I cannot say the same for many of my acquaintances, who are always trying to win converts for their haircutters. Rejecting these suggestions is a delicate matter. You certainly can’t say, hey, if your hair is the evidence, no thanks.
This leads us to the sure-fire sign of a great haircut: people stop you on the street and beg to know who is responsible for your do. On the other hand, the clue that your haircut is less than delectable is when friends murmur sympathetically, “Oh, you, ah, got your hair cut,” and avert their eyes.
Humorist Cynthia Heimel offers an alternate method of haircut-evaluation: “First thing to do: look in the mirror. Pretend you’re not you. Pretend you’re some strange woman in a restaurant whom you happen to notice dining with an old boyfriend. Now, pretending all this, is your reaction: a) ’Oh dear, poor Fred’s taste has certainly gone downhill1? or: b) ’I’ll rip her eyeballs out1? If you want to rip your eyeballs out, you have a good haircut.
Once those of us who are hair-obsessed have exhausted the cut-related possibilities of achieving a new look, there is always the final frontier: color. Even I can’t get my hair cut more than once a month, and lately I notice that some of my more compulsively with-it friends seem to change their hair color by the week. Happily, according to James Morrison of Toni & Guy, the technology of hair color has advanced so that these days, changing one’s hair color does not also require risking its falling out.
According to Dolly Nazak, one of 01-timo’s color wizards, the big challenge in Dallas is to wean clients from their blonder-the-better philosophy. (It’s not limited to Dallas; according to the New York Times, nationally, Clairol has had a 25 percent increase in sales to salons of blonde hair coloring in the last year.) “Almost every woman in Dallas wants to be blonde, but a lot of them don’t know how to go about getting a good blonde. Women need to understand they can still be beautiful if they’re not blonde,” says Dolly, who is a redhead, for the time being, anyway.
All the major salons in Dallas have a color department, and color is by all accounts the fastest growing sector of the hair business. Hair-aholics sometimes frequent one salon for cutting and another for coloring; they would no more have the same person do both than they would have brain surgery performed by a G.P.
Some of the hottest hair-meisters in townright now are to be found at Jungle Red,L’Entourage, Toni & Guy, Alan Stone, andPaul Neinast. The first three salons are moredaring; the last two have more of a celebrity/establishment following. With any ofthese Dallas stylists, one can engage in hairtalk, secure in the knowledge that here arepeople who understand that clothing comesand goes, but hair is with you twenty-fourhours a day.