If you hadn’t noticed that there is a new power hairstyle on the scene, don’t feel bad about it. You weren’t supposed to notice because the new look flies deliberately under-the-radar. The check-me-out blow-out is over, and the new look is Don’t Care Good Hair.
Don’t Care Good Hair is flat at the top – root lift is so noughties, babes – and wavy through the middle section, but in a bendy, haphazard-looking shape with no spiral curls. The ends are left natural so they poke in different directions rather than being curled neatly under. It is more zigzag than Wag, more lo-fi than blow-dry.
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“Do you remember that advert, ‘Like You’ve Just Stepped Out of a Salon’?” asks George Northwood, stylist to queen of the Don’t Care Good Hair, Alexa Chung, singing the Salon Selectives jingle from the early 1990s. “That’s such an old-fashioned idea, now. No one wants to look like they’ve just come from the hairdresser in a big cloud of hairspray. They want to look as if they have just stepped out of a studio at an end of an editorial shoot, maybe. Or just off the beach.”
If you’ve got straight hair, you’ll know how when you let it down after it’s been twisted up in a bun, it usually looks a total mess, but just occasionally it looks brilliant: bouncy and shaggy though in a loose, accidental way. That’s the hair I’m talking about. And a new generation of stylists have found ways of cutting hair (with razors) and styling it (with tongs, but leaving the top and bottom inches alone) which recreates that once-in-a-million bendy bounce. You can tuck it behind your ears and shoulder-robe a blazer for work, or add earrings and a silk blouse for dinner.
Once you identify this hair you realise that everyone has it. Chung has had it for years. Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone do it on the red carpet. The French It-girls – Lou Doillon, Josephine de la Baume – do it. It is a favourite among the power women of fashion: Victoria Beckham has this hair. Stella McCartney has it too, and so does Alison Loehnis, president of Net-a-Porter.
To grasp how the messaging of this hair is different from the traditional blow-out, look no further than Strictly, where Claudia (the cool, maverick one) often has this hair while Tess (the straight man) has sleek lengths or glossy curls. It is telling and terrifying that while most women of the Trump world have Kellyanne Conway’s Barbie ringlets, Ivanka comes quite close to getting this modern look right, now and again.
Our very own beauty guru, Sali Hughes, recently wrote about having this hair. She credits the haircut first given to her by Luke Hersheson in 2014 as “literally life-changing. For the first time in my life I have hair that basically looks good.” The look, she says, “is about having good hair but not looking like you give too much of a shit. It’s part of a shift toward homemade-looking hairstyles.” Modern party hairstyles are more likely to be a version of a plait – a style we all learned to do ourselves in primary school – than the salon-expertise of a chignon. “Women are going to blow-dry bars, and paying for mermaid braids with strands falling out, or squelched-up curls,” says Hughes.
“Oh yes, this is totally me,” recognises Natasha Pearlman, editor of Grazia, when I ask her whether she identifies with the don’t-care look. (A stylist at Aveda showed her a trick, where you twist the hair before you wind it around the tong.) “It gives an air of casual attention to detail. It’s everywhere now – I see it on the tube.” Fashion and interiors writer Carolyn Asome, a longtime George Northwood client, was a pioneer of the look on the front row. “I’ve had this since 2003, when everyone else was still into poker-straight hair. I have Chinese hair that dries straight naturally, and a round-ish face, so the zigzag angles make my face look a bit slimmer.” Fiona Golfar, editor-at-large of British Vogue is, like Hughes, a devotee of Luke Hersheson, “the king of the tong. It is a hard look to get right at home. If it’s too neat it’s a bit TV-awards-show – there’s nothing more mesmerisingly awful than a spiral – and if you try and do it yourself, it can turn into flat strips like you get when you overcook bacon.”
Along with the rise of the soft-power silhouette in fashion, which replaces the power shoulder with a more quietly assertive mood of sophisticated femininity, Don’t Care Good Hair speaks of a gear shift in how women choose to affirm their authority. “It represents a kickback from the time when a woman in power had to have stiff, serious Anna Wintour hair,” says Northwood. “The looseness of the new look is a statement that you are relaxed about having power and don’t feel like you have to wear a helmet to defend it.” Nicola Rose, the fashion-director-at-large of Red magazine, has the new hair naturally (“A brisk walk with wet hair to the tube” is her routine) but spent her 20s travelling the world with a hairdryer and GHD hair straighteners to create a Wintour bob. “Hairstylist Eugene Souleiman said that straighteners were the perm of the 1990s – I love that. Hair defines an era. The new hair works with cool-girl labels, like Céline and Stella and Vetements. It’s the hair for the girl who just throws stuff on and looks great.”
When George Northwood created this look on Chung, he was thinking of “those old Calvin Klein campaigns from the 90s, where Guido did the hair on Kate Moss. It’s about taking that grunge idea but making it work for someone who has an actual job. We do a kind of half-hearted blow-dry, and then tong it, but working with the natural texture,” he says. Hughes says that her hair, once cut into the style, is so easy to style that “the other day I was going somewhere posh, and I got my boyfriend to tong random bits of the back of my hair while I finished getting ready. That’s how easy it is. And it’s actually better if it’s not perfect.”