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( Originally Published 1963 )
HOW I FOUND MY HAIRDO
Over 75 per cent of my fanmail asks me where I get my hair cut and who cuts it. For the past few years Ernie Adler, who does my hair for just about all my professional work, has been in charge of my curly locks. But it took me a long time and much experimenting before I found my hairdo-the one I consider most suitable for myself. For years I wore my hair in any style somebody else at the studio thought would look good on me. I wore my hair short, I wore it long, I wore it with side parts, without parts, high-crowned, no-crowned, sweet one day, sleeky and sophisticated the next. It was my fortune (or misfortune) to be one of those people who could wear my hair in almost any style without looking downright bad, or frankly, like anything at all. When I finally did find my hairdo it was by accident. I'd had a poodle cut (a current fad at the time) and I was wearing my hair appropriately short. I got tired of it and decided to let it grow out. Just when it got to the awkward length I discovered I liked it, and at the same time I stumbled on the happy fact that when my hair was damp (I've always taken a hot shower every morning), I could shape the hair with my hands by molding it, curling it, patting it, and when it dried, it looked fine.
Before you find the hairstyle that is ideal for you you may have to try ten that aren't. Begin experimenting at once and don't let your husband or friends intimidate you. Most people, even those we love and who love us, are quick to applaud our successes but do not as often sustain our courage to try something even if we fail. Still, I think we learn as much from our failures as from our successes. You must hold onto your faith that when you have found the hairdo for you, everyone will be delighted and on a long-term basis. Habit and laziness can be two great enemies of beauty. Don't get stuck in an unattractive hair-habit just because everyone you know is used to seeing you that way. Don't wear long hair because you're afraid to have it cut and your husband says he likes it long. Once you've cut it, he'll like it short too-if you look better that way and believe in your own taste. (Last year I tried wearing "wings" and my husband Freddy "hated" them. If I'd kept on wearing them he'd probably have gotten used to them and liked them and "hated" it if I'd changed to something else.)
To me most women with hair that falls below the collar do not look chic, and I say if you look bad with long hair (it does tend to be aging on any but the youngest women) do something about it. Try wearing it off your neck in a chignon or a roll at the very least. And if you find this is still a lot of bother you may get a great sense of liberation by cutting it short. Long hair is rarely as crisp or as clean-looking as short hair-no matter what husbands say.
Long hair advocates will disagree with me, of course, claiming that with long hair a woman can have a neat updo during the day and change into a wonderfully feminine creature with long silken tresses for evenings with home and husband. It does sound like an unbeatable combination and there are women who make it so. But for the most part these are either women with enough money and time to take perfect care of their hair or women who are simply exceptionally handy and skillful and patient enough to take on the added burden of training and caring for their long locks. I do not believe, however, that the average woman's busy life allows for this much attention to hair and if the result is a severe and unflattering knot or bun because its the only practical way to hold onto all that hair, then I say-up with the scissors.
CONSIDER A HAIRCUT
Now, whether or not you are about to make as drastic a change as cutting off ten years growth of hair, or if you are only styleshopping, sit down in front of your mirror with a fistful of bobby pins. Pin your hair up in various ways. Have some of those magazines we spoke about at your elbow and mark down the pages of hairdos you think might be good for you. Then shape your hair (after its been well washed and brushed) as closely as possible to the styles you see, and secure that look with the bobby pins. Study the hairstyle from all sides. If you don't have a three-way mirror, a handmirror plus a stationary mirror will do. You may have to do this for weeks, in your spare moments that is, before you stumble on a hairdo you like so much you can't wait to have it cut, set, and made yours for good.
PICK A GOOD HAIRDRESSER
If your hairdresser is at all imaginative and sincerely interested in his work, he (or she) will be tremendously grateful to you for having done this most vital ground work. Once you know what you want his job is simplified and he should be able to give you that cut or tells you why he thinks your hair cannot or should not be cut that way. Unfortunately, the average hairdresser does not look at the face of the woman he is working on. Find one who does. A woman who has discovered a hairdresser she can have faith in is way ahead in the game, and a good hairdresser should be given freedom to experiment after he has become thoroughly familiar with your general taste in hairdos.
Your hairdresser is also under an obligation, according to my way of thinking, to see that you can handle any hairstyle he whips up for you. There are some beauty salons where the tacit policy is to keep the patron utterly dependent on their hairdressers. I think a once-a-week visit to a hairdresser should be quite enough and in some cases too much. I'm much more in favor of a woman learning how to set her own hair after it's been cut and shaped. You can still go to the beauty parlor when you feel in need of that delightful feminine self-indulgence so boosting to the female morale, but you ought to know how to set your own hair if only for emergencies or a drive towards selfsufficiency. And what about that surprise date or dinner that comes up on a few hours notice and no appointment time available at your beauty parlor?
By the way, I've always wondered why so many women make the terrible mistake of going to the beauty parlor the same day they are going out. Newly set hair never looks really natural, and certainly not when its been put under the dryer. I go to the beauty parlor every ten days for a shampoo and I let them set my hair very loosely so that it won't look stiff and metallic looking. Even so I can never wait to get home and begin fussing with it myself.
LEARN TO SET YOUR OWN HAIR
More and more hair salons and hairdressers are teaching their customers how to set their own hair, and how to brush and comb these settings out. At the very least a hairdresser should teach the women he works on where the "wave points" are so that she can keep her set. By catching these "wave points" with clips or bobby pins, then wrapping the entire head in tissue and securing the arrangement with a nightcap or hairnet a good set can remain effective for a week or so. Some hairdressers today make up hair-setting charts which show exactly how curlers and clips should be arranged, what direction the hair should go in, how many curlers and so forth. The new hair magazines have pages of sample sets for a large variety of hairstyles which can be combed out in many ways. It's still better though to ask your hairdresser if he will make up a hairsetting chart for you and your set.
Even though, in a pinch, I can "set" my hair with my hands under the shower, most of the time to look its best it does require formal setting, and Ernie sets it as follows. He makes loose even curls all over my head by putting four or five big rollers on the crown slanting backwards, two rollers slanting downwards on the sides of my head, and one on each side that is rolled in the direction of my face. He sets the back with a group of rollers pointing towards the top of my head, and at the nape of the neck he makes a line of tight little pincurls. This setting is a good one for anyone whose haircut is or has been "poodled," "feathered," or "Italian-ed." With this one basic setting Ernie can comb my hair about five or six different ways.
Ernie, who has hair-dressed almost every hit on Broadway, many TV shows and actresses Faye Emerson, Judy Garland, Rosemary Clooney, Lynn Fontanne, Ethel Merman (to mention only a few) -is never caught short in an emergency. There've been times when I have not been able to get to him in time for a setting, or able to set my hair myself in advance. Ernie goes to work with a curling iron and the results are wonderful. Ernie can tease my hair so that it will hold almost any structure he wants it to. He says this is because my hair has so much natural "body," but Ernie has great faith in the tease and thinks every woman must learn how to tease her own hair. "Ask your hairdresser to teach you how" he suggests, "then go home and try it. You can master it if you want to. But don't panic" he warns, "when you try to comb or brush it out afterwards and it seems all stuck together like a bird's nest. Remember to brush the teased part of your hair out section by section-and never try to comb it at all until it is fully brushed out."
Hairdressers say they feel inspired when a woman with clean, healthy, well-brushed hair gets into the chair. Ernie Adler pays me lovely compliments because I usually wash my hair if its dirty before going to have him wash and set it. This, says Ernie, gives him an incentive to go ahead and do a better job-"the way you feel when you see a dress on a model who shows it with zest, pride, and erect posture. If you see one on a model who slumps and doesn't seem to care, you don't care either."
A giant step towards having beautiful hair is the purchase of a few essential items of equipment. First, and foremost-one or more genuine natural bristle brushes. Most of these brushes are made of boar bristles; the best probably come from England. They are not inexpensive, but a good one well taken care of will last and is an investment that can only net you the finest dividends in hair beauty. Don't let anyone tell you that nylon bristles are just as good. An additional nylon brush has its purposes, but,to get rich lustrous glossy locks, insist on natural bristles and with a wooden base, not a plastic one.
Next, learn how to brush your hair. In general your hair (as well as your facial muscles) benefit most from upwards brushing, not downward strokes. Work all around the head like the hands of a clock. Beginning with the front of the head brush your hair in a lifting motion off your forehead towards 12 o'clock. The movements on the sides of your head should be upwards and outwards. You'll find it easiest to brush your back hair if you lie across your bed on your tummy or bend over a chair so that you have a long unbroken line to work across. If your hair is very long or thick, try brushing it in sections. When you've finished brushing one section secure it with a bobby pin and move on to the next.
If possible get two brushes. At least one of them must be all natural bristles, the other can be half-nylon, half-natural. Reserve the softer one for your finishing strokes when you are concentrating on working up that high gloss after you're through with the more energetic part of your brushing. Save the stronger brush for your most forceful stimulating strokes. The upmovements you use should not only move your scalp and bring the blood to the roots of the hairs which helps to feed them, but also will loosen up and get rid of any excess dandruff.
Of course, with two brushes it should never be a problem to have one of them in perfectly clean condition. But never wash natural-bristle brushes in detergent or rub soap directly onto the brush. By running warm water over a cake of pure soap you can make a sinkful of soapsuds which will do the job thoroughly without weakening the strength or life of the animal bristles. How many strokes per day? The classic hundred is still a good number to aim for (and its easy to remember). Brush properlyso that each stroke goes strongly and smoothly from scalp to hair ends. Taking that hundred as a minimum daily goal, up that figure when you want to produce specially dazzling effects. You can't overbrush, and brushing will deepen your waves not diminish them. If you become an irregular brusher you'll get discouraged if you don't see any big change so really try for consistency.