When Beyoncé emerges onstage during her “Renaissance” tour, she is a magnificence of hair. She’s also a magnificence of sequins, over-the-knee boots, vocal agility, swagger, and total command of plus or minus 70,000 screaming, weeping, hyperventilating fans. Plus hair.
Did you get scalped tickets to Taylor Swift’s “Eras” show? Did you catch Barbie, her 18 wigs, and her 30 or so hairpieces? How about the Musée des Arts Décoratifs exhibition “Des Cheveux et des Poils,” about hair on the head and body?
This is the Summer of Hair. And if you have an aversion to a labeled season, I apologize. I’m just the messenger. Last year was Coastal Grandmother Summer, and before that it was Hot Girl Summer. There was also Coronavirus Test Summer and Stuck in Traffic on the L.I.E. Summer, but maybe that was just me.
“I went to the Beyoncé concert, and it was just like, O.K., I get it. The hair is whipping around with the fans, and it feels very sexy and feminine,” says Tommy Buckett, a hairstylist at the Marie Robinson Salon, in New York. “It’s gorgeous and goddessy.”
Between the Renaissances—Beyoncé’s and Botticelli’s—is a filament of keratin fiber, a connection through time.
Venus, meet Demi Moore, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rachel Zoe, Vera Wang, Cher. Everyone, say hi to Rapunzel.
“I feel like long hair isn’t really a trend. It’s an energy,” says Jessica Gillin, the head stylist at the Jenna Perry Hair salon, in New York, whose clients include Bella Hadid, Dakota Johnson, and Emily Ratajkowski. “People are leaning into a sexiness. They aren’t going into the office as much, and they can wear looser, longer hair and not feel like they’re being messy or disheveled.” Gillin herself has hair “right below my boobs.”
The current length is 70s long, “not done too much,” says Buckett. “It’s natural, air-dried, hippie-ish.... A little shaggy.”
In other words, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen.
Elizabeth Saltzman, a fashion stylist who works with Paltrow, Jodie Comer, and Saoirse Ronan, tosses her hair around her neck like a scarf. “It’s kind of ridiculous,” she says. “It’s like just at the bottom of my sagging butt.” Hardly sagging, but the hair is extraordinary.
Some of this length came about during the coronavirus pandemic. “I was just like, Fuck it,” says Saltzman. Marci Klein, a television producer who worked on 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live, and whose hair reaches her waist, relays a hair-related conversation she had circa 2021. “My friend said, ‘I’m being honest with you. You look like something’s wrong.’ And I said, ‘Well, something is wrong. It’s called the world.’”
Have you ever heard that the older you get, the shorter your hair should be? Please feel free to ignore this and all the other ageist dicta. Says Gillin, “Sarah Jessica Parker is showing everyone that you don’t have to cut your hair when you turn her age,” which is 58.
“I’m old,” says Klein, 56. “Someone said to me, ‘You look like someone who is hanging on [to your hair],’” she says.
“Do I have longer hair than my son’s prom date? That’s not good.... Also, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”
But she can. And she is.
“I know how old I am,” says Saltzman, who’s 58. “I know how young I feel.... I know that if a good song comes on, I’m the first to get on the dance floor,” she says. That’s the spirit!
The patron saint of long hair, Morticia Addams, tells me she loved her flowing wig. “It was really good human hair,” says Anjelica Huston. “I don’t know how many nuns it took to get all that good hair.” The key to the look was “the little puff on top; it didn’t stick to my head and drag down my face.” Huston’s stylist on Addams Family Values, Toni-Ann Walker, “took care of it every night, combing it and curling it. We’d ask her to join us for dinner and she said, no, she had to stay with ‘Tish,’ which is what we called the wig.”
Tish sounds like quite the diva, but you can’t say that about hair that grows out of the head. “The longer my hair is, the easier it is,” says Gillin. In the lives of the long-haired, there are few blowouts or curling irons. It almost makes you feel bad for Sir James Dyson.
Trims are rare and cuts are never. “There are definitely those women who just can’t part with even a quarter of an inch without losing their minds,” says Gillin. If or when they enter a salon, they’re on high alert, fearing the stylist will lop off their hard-earned inches. “I’m not a therapist, so I just do what they want.” She gives these clients a half-inch or inch snip every six months and calls it a “dusting,” presumably not to freak out anyone. The word is usually preceded by “just a.”
Klein, who’s had her hair cut by many of the greats—John Sahag, Suga, Christiaan Houtenbos, Chris McMillan—recalls a recent dusting that became, when she looked up from her phone, seven inches on the cutting-room floor. It was the morning after the 2022 Oscars, which she was supposed to attend with Chris Rock, whom she met up with afterward. Yes, those Oscars with that Chris Rock. So, naturally, “I’m going to blame Will Smith,” she says.
How does one fill all the time that was once spent blow-drying, curling, cutting, and coloring? “I’m actually doing extensions right now,” Gillin tells me when I call her. She does up to four a day and has seen an uptick in “just a row of extensions to fill out the bottom so it doesn’t look like the hair is dissolving.”
Buckett makes a distinction. “It’s not like Y2K Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Lindsay Lohan stuff when it was such a flex to show you had extensions.” His clients tell him, “I want it to look long and I want it to look real.”
How real? Some of Gillin’s clients don’t even tell their romantic partners.
The price for this so-called real hair, color-matched to the actual real hair and attached with keratin bonds, is between $600 and $1,200, or “less than Botox,” says Gillin.
All that long hair does require a degree of willpower to resist not only scissors and hot tools but also various compromising chemicals. Instead, there are visits to the clinic Hårklinikken in Copenhagen, Reykjavík, New York, Beverly Hills, or Pasadena for “scalp and hair education,” according to its Web site. The clinic’s name may be impossible to spell, but that hasn’t dampened its popularity. “Lars [Skjøth, the founder] is pretty much a miracle worker for everyone I know,” says Saltzman. Both Saltzman and Buckett attest to the effectiveness of Hårklinikken’s extracts, shampoos, oils, and masks—and they both are dropouts. “It was just the every night doing it,” says Buckett, sounding weary. Adds Saltzman, “You have to wash your hair every day, and I’m definitely not doing that.”
It’s not the gestalt of lazy hair. Laissez-faire hair. Hair for people who’d rather be doing anything but their hair.
Do stylists worry that they’re going to be out of a job? “There is the long-hair girl and there is always the short-hair girl,” says Buckett. “People grow their hair out, and then they get bored and they’re like, ‘Let’s chop it off.’”
Cut, grow, oil, feed, straighten, curl, braid, and feather. Hack it off, add extensions. Perhaps we manipulate our hair because it gives the illusion of control when everything feels chaotic. Rinse, repeat.
Linda Wells is the Editor at Air Mail Look