Dec 1, 2012

Movember Moustaches

There is something distinctly whimsical about Movember, the month of the moustache. Started in 2003, Movember is a charitable campaign that highlights, and raises money for, men’s health issues by asking men to grown moustaches for the month. Here are a few ways that folks are bringing a smile to my day:

1. Lost in E Minor's "Airplanes with Moustaches" post

 2. Victoria and Albert Museum's moustache broach to bring out your inner modern day dandy.

3. The Moustache Calendar began in 2004 as a crazy idea dreamt up by two college roommates who needed to raise money for airfare to Hawaii. Matthew Cavallaro, a collaborator on this year's calendar entitled "The Very Best," says, "Throughout history, the moustache has been a symbol of empowerment for men. We wanted to celebrate the legacy of the moustache in design, fashion, and adventure. The calendar walks a thin line between pop art and fine art. We're making some bold statements about how relevant we believe it should be in popular culture, while obviously being a bit tongue-in- cheek."

4. Asos is offering a wide selection of moustache-related items, including a pack of 3 enamel charm rings, a moustache knitted beanie by River Island, and a moustache clutch by Koku.

5. The Moustache Bow Tie Project is a Kick Starter campaign brought to you by Knot Theory, the creator's of last year's successful Kick Starter project The Moustache Tie Clip Project. Knot Theory is a fashion label based out of Vancouver, Canada.

6. The third annual Beard Team USA National Beard and Moustache Championships took place on Sunday, November 11, 2012, in Las Vegas, Nevada. It's hard to imagine a more important event for American enthusiasts of facial hair. Growers were judged in eighteen categories, including the Dali,
Imperial, Hungarian, and the Musketeer.

7. The Manly 'Stache. This is now a couple of years old, but it's hard to resist a blog post marveling over the most manly of mustaches....

Happy Movember!!!

Nov 5, 2012

The Art of Hair

Oh my! There is a wonderful exhibition, The Art of Hair: Frivolities and Trophies on view in Paris at the Quai Branly Museum. It looks at the universal importance of hair in cultures throughout the world. A multitude of objects - 280 to be exact that include sculptures, paintings and photography - address how hair has been shaped, sheared, and sculpted to express loss, beauty, intimacy, sociability, ritual, religion, fashion, and style.

 J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, 1974.
Credit: Musée du Quai Branlyn.

The show combines western and non-western, ancient and contemporary pieces. Diverse items, such as a skull from Papua New Guinea, a photograph by Man Ray of Duchamp's star "haircut," and a limestone sculpture of Marie-Madeline from the earth 14th century, work together to reveal human history's overwhelming preoccupation with this organic material.

Preserved Skull. Iatmul, early 20th century / Musée du Quai Branly, photo Patick Gries.

(L) Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp tonsured by George de Zayas, 1919 / Credit: Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris, 2012
(R) Statue of Sainte Marie-Madeleine, by the Ecole Francaise. / Credit: RMN-GP/Jean-Gilles Berizzi

The objects in the exhibition show hair as a frivolous frippery for fashion but also its use as a political statement, a sexual symbol, a spoil of war, a fetish, a tool of sacrifice or punishment, an object of loss that symbolizes time passing, illness and death, or simply as vehicle for artistic expression.

Figurine from a Turkish shadow puppet theater show. The hair of the four men is being used as reins as they pull a figure in a carriage.
Claude Germain/Musée du Quai Branly

(L) Coiffe de chef Fang, Pahouin, avant 1899, Gabon, Afrique  / © musée du quai Branly, photo Claude Germain.
(R) Samuel Fosso, from his series “African Spirits,” 2008.

One of the themes of the exhibition is how hair -- blonde, brunette or red; straight or frizzy; long, short or shaved -- has been used to convey and establish standards of beauty.  Hair "is loaded with cultural meaning because it signifies an very human capacity for self-conscious manipulation, management and display." Examples in this section include wigs from Papua New Guinea,  photographs by JD Okhai Ojeikere (top photo) and Samuel Fosso (above), as well as paintings by Ingres, Jean-Louis Bezard, and an installation by Annette Messager (below). But is the quest for beauty a question of mere frivolity? Or is there something more serious below the surface? The rituals, the care, the modifications; do they not also betray a vital urge to create something out of the ordinary and cast off the ugliness of banality?2

The dance of the scalp
© Annette Messager - Adagp, Paris, 2012

With its metamorphic properties, hair can take on an infinite variety of physical and symbolic forms, varying between cultures and the social groups, trends and periods within each culture. Symbolically hair can represent normality and individuality, conformism and rebellion, seduction and repulsion. It classifies and differentiates people. But there are obvious paradoxes: shaved head or flowing long hair can be the hallmark of a rebel, a lout, an artist or a king, but also of a hermit, a mourner, a tramp... and colors come with their own stereotypes.

Bezard Jean-Louis (1799-1881) featuring Clotaire 1er, king of Francs.

Lighter colours are believed to have appealed to our prehistoric ancestors, with blond having reassuring qualities, evoking angels, saints and maternity. A common hair colour among northern Europeans, blond hair became a totem of the abhorrent theories regarding an Aryan race. Over-represented in the media, blond hair for women has sometimes come to be seen as a sign of superficiality. And many other clichés lie in the collective imagination -- brunettes are supposed to represent the opposite of blondes, being pragmatic or adventurous, while redheads are depicted as dramatic or even diabolical.

The Bouffant Belles, a running team from Texas, in the starting blocks, 1962.
Credit: Neil Barr

Obviously color, length and style of hair can also be a key component of seduction. From Antiquity to the present day, hairstyles have been in a constant state of flux, evolving hand-in-hand with fashion, convention, and discipline. Curls, fringes, long flowing locks...depending on the tastes of artists and their eras, hair has been used in different ways to represent seduction. The mythology and symbolism of hair help blur the boundaries between conformity and licentiousness, morality and sensuality, masculine and feminine.

(L) Brigitte Bardot and Alain Delon,  Sam Lévin, 1958. / Médiathèque de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine
Evariste Vital Luminais. Norman pirates in the 9th century (1822) / Credit: Jérôme Mondière

(L) Marble bust of Catharina Frederika of Württemberg by François Joseph Bosio ©Château de Versailles et de Trianon.
(R) A 19th century bust of an African woman by Charles Cordier, who devoted his career as a sculptor to showcasing the diversity of human physiognomy

Another theme of the exhibition deals with hair incorporated into relics, tokens, and talismen. In many cultures, hair retains the aura and energy of its owner and therefore some objects are considered "magical" or thought to be endowed with special powers. The practice of wearing belts made of hair is testament to this power. Acquiring hair which belonged to an important figure, and preserving this hair in a weapon or magic charm, is supposed to convey power and good fortune.

(L) An ornament for a man's belt, made of women's hair, from the Aguaruna tribe of the Rio Manarnon region in South America.
A mask from the Makonde people of Tanzania
Both: Claude Germain/Musée du Quai Branly

Some societies place great value on physical trophies of victory, an extreme example being the practice of headhunting. Trophies, scalps and other totems are supposed to carry a certain energy, often associated with crop fertility, group prosperity and peaceful relations with deceased ancestors. 

takes on an infinite variety of physical and symbolic forms, varying between cultures and the social groups, trends and periods within each culture. This floating symbol can represent normality and individuality, conformism and rebellion, seduction and repulsion. It classifies and differentiates people. Faced with this enormous diversity of artworks and objects, we are struck by the obvious paradoxes: shaved head or flowing long hair can be the hallmark of a rebel, a lout, an artist or a king, but also of a hermit, a mourner, a tramp...

A shrunken head from Ecuador.
Credit: Claude Germain/Musée du Quai Branly

At times, hair is believed to be imbued with the power of its original owner, and worn as a symbolically-charged personal adornment. This was particularly popular in the nineteenth century, when hair jewelry, such as bracelets, lockets, and broaches, formed of type of dialogue between this life and the great beyond. These delicate creations were often souvenirs of long-lost childhood, or tokens dedicated to the memory of those who had passed.

S.E locket, circa 1900 ©Collection Jean-Jacques Lebel

The loss of hair is a powerful biological process, but hair when shorn for donation (as with reliquaries), punishment, or political resistance it is a powerful symbol of social codes and sexual politics. Deliberately renouncing one’s hair can involve a complex combination of commitments and conventions, as with hair lost by nuns entering certain religious orders, or in initiation rituals in Papua New Guinea. The phenomenon of shaving the heads of women accused of sleeping with the enemy was a notable feature of the conflicts which ravaged Europe in the period 1933-1945. These ‘carnivals of ugliness’, as Alain Brossat described them, took palce in Spain, Germany and of course in France, with the events in Chartres recorded for posterity by Robert Capa (below).

Hairpiece cut from a young woman named Emma when she entered the Carmelite order.  (Circa 1900)
André Malraux bought the object at a Paris flea market and gave it to a friend for his twentieth birthday.
Credit: Collection Jean-Jacques Lebel.

Robert Capa. Chartres, August 18, 1944.
Woman shamed for having a child with a German.
 Evariste-Vital Luminais (1822-1896).
Le dernier des Mérovingiens.
Musée des beaux-arts, Carcassonne.

Immune to decay, from birth to death and beyond, hair has the ability to straddle this life and the next, and acts as a quintessential symbol of both the superficial and the profound. 

 An ornament from the Marquesas islands.
Credit: Claude Germain/Musée du Quai Branly

The exhibition will be on display until July 14, 2013.

1. Geraldine Biddle-Perry and Sarah Cheang "thinking about hair," Hair, Berg, p10.
2. I've used substantial content from the English translation of the exhibition press release, available on

Sep 11, 2012

Fashion Week do

Behind-the-scenes photo from the Spring 2013 Thakoon show. Photo by Sunny Vandevelde.

Jun 30, 2012

A Little Girl Gets Her Hair Cut

How many of us, when we were young, took scissors to our hair, thinking it would look pretty and ended up in an operatic tragedy?

This little girl was just "trying to cut off the curls" but ended up giving her sister a drastic a-symmetrical look. When her partner-in-crime put the scissors down she realized something had gone wrong. She said, "uh-oh. this is bad, bad, bad, bad."

The take-away? "Hair-cutting takes a lot of concentration."

Jun 29, 2012

The Hand-Me-Down Beard

DJ and producer Tim "Love" Lee has one of the best, most joyous, beards I know.

I've often encouraged him to enter the World Beard and Moustache Championship. Well, today it turns out his beard is not just a choice; Tim actually has a genetic marker for beard-growing. His great-grand dad, Wilfrid Arthur Bevan, sported a wonderful beard, as this painting from 1870 shows. A remarkable resemblance in the eyes, don't ya think?

Tim was recently interviewed while getting a haircut by the Village Voice and noted, 
I really like the idea of 'putting a beard' on something and making it a bit shabby and left of center. But now I'm trying to go for more of the 'Successful Businessman' look until I make my first million, and then I'll go back to the 'Crazed Woodsman.'
 Intriguing how the signifiers for beard styles change over time.

Jun 26, 2012

Nina Leen and the Hair of American Women

A woman showing her fashionable wartime hairstyle called Winged Victory. NYC. 
All photos are courtesy of LIFE magazine archives and are captioned and dated accordingly.

This wonderful shot of a woman's hairstyle decorated with birds is from the August 23, 1943 issue of LIFE magazine and was part of a story about "amateur vs. professional ways of achieving a summer coiffure." It was taken by photographer Nina Leen, who shot thousands of photographs over the course of her career for LIFE magazine. She captured (I'd say lovingly) American woman in their day-to-day lives from the 1940s until 1972, when the magazine ceased publishing weekly. Her photoessays of housewives, young working girls, and socialites reveal the idealized femininity of the time and show both the public and private lives of women.

I present a few of Ms. Leen's photos here that speak to women and their hair.

Women Sitting and Reading under Hairdryers at Rockefeller Center "Pamper Club." 
July 14, 1952.

Wig Posing under Drier.
September 1958

Model Vikki Dougan attaching hair clips to wig.
July 1952

Model Vikki Dougan Wearing Attachable Bun of Extra Hair, Next to Other Wigs.
July 1952

September 1958

Models posing in wigs.
September 1958

Women's Hairpieces.
September 15, 1958
Singer Julie Wilson on phone beside closet with hanging evening dresses and wigs on top shelf.

Students Learning How to Put All of Their Hair on Top of Their Head,
Underneath the Shower Caps.
April 16, 1945.

Picture of an Woman with a "Butch Haircut."
Date unknown.

Triplets Christina Dees and Megan Dees Modeling Their Braids Before Getting Hair Cuts.
May 8, 1964
Location: Webster Groves, MO, US

Popular Shoulder Length Hairstyle Worn by Teenagers
August 4, 1947

Teen-Age Girls
December 11, 1944
Six HS sorority girls re-enacting solemn,
secret initiation ritual by candlelight for photographer because only a real member has ever seen the real thing.