Ladies’ Haircult, by Italian independent researcher, Giulia Pivetta has all the hallmarks of my favourite ‘style cult’ books; it has incredible photos of the best-of-the-best examples of each particular style, with all the in-depth research and references to back up the information that sits alongside. Every photo is referenced, every fact checked.
I was turned on immediately by the 1960’s bouffant that graces the cover; yes, I am guilty of choosing this book because of its cover. But while I held some scepticism after a quick flick through some of the pages in the driver’s seat of my parked car, while hiding from Auckland’s on-again-off-again wild rain, I was pleasantly surprised by the depth that the narrative went into to link notable hairstyles to the social/political movements that influenced them.
My initial scepticism came because I had just read in We Were Feminists Once that black-rights activist Angela Davis had not been all that happy about being reduced to a hairstyle (her ever-famous afro-style), and I worried that this book too would play into the ‘fashion’ game of encouraging the commodifying and appropriation of styles that started as something real and sacred to the original wearers.
While I understand that fashion is a type of self-expression play, and it should be enjoyed and remain experimental, I am also wary in this current age of the (perhaps unintentional) negative impacts that fashion-driven appropriation can have on segregated and marginalised groups of people (the little guy)>/span>. HOWEVER, this book does a beautiful job of highlighting that very phenomena, rather than perpetrating it.
Even though I have done years of fashion cult reading (particularly of the ’50s – ’70s decades), I still learnt a whole lot of new things from Pivetta’s book, even from my most favourite eras! I think the fact that she is from a European background, rather than UK or US, meant that her research incorporated a much wider scope of material. I find that when reading books that have come out of the UK or the US, the subject matter is weighted very heavily to those particular areas, and only ever makes light mention of styles/movements that happened in other countries. The world doesn’t revolved around just YOU; come on guuyyyyyssss!
Some of my fave new learnings were about the Kiss Curls of the Hispanic and Parisian cultures of the ’20s, the Douce France style of the ’50s favoured by Brigitte Bardot, and the Existenialist style and movement of 1950’s Paris. While I always love reading about punks and skins culture, I found the skinhead piece to weigh heavily on the racist side of skinhead culture, which, from my own reading (and the fantastic This Is England film/series), I’ve found to actually be the radicalisation of skinhead culture, not the true purpose or meaning behind the original movement. Nazi Skins F* Off, and all of that. Unfortunately the skinhead look is pretty aggressive in general, so it is hard to shake those negative connotations, for those who don’t know any better.
This book was an informative and fun read, and I would highly recommend it to anyone into sub-cultural fashion, retro fashion, fashion history and hairdressing. There are short instructions under every style of how to recreate the hairstyle, and/or how it needs to be cut, alongside fun illustrations by Italian graphic designer, Alessandra Noli.
Go find a copy now!