Is the Perm Making a Comeback?

Kylie Minogue is returning to her curly roots


Kylie Minogue in Los Angeles, 1983. Picture / Getty Images.

When Kylie Minogue was photographed leaving The Wolseley this week, it wasn’t her handsome fiance, Joshua Sasse, people were talking about, but her bold new hairstyle. Gone was the signature wavy, shoulder-length style, and in its place a mane of wild curls, reminiscent of the Eighties bubble perm she sported when she made her screen debut more than 30 years ago as Charlene Robinson in Neighbours.

She looked happy, relaxed, and seemed to be announcing to the world that she’s finally found a man with whom she can be herself.

As a fellow curly blonde, the pictures sparked a pang of nostalgic delight. Growing up in the Eighties, a goofy kid with an out-of-control mop, I took great comfort in the fact that Charlene, my icon and the coolest girl on the planet, had blonde corkscrew curls just like me.

My hair was the bane of my life. Perms were the height of fashion - I apparently had the hair everyone wanted - but I was clueless about how to control it. For years I brushed it, adding to the frizzy, unkempt effect, and garnered myself nicknames including “Frizz Features”, “Mop Head” and the particularly catchy “Farmer Giles”.

Sitting behind me in class, my school friends would take great pleasure in seeing how many Biro pens they could tease into the back of my knotted tresses before I would notice. To this day, one of my best girlfriends will still look at old school photos of me when she is depressed because she says they make her “laugh out loud”.

READ: How to Care for Curly Hair

Thankfully, when the crucial teenage years arrived my teeth were fixed, I had the first of many half heads of highlights, and I finally learnt what to do with curly hair. I banished the hairbrush and discovered Pantene Conditioner and Boots Curl Creme (the two products I still use). Tragically, though, by then curls were out and straight hair was in again. So at 18 came my great revelation - straightening. I daringly asked my hairdresser if it was possible, and an hour later the baby-faced kid looking back at me from the mirror had transformed into a sophisticated, sexy young woman.

My mother was horrified - and still to this day can barely contain her distress when I iron out the curly locks “that God blessed you with” - but I was thrilled, and struck by how people’s reactions to me changed. With straight hair, I dressed more maturely and people seemed to take me more seriously. I also got more attention from men (before my husband came along, whom, I suspect, prefers the carefree curls I had when we fell in love in our early twenties).

Still now, I always get my hair straightened when I want to look sophisticated and sassy for a night out.

I love having two different looks, so dissimilar that I often have to reintroduce myself to people if my hair was straight/curly when we first met. My own daughter, though only 19 months old, did a double-take the first time I wore it straight.

That said, though I love having a straight-haired alter ego, on a long-term basis it’s deeply impractical for me.

Just a whiff of moisture in the air and my hair frizzes up like a powder puff, so for my gap year, most of my twenties living in rainy London and beach holidays abroad it was almost always a no-no. Even after all these years, I can’t straighten it myself, much to my bank manager’s horror. It’s so hard to iron out those kinks that when I go to the salon I see the hairdressers draw straws over which poor mug will have to do it. It takes a good hour, and though it looks swishy afterwards, I am sure my hair hates it.

READ: How Karen Walker Avoids Bad Hair Days

Though they were no fun as a child, if I had to choose one look, I’d take my curls every time - and that’s why I was so thrilled to see Kylie go back to her roots. My curls are the real me; they set me apart and they’re the one distinctive feature that people always comment on. When my children both turned out to have dead straight hair, though I was relieved for them in a way, a part of me felt sad that my family’s curly gene hadn’t been passed down.

It seems curls are back in fashion this year but, fashionable or not, I’m stuck with mine, and I’m glad I’ve grown to love them.

Is the perm making a comeback?

Talk of the return of the perm has been bubbling away since Prada sent its models down the catwalk with tousled hair in February. Guido Palau, creative director of Redken, who created the look, says: “The Prada curls are more modern, broken down and don’t look so ‘new’.”

The pin-up for the new look is Argentinian supermodel Mica Arganaraz, who appeared on the cover of Paris Vogue last November. Her curly/wavy style, finished off with a blunt-cut fringe - breaking the rules of curly hair - was one of the most Instagrammed beauty looks this catwalk season.

No one wants to faff around styling hair in the summer months. Jordan Garrett, stylist at Hersheson’s, says: “Perm solution can be very tough on your hair, so people are embracing more of their natural texture.” Perm alternatives include getting your hair diffused or scrunch-drying.Sian Ranscombe

— The Daily Telegraph

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