Romancing The Eighties

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A defining period in Eighties’ music, the emergence of the New Romantics saw the visual vying for attention with what we were hearing. Arguably, more than at any other time before or since, image, style and fashion became an integral expression of creativity for artists and fans alike.

I was still at prsteve-strangeimary school when Adam Ant and Boy George entranced me with their glamorous outfits and perfect make-up. The fact that I loved their music too seemed almost incidental. Fascinated and inspired by them and the Blitz Kids, over whose pictures I would pore for hours, I first attempted emulating them when I was 11. During the summer holidays, between finishing primary and starting secondary school, I used a ‘Wash-In, Wash-Out’ plum hair colour, which lasted considerably longer than the name suggested. I was hooked! It was at least a decade before my hair returned to its natural colour, as I worked my way through every shade the shelves in Boots had to offer. Not to mention a few ‘unique’ hues too, the result of changing my mind and my hair colour too often.

My hair was short during the early Eighties, an homage to the Human League girls. Unfortunately, due to my natural curls, I tended to look more like Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore than Susanne Sulley. I may not have perfected  her look, or any of the other stars I saw on TV or in magazines, but I had great fun trying. Which is why I am thrilled to have been included in the following Trailblazers episode. Featuring commentary by Rusty Egan, Jeremy Healy, Princess Julia and Marilyn, the programme gives an insight into the New Romantic scene from those who were at the heart it. Enjoy.

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1984 – The Perfect Year?

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Maybe it was because it was my first year as a teenager, or perhaps it was because it was the year my favourite song of the decade, The Kane Gang’s “Closest Thing To Heaven” was released. It could have been the diversity of the music that filled the charts – everything from Duran Duran’s “The Reflex” to Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel’s “White Lines (Don’t Do It)” to Depeche Mode’s “Blasphemous Rumours” to Howard Jones’ 1984“Hide and Seek”. The release of films such as The Karate Kid, Ghostbusters and Footloose (which was so good, I went back to the cinema a couple of days later, to watch it again!), and reading S. E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders” for the first (of many) times certainly help. As does finishing the year with the ground-breaking Band Aid single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”. All these things, plus more too numerous to list, are the reason why 1984 is my favourite year of the Eighties. I’d love to know what is yours and why…

Hair I Go Again

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When my hairdresser asked me to model a Brazilian for him, to say I was shocked is an understatement! As visions of paper knickers and waxing whizzed through my mind, he went on to explain that a Brazilian blow dry was a method of enhancing the keratin bonds in the hair, a long-term solution to frizz, which makes hair smoother and more manageable. As my hair is naturally suited to the Eighties (big, curly with lots of frizz), I took about a nano second to agree to his offer.

The whole process took about three hours, during which small sections of hair are painstakingly covered in the conditioning treatment – no mean feat when your head possesses an abundance of hair-filled follicles – drying, flat-ironing, shampooing and blow-drying. This allowed us plenty of time to discuss the styles of the Eighties, to which my hair is so well-suited. Back in the day, my hair would be blow-dried upside down, with plenty of mousse run through it (to give even more volume to hair that was already as wide as my shoulders), then sprayed into place with half a gallon of VO5 gel spray. If my hair was going to move, it did so as a whole – a sort of curly, hairy helmet! However, whilst my hair was great for styles in the mid to late Eighties, the early part of the decade caused me a lot of distress and hair envy.

First, there was the ‘Lady Di’ haircut, which I would have been hard-pushed to achieve even with today’s serums, styling products and GHDs. Back in 1981, it was an impossibility. That didn’t stop my 10 year old self insisting that was the only style I wanted, giving my poor hairdresser at the time a nervous breakdown, and causing her to lie that I looked “just like Lady Diana”, when my hairdo was more akin to that of Prince Charles’ wavy comb-over. The natural curl in my hair meant that a lot of the hairstyles of the early Eighties were beyond my grasp. The New Romantic one-sided fringe became one big kiss-curl when I attempted it. The only way forward was to go short, and embrace the curls on top. Think of Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore, and you won’t be far from my early 80’s hairstyle.

Although I may have been limited in my options for hairstyle, the choices of hair colour were seemingly endless. My early experiments with hair colour were based around the “Wash In, Wash Out” sachets (mahogany, plum, chestnut) and the pungent-smelling aerosol colour sprays. I remember using the latter on my first “Wear What You Like” day at secondary school, when I showed up with lots of tiny green plaits! I soon progressed to more permanent colour, although there wasn’t much permanent about the way I used to change my mind and my hair colour. One week my hair would be jet black, the next a brassy blonde. How I have any hair left, let alone such thick hair, is a miracle. Which brings me back to today’s challenge to tame my unruly bush (my hairdresser’s phrase, not mine!).

It would appear that for the first time in my life, I have hair that doesn’t make me want to cry tears of frustration. It dried in half the time it would normally take, it’s frizz-free and shiny – in fact, it feels as if I’ve got someone else’s hair on my head! So from now on, unless the David Coverdale circa 1986 comes back into fashion, it’s the Brazilian for me.