Bad Hair Life: A History in Headbands and Bangs


My life has been one long and, seemingly, endless effort to make thin, fine hair thicker and fuller, an evolution from baby bald to big girl curl.

It’s basically been a bad hair life, one I’ve tried to rewrite in pixies and perms, bobs and barrettes.

Hope you enjoy this scrapbook of styles—my history in haircuts and curls.

A Baby in Bangs:

My mom was big into bangs, or so it seemed to me. Maybe it was the era–what one did with babies’ hair in the early ’60s.  Either way, I wore my toddler locks chopped short across the forehead, a bridge of bang above big, blue eyes.  


Growing up with Brown Hair and Braids:

After first grade I insisted on growing my hair long.  It may have been the Brady Bunch effect—seeing Cindy with blonde ponytails and big bows.  It may have been primary school, an effort to braid my brown into bigger girl style, curly girl chic.   Regardless, I started second grade, a studious girl with lengthier locks.  

Professional Permed:

I finished my formal education in the mid-eighties—a time when huge hair was everywhere.  It was an era before products could mousse any hair into almost any style; and big-headed professor or not, with thin, fine hair, only a perm gave me personal puff.

Mad-Headed Medusa:

I lived much of the ’90s fighting bipolar disorder.  It was a decade spent revolving in and out of psychiatric hospitals with hair as varied as my mood.  Sometimes it was short, other times a little longer—even eventually I had mildly Medusa-like curls.

Lesbian Locks:

I emerged a saner, better version of myself after the millennium turned, embracing my sexuality and cutting my curls.  Whether or not I unconsciously morphed into the stereotype of cropped lesbian locks, I’ll never know.  However, I spent the first half of the last decade opening the closet door— gay pride with pixie cut.

A Blogger in Bobs:

When I returned to work mid-decade, I marked my passage back to the writing life by bobbing my hair and falling madly sanely in love.  With Sara, I’ve lived, luggage packed, passport in hand, first in Vietnam, later in Haiti.  I wonder what haircut I’ll have for our next destination.

How has your hair evolved?  Do you have a story to tell in bangs and barrettes?

79 thoughts on “Bad Hair Life: A History in Headbands and Bangs

  1. I had hair down to my butt for the majority of my life. My father did not believe I should cut my hair. When I turned 18 I cut it all off and shaved the back of my head, dying my hair every color I could get my hands on, fire truck red being my fave. I grew my hair long for my wedding, but otherwise I’ve had short hair ever since. I LOVE changing my hair style and thankfully I have fast growing hair. (I like your curly 80’s hair! My fave is your newer lesbian locks, because they look like the Kathy that I’ve come to know and love.)
    Love to you and Sara! Saturday is sneaking up on you two!

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    • Oh, I didn’t remember knowing that your hair had been so long. The issue I don’t address in this post, is my mother’s attitude about my hair growing up. Makes me realize I really need to write about that.

      Yes, Saturday is fast approaching. We have been crazy busy getting ready. I will be sure to let you know how it goes. Love and hugs to you and Jim!

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  2. I use to be able to sit in my hair. Now I barely keep it long enough for anyone to be able to grab. Maybe that’s part of my self defense teachings? I loved this life memoir (yes it counts!). I like short hair! No, the bobs. No, the long hair. No….really, it doesn’t matter. I like you. 🙂

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  3. Kathy,
    This is another re-post, right? Not that it matters as it is such a delight to discover a first time around (can I say this in English?). I was born in the early 70s, and have know the worst decade for hair… the dreadful 80s. You did sport the hairdo with panache, I must say.
    Le Clown

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    • Oh, yes, the 80s were bad for hair, but the 90s may have been even worse, I’m afraid. Yes, this is a repost. I am insanely busy preparing for an art exhibit this coming weekend. Things will hopefully return to normal next week.

      What you say may not be idiomatic English, but I wish we could say it that way. I think it has more charm than correct English.

      Thanks so much for reading!

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  4. My hair is quite similar to yours, straight and fine, but I have a cowlick and could never have a fringe, or bangs as you call them. I had very long hair as a teenager and wore it in long plaits at school. I had a perm much like yours in the 80s…..didn’t we all. Now I keep it reasonably short and try to keep it blonde (at great expense)

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  5. I enjoyed it just as much the second time around, and found myself equally fascinated by your evolving hairdo’s, and how well you were able to document your metamorphosis! And always, that beautiful smile.

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  6. I think I’ve had just about every hairstyle (and length) known to humankind… except dreadlocks!! I haven’t had a haircut in over a year, but only because I’m too lazy (scared?) to get it cut. I’m always afraid that I won’t like it. What a great post – I love seeing your “evolution of hair”!! 😉

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  7. I have the best hair story ever. (And I loved all of your locks – they looked so COMPLETELY different every time.) I’ve had the same two looks for most of my life. Until I had kids, my hair was arrow straight. I got a perm when I was 18 that only went away five years later (and it was an AWFUL PERM so glad to see it go.) But other than that, it was thin, mousy, but fun with braids and swishy ponytails. I had Caroline, had to get it cut, and it developed this adorable little flip at the end. I had Sam, and suddenly I had CURLS. I HAVE CURLY HAIR. NATURALLY CURLY HAIR. Now, when I get it cut, I tell the stylist to make sure my mad curlz show. She thinks I’m crazy.

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    • Ha–god forbid, she have the crazy part right, right? LOL I’ve heard of hair getting curly after pregnancy. Wish somehow mine would become thicker, curlier, and less gray. God, the gray is the worst these days. Thanks so much for reading, Jessie.

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  8. You are gorgeous no matter what style. Loved seeing all the photos of you, Kathy.

    My hair still evolves. Long to short and back again over and over. I grow it super long, then get tired of dealing with a giant rat’s nest of hair, so I chop it all off . I feel so much better with short hair.

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  9. Kathryn, you are so CUTE! I love all versions of your hair, but you sure look happiest in the current version … i have the same haircut i’ve always had. bob with bangs due to my extreme laziness and stick-straight hair — it’s the only cut that requires no particular maintenance! now if only i could get rid of the gray!!! thanks for sharing, Miss K!!!

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    • Oh, Betty, for me these days, the gray is hard to deal with. I hate it! Now I have so much gray, the color doesn’t take as well as it once did. Do you have that problem yet? Thanks so much for reading, my friend. Great to hear from you!

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  10. Thanks for sharing all those shots of you in your various incarnations through the years. My mother subjected me to girly girl ringlets that I despised as a child, then she made me get a bob. By the time I hit my early teens I sported a waist length flowing mane. When I approached age 15, during a period of intense ostracism in high school from my dreadfully homophobic peers, my mother allowed me to go to an upscale San Francisco hair salon where I spilled my guts about being hated and picked on to a cluster of kind gay guys that took me under their wing. They gave me a complete makeover that turned my life around and it’s influenced my sense of hair style to this day. In the ensuing years I’ve gone from hair dressers that are gay males to Asian men and women to my now current stylist, a straight Egyptian Muslim woman, but one thing all of these people have had in common is an understanding about my locks and an immense talent with scissors. At this stage though I highly value my colorist, too.

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  11. That was amazing ! Like looking at 5 different people ! .. Also just wanted to thank you for the email updates – sounds like a very exciting time for you at the moment ! I have been AWOL myself but not under such great circumstances lol – although hopefully my laptop will be fixed this week ! Xx Kel

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  12. This is fabulous, Kathy! Love the hair style over the years. Love how you actually have photos for just about every year of your life. It’s fascinating to see the changes and through it all, you looked great. I’d be too embarrassed to show some of the phases in my life, particularly when I was married. Sheesh. You don’t want to know.

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  13. If I wrote a similar post I am afraid it would be boring as hell b/c my naturally curly hair means much the same “do” for the past 25+ years. Can’t wear it short (poof!) and can’t wear it too long (broom). You, on the other hand, can wear any style, it appears.

    My favorite? Other than all the little girl photos? The chin length bob – you are one pretty lady, KM!

    MJ

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  14. I’m baaack…at least for a few weeks until my next quarter begins. I love this post! As I read about your hair history, I was taken back in time reminiscing about my hair history. I had the opposite problem; my hair was extremely thick, course, and wavy. My mom did the bangs treatment with my hair, too. By high school the style was long, straight, flat hair that was silky smooth–no frizz! I worked hard to achieve that ‘look’….ironed my hair (mid-back long), rolled it on orange juice cans, wrapped it around my head when it was wet as if my head were one great big roller….ANYTHING to straighten and flatten my hair and fit in. By the big hair of the 80’s, I was allready married with children—I could easily fit in except I was seeking ease of care, so it all came off and for a very long time I wore what was then called the ‘butch’ look. I don’t even know if that is an appropriate term anymore. Once I got rid of the long hair, I seldom went back to it. Even since I married my present husband (and true love) I’ve kept it extremely short most of the time. But I tire of that, too. Now I’ve let it grow to about shoulder length. I like it. My hair is also natural salt and pepper gray–more salt now than pepper. I quit coloring my hair about 15 years ago.

    I could go on about hair. Hmmm…. taking a que from you, I may have to blog something about what our hair means to us and says about us. Who’d have ‘thunk’ that a blog about hair would generate so much though!?!

    Hugs to you. Have a great day. I’ll try to catch up on some of the blogs I’ve missed while I was away at school! 😉

    Hugs,
    Cecelia

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    • Sounds like your hair history might have been even more interesting than mine. You should do a post about it. I’m happy you’r back for now. I should return to a regular blogging schedule next week. Right now I’m trying to catch up on the comments folks like you have so kindly left for me. Great to hear from you, Cecelia!

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  15. I remember this post. 🙂 I would never have the courage to post photos of my evolving hair styles, especially those from the 80s. OMG. It’s not just the hair that changed. My glasses did too. And those huge glasses I wore in the 80s were not exceptionally flattering. lol!

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  16. The hair styles you wore in your childhood years look very familiar to the ones I wore. I think you’re right. The era dictated what our moms did with our hair!

    No matter the style, yours always looked beautiful!

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    • Oh, thank you, Terri. We were definitely born and raised in the same era. If you had the nerve, I’d love to see you or somebody else around our age do such a post. I’d love to see what other folks hair looked like back then.

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  17. I’ve had bad hair my whole life–just ask my mother. At near-80, she’s still trying to figure out how to make my hair look respectable. But mine was always TOO thick and wild. Yours looks wonderful. The bangs are always greener on the other side… lol!

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  18. Adorable post and precious pics! You evolved into the beautiful woman you are today! Some women blossom more and more as they age, (unfortunately, I am not one of them! lol) obviously you are one of them. My mom specialized in the “bangs” thingy too – by the time she cut them straight, I had hardly any hair left! lol Thanks for this light and wonderful post, Kathryn! Blessings to you and Sara. xoxo

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