Everyone’s into endurance sports and challenges these days. From marathons to silent retreats to obstacle races, sacrifice, discipline and stripping back are all the rage. To such puritans, I issue what I regard as the ultimate test of will: grow a hefty, heavy blunt fringe, then try to part with it with grace, style and good humour. It’s not as straightforward as shaggy-haired celebrities would have you believe; the likes of Suki Waterhouse, Alexa Chung and Sienna Miller have a lot to answer for.
Having been the proprietor of a pretty major fringe since the age of about two, deciding to grow out my lush forehead carpet was not a decision I took lightly, but with the worst over, I’m for the most part glad that I embraced the change, cowlicks and all. Here are a few things that have prevented me from shaving the whole lot off, or worse, cutting fringe back in…
Before growing out my forehead carpet...
Bobby pins have invaded my house like a swarm of long, bendy ants (this would be my boyfriend’s take at least), but at the beginning, kirbies are crucial for keeping a fringe in line (rather than in your eyes), oddly sideways or the classic sticking straight up There’s Something About Mary-style. Whether twisted into grips, coaxed into a high ponytail by way of kirby or pinned and tucked under my main body of hair, securing a growing out fringe out of sight in a subtle manner is sometimes the only way to get through the limbo stage. There’s no room for romantic and wispy when you’re fringe is still solid and weighty, so a forced manipulation is the only way forward. The truly irritating stage comes when the ends of your stubborn fringe remnants start explosively springing up behind the grips. Moving onto the next concealment strategy…
I’m talking chic bejewelled clasps, patterned scarves and simple headbands in leather, ribbon or plain fabric. Butterfly clips may have died out in the 90s, but a glance at catwalks proves that hair accessories can be cool, contemporary, and most importantly in this case, crafty at hiding hair mares. I’ll let Wella Professionals Global Creative Director, Eugene Souleiman take it from here:
“Hair accessories are favoured by more designers than ever before. They reinforce the concept of ‘lots of things, worn together’ and add personality and character to every look. Accessories come in the form of ornate clips, vintage-inspired tiaras, antique headpieces, headbands, sprigs of blossom and 1950s' bandanas, to name a few ideas.
“This new love of decoration represents a youthful optimism, a cheekiness, a playfulness, and provides another way to stand out from the crowd and to make an outfit one’s own. This abundance of accessories is about past and future. It’s demure, ethereal and fun at the same time. Easy to wear, hard not to stare at.”
I’m not advocating rocking up at work in a tiara, but for weddings, weekends and ‘meh’ days, swapping out earrings or necklaces for some funky headgear can kill two style birds with one stone. It’s easy to hide sticky outy fringes under a band of silk or clutch of jewels, and it ensures that people will notice your impeccable taste and elegance, rather than your awkward period of hair growth. Plus, I’ve found that hair accessories have helped me to feel more gung-ho about my sudden and brutal forehead and eyebrow exposure. Having rarely gone ‘naked’ in public on the upper face front, a bit of frou frou takes the edge off cold foreheads and weedy brows.
Once you get past the tiny hairline hair stage, a well placed plait can keep your formerly full fringe under wraps like almost nothing else. There’s a reason that braids are popular amongst runners, wedding goers, girls and guys with afros and, um, milkmaids ; they allow you the kind of control that grips, clips and clasps can’t rival, and they keep your hair exactly where you want it, for as long as you want it there for. Braids also keep things interesting; from French to Dutch to fishtail, it’s easy to style it out according to your mood and the occasion, and mastering the art of messy or pristine plaiting adds to your skill set (one for your CV?).
If you don’t fancy faffing with ‘over and under’ techniques yourself, braid bars are popping up all over the UK , and the likes of Headmasters , Hershesons , Aer and Duck and Dry , amongst others, have added braided styles to their blow dry menus. Whether you’re going Grecian for upcoming nuptials or fancy dabbling in more structured, hardy cornrows, the braiding world is your oyster, and frankly your fringe can get lost.
No more fringe
It sounds counterintuitive, but taking to the scissors can ease the growing out pains, so long as you turn to the professionals. Hacking into it yourself is likely to undo all of your patient good work thus far, whereas a hair stylist can sensitively lighten your load in terms of ‘face weight’ while blending rebellious strands into your lengths. John Frieda stylist Mel Pellegrini explains how a well considered trim can be a help rather than a hindrance when it comes to phasing out a fringe:
“In my experience most people give up once they get to that tricky length of trying of grow out a fringe, and eventually end up cutting it back. If your fringe is quite heavy ask your stylist to thin it out slightly, it will feel lighter, appear less noticeable and will be easier to ultimately incorporate into the rest of your hair. Once you have a bit more length, add some shape/soft layers around the face incorporating the fringe so that the fringe becomes part of your hairstyle.
“As for styling, instead of blow drying your fringe forward, try blow drying it sideways. This is a good way of training your hair to fall differently before a cut.”
Talking of hair training, the following fringe switch up will make you see your shorter strands in a different light…
Admittedly I looked more than a little ‘Backstreet Boys’ when I first attempted the centre parting, but once your fringe grows to approximately cheek level, a flicky centre parting can graduate your style from bulky to Bardot in the swoosh of a brush. Face framing and finally flattering, the played down Farrah Fawcett fringe is also happily bang on trend this season, as Eugene conveys:
“The centre parting lends uniformity to hair that looks like it’s ‘undone’ and has never been touched, be it worn up or down. The key is not to try too hard. The hair looks natural and carefree, and the parting gives it structure and form.”
“When fashion is complex and overloaded, the uniformed parting provides a contrasting sense of control. It’s a very personal look to do - it might not seem very technical, but it relies a lot on the hairdresser’s eye and instinct to add that movement where you need it and create something very organic and modern.”
If you’re short of a personal stylist, a very gentle centre-parted bend can be artfully created using a pair of straighteners. Your transition into bohemian laissez-faire half-fringe wearer is well under way.
If middle of the road just isn’t cutting it for you, a sweeping side parting is eternally sexy in a Jessica Rabbit vein. Chuck the rest of your hair over one shoulder for extra femme fatale points. Given that the fringe elimination journey started with kirby grips and headbands, I’d say we’ve come quite far here. In addition to instant sophistication, changing your parting will ‘confuse’ your hair, so that it doesn’t just do what it’s always done. The result is enhanced volume and fringey bits that act like the rest of your hair, which by this stage is sure to be a relief.
I’ll admit that I was initially in mourning for my comfort blanket of fringe, especially when I drew a blank when trying to style it out for posh occasions, but coming to terms with a higher hairline has been quite invigorating.
My main motivation for growing it out was a holiday in Thailand meeting my boyfriend’s family in January; I didn’t fancy a frizzy horn of hair looming above my face for three weeks, and the faff of styling it everyday was a deal breaker in terms of bidding farewell to the fringe. Since ditching it, I’ve relied a lot less on straighteners for daily upkeep, haven’t had to carry a comb around with me in case of wind (cleft fringe-gate) and don’t dread rain ruining a good hair day quite as much, which is just as well given our rather soggy climate. Basically, I feel a lot more clear-headed and distinctly less itchy, but equally I can’t say I’d never go back to the bangs. Just one picture of Zooey Deschanel or Jane Birkin is enough to make me pine for a glossy eye-skimmer, but for now I’m standing strong. Of course both straight and curly fringes were big on catwalks this season, which is typical, but to turn back now would be cowardly. I’ll leave the full-on fringe to the supermodels and embrace my ‘third eye’ as the Thai family contingent would say. If you see me slicing into it, please stop me.
If you're going the other way, here's how to work a curtain fringe
Follow me on Instagram @annyhunter