“Kiss my grits!”
While definitely not the first sassy lass to sport the cotton-candy-like coif called the beehive, Flo from the dishy diner sit-com Alice kept the defunct 60’s style alive and well up through the 70’s. The B-52’s took over the iconic responsibility during the 80’s, while Marge Simpson’s towering blue bouffant kept the do alive into the new millennium. How does one exceptionally difficult hair trend maintain its hip social status for so long? Maybe it’s time we took a closer look at this durable (in more ways than one) bouffant.
The 50’s reveled in the outrageous works of art created from hair, and the bubble-like bouffant was teased to even greater height and tamed into more elaborate shapes in the 60’s. One of the most unifying markers of this new gravity-defying style was the vertically superior beehive.
Teased into the giant, freestanding bouffant, the beehive was carefully shaped into a rolled cone up-do, remarkable in its resemblance to the shape of an actual beehive. The spun sugar consistency of the hair was achieved with excessive amounts of hairspray, combined with a special process called backcombing. Also known as teasing, backcombing matted the hair to create a stiff, tangled mass that could be pulled and shaped much like the fluffy strands of cotton candy.
As the carefully coiffed style moved into the 60’s, the tease and style concept got more elaborate as the decade progressed. Dozens of tiny crispy curls—or one giant rolled cone—took precious time and effort to shape, but for many, the reward of a hair masterwork was worth it. The teased style also created a few hygiene concerns, as girls went for weeks without washing their hair to maintain their shapes. Even sleeping became an art, forcing girls to learn to snooze with their heads hanging off the bed to keep their sculpture from getting squashed!
Ladies later gave up the time-intensive styles of teasing and took the scissors to their hair to achieve shape. The geometric bob cuts of Vidal Sassoon freed women from the endless hours of shaping required for the mighty bouffant. Wash and go was a new concept that many women just couldn't adjust to. The weekly excursion to the salon was a much-anticipated ritual that was a form of female bonding and showmanship. (Competition got fierce between girls seeking the most unusual and elaborate styles.)
In later decades, the beehive became an homage to the excesses of the 60’s, and only the most stylistically adventurous maintained the elaborate do after its initial decline. The behemoth bouffant beehive remains the coif of choice of many—and not just sassy truckstop waitresses, party bands and cartoon mothers. If you think you’ve got the stuff for this landform of a hairdo, allow nostalgia to present you with this helpful “how-to.”
How to acquire the perfect beehive:
1. Dirty hair (clean hair does not tease well): The product and grease buildup of day-old hair gives the beehive body and fullness. If you absolutely must wash your hair, slather on a big gooey glop of hair gel to give hair artificial gunk and stiffness.
2. Rattail comb/brush: this comb/brush features bristles of differing lengths to mat the hair into a clumpy mass, along with a skinny pointed end that allows you to lift and shape the hair from the inside out.
3. A package of bobby pins (and be advised: they will be so encrusted with gunk and hairspray they might not be reusable).
4. An entire can of ultra-hold hairspray (Aqua Net is the reigning queen, but any kind will do).
How to style your behemoth beehive:
1. Take your dirty or gunked up hair, and systematically tease individual sections, starting from the roots outward until each section is a big matted mass of hair. (For those born after 1980, teasing is the process of brushing the hair back onto itself to create a tangled hairmass).
2. Once the entire head is teased, smooth the clumps together to form a tower. (Think Bride of Frankenstein). Gently smooth the top layers to create the illusion of silky hair, shaping the hair into a spiral direction. The actual cone is shaped to your preference. Some like it high and tube-like (Marge Simpson) and others prefer the chic French twist with separate curls (Flo).
3. Once the top layers are formed, you will need to bobby pin the cone shape so that it stays intact.
4. Apply a very liberal amount of hairspray to the entire do to encase it in an impenetrable tower of plastic.
5. Grab the go-go boots, the daisy embroidered chiffon swing dress, a mouthful of bubble gum...and you're ready to roll.
And there you have it. Use it wisely, girls… If you can’t tame the beehive, then the beehive will certainly tame you.