Images, Records, Memories, Thoughts

Hair in the 1980's

Several years ago, 2006 to be exact, I wrote a short text about hair and style, to accompany a photograph I took while waiting for my Flight Attendant Graduation ceremony along with my other classmates. Here is an excerpt:

Considering that someone is not bald, could they really manage to make their hair look like it was thirty years ago?  Even the best hair and make-up artists working on top Hollywood blockbusters can’t really re-create a look that was so hip thirty or forty years ago, at least not to someone who actually lived back then.

I sometimes see older people in the very awkward state of having kept a hairdo they had thirty years ago, and most of the time it simply does not work, or at least it just looks ridiculous. Perhaps that particular style might look good on someone younger, even today. Some people cling to youth by continuing to dress as they did when they were young, or by dressing like contemporary youth of today, and that also seems clumsy or inelegant. I think that youthfulness is an attitude rather than a style.

Gathering for a class photograph, Annandale High School - June 1987

Gathering for a class photograph, Annandale High School - June 1987

Every era or decade has seen its fair share of outlandish hair styles. But even in the various ages of big hair, there certainly were equal numbers of people who didn't partake and kept their hair to modest styling, if at all. Of course, a significant number of men eventually lose their hair and along with it the dilemma of what to do with it. I feel fortunate to be bald, as I really don't think I would have the patience to worry about how to wear my hair, not to mention the money I save from not having to repeatedly buy hair products and appliances.

In the 1980s I became a prolific photographer taking pictures of every person at every opportunity. It wasn't my goal to photograph hair per se, but if one is to photograph a person, chances are ninety-nine percent of the time you're going to get their hair. So as I came up with the idea of a project about hair from the 1980s, I researched my archive for compelling images of hair. The following is a selection of 156 photographs from an initial edit of over a thousand. What I would like to emphasize here is that hair is simply a MacGuffin, a tool to really show portraits of people, brought here together under the banner of hair.

Some of the photographs show persons who went to great length to create impressive hairdos for special occasions, while many others simply show people in their state of everyday life. Needless to say, even some of the more mundane or plain looks were inevitably 80's in their character, simply because they were indeed from that decade. And as in the excerpt above, even if the most talented professionals today would seek to re-create any of these styles, it would be nearly impossible, as the colorings and gels, the combs and brushes, and the attitudes themselves no longer exist.

What is particularly notable here is that when I finished the edit and the work on the individual images, I reviewed the final selection several times as a slide show, only to realize that despite the fact that I set out to show portraits of people thrown together for a theme, I ended up no longer seeing the people but their hair.

Please click here for the photographs.