I had a conversation with my eighty year old mother this week about how young women dress and appear to others, today, which opened my eyes.
My own thesis, since I am not a child of the 1960s, is that most women sporting long hair beyond the age of 30, when the fresh girlish face gives way to the woman's face, are diminishing their chances in the workplace. Long unkempt hair does not improve their professional image in the working world. Women who can "do" an impressive or neat hairstyle daily, effortlessly give the impression of professionalism, practicality, polish and efficiency. This can pay dividends in a "dog eat dog" male world in which first impressions count. One only has to think of Margaret Thatcher's immaculate impression on all those who met her. Many men thought "If she can do her hair like that, she can run the country". Hair is a kind of witness or referee: it speaks for you, fairly or not.
We all see young women on their way to work. Many have long, unstyled hair and have done little more than put a brush through it on rising from bed. Some have put it through a band or clip, to keep it away from their face.
My mother comes from a generation of women who happily spent all day in housecoats and curlers. Women in factories making ammunition from 1939-1945 often wore 1940s style headscarves. Many were wearing curlers underneath, so that in the evening, they would appear like sylphs, without going to the hairdressers which they could not afford to do.
Young women could not afford perms during the Second World War and the austere period which followed it. They used home perms for energy-saving reasons, since a perm can hold a hairstyle for a week without further work. Hence, young women in the 1940s through to the early 1960s would 'do' each other's home perms as a kind of mutual preening exercise.
My mother says that this is the real challenge for young women today. They cannot ask skilled friends for home perms nor can they afford hairdressers to blow dry their locks, once a week. Today, visiting a hairdresser for a wash and cut can set you back £50. A perm is more expensive still.
Many of the young are on student rations. Then, when in work, they are paying back huge, heavy student loans for years. They fear heated rollers will ruin their hair, not without reason, and they refuse to sleep in uncomfortable curlers. Many women heed their husbands and boyfriends, most of whom "like" long hair and push that view everywhere, not realising that men are not thinking about a women's outer image to the world, her salary, or how she is being judged, fairly or not. Previous generations of women did not harken to men's views on the "right" hairstyle for women's hair. Overlaid on all this pressure is the ultra-feminist 'unsex-me-here propaganda'. This claims that a neat, polished appearance is a sign of amoral values i.e. using feminine wiles for advantage which is, of course, complete rubbish, if men claim they regard long hair as seductive!
My sympathies are with young women today. They are priced out of haircare. What most need is a way of achieving on their own the same efficient, polished impression that their grandmothers did, without all the effort, time and cost.