Happy New Hair

Julien d’Y cutting Linda Evangelista’s hair. Photo: Peter Lindbergh/2b Management, via Vogue.com

I don’t want 2018 to slip by without recognizing the 30th anniversary of perhaps the most significant haircut in commercial fashion history.

I’ve been trying to pin down the exact date of the deed, but it has eluded me. My best guess is that in the fall (probably October) of 1988, the fashion photographer Peter Lindburgh suggested to one of his favourite models, one with a head of flowing chestnut hair not unlike Gia Carangi, Brooke Shields, Carol Alt, Joan Severance, and other popular models at the time, that she get a more distinctive haircut.

That model was Linda Evangelista, who walked out of hairstylist Julien d’Ys’s chair and onto editorial pages and show runways with a gamine bob. (Vogue looked back at the cut in a brief piece published in 2015.)

Evangelista was not the first famous model with short hair—Edie Sedgewick is probably the most famous for it—but Evangelista was the first to get a radical haircut in after she’d already hit some early-career milestones. And in an era of long, very big hair, Evangelista was bucking a trend that had been building for decades.

The new look could have been a flop, and she might have had to grow it out again. Instead, her bookings increased and so did her rate. Eventually, she would be to say about herself and her frequent modeling partner, Christy Turlington, “We don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day.”

Evangelista, Turlington, and their contemporaries, including Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford, went on to become the first generation of supermodels: models who became household names and made millions of dollars per year. Many of them went on to spin their celebrity into other lines of work as actors, television hosts, brand ambassadors, and other related occupations.

None had the kind of success that Evangelista enjoyed as the result of a single hairstyling decision. It’s really not a roadmap to success for a model or for life in general. Would one dramatic haircut really help the average person land a dream job? Not likely, but I like the things that the cut represented:

  • the actual and very real story of one person’s (Evangelista’s) success as the result of taking a bold step;
  • the idea that taking a risk will bring rewards;
  • that looking different is an asset;
  • that you can remake yourself and be recognized for it.

Evangelista’s haircut came to mind back in September, when I got a cut that was far less dramatic: I went from a chin-length bob to a slightly shorter one. On occasion, I took to curling it, reminding myself of the Marilyn Monroe or Sophia Loren hairdos that Evangelista often sported after her major haircut. Curling my hair didn’t seem like a big deal to me, but to some folks, the change was so dramatic, they wondered if I had gotten a brand-new haircut.

I thought about posting this back in September, but I’m glad I waited until today. The “message” of Linda Evangelista’s haircut seems very appropriate for a New Year’s eve, a night on which we say farewell to the past, and prepare to take bold steps into the future.

To close this post, I leave you with the words of Julien d’Ys, which seem like the basis of a plan for 2019: “This could be a disaster or be great…. I didn’t know what I was going to do until I started doing it.”

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