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During a rummage through a box of old stuff at my mum’s house recently, I stumbled across a picture key ring of me and three friends on a popular ‘upside down’ fairground ride, aged 15. I immediately shared it with the girls on social media #tbt. There I was, loose brown hair flung messily across my head, wearing a slightly stunned expression on my face.
“You look EXACTLY the same Lucy,” said one friend. ‘Thanks,’ I replied, the written word failing to capture my incredulous tone. “She’s right,” another waded in. “It’s your hair, it hasn’t changed a bit”.
My hair-down rut
And with that it hit me: my hair hasn’t changed. Even before the picture was taken I have always worn my hair down and unstyled. OK, so there were the countless times my mum pulled my thin, wispy locks into a flyaway French plait for weddings and birthdays but that’s where the problems started.
The other girls with longer, thicker, glossier hair were all pulling their hair into tight high ponytails, adorned with colourful scrunchies (it was the early Nineties) and I was there with, what I considered, a frumpy, unflattering ‘do that made me look like Bastian from 1984’s The NeverEnding Story (a boy).
I stopped my Mum taking control of my hair and left it down, no more french plaits, no more style
As soon as I was old enough to stop my mum taking control of my hair, I decided to ensure my oval face was always framed by loose locks, which meant no more French plaits, no more up dos… no more style. Something I was happy to live with until fairground-photo-gate. Turns out, Pinterest is a great place to start when you don’t know where to start.
A quick search of ‘hair dos/styles’ brought pages and pages of ideas – with everything from casual messy buns and plaited side fringes to Heidi-style crown plaits and cool top knots. Feeling motivated to change the course of my hair history forever, I immediately downloaded the app, created a board called Dream Hair and began searching.
After a quick shopping trip to stock up on Kirby grips and hairspray I sat down to choose which style would work best for a lunch out with my family. I was really drawn to the idea of a single plait along the crown, leaving the rest of the hair loose – a good way, I thought, to ease myself into the ‘change’. Luckily, I’d saved a nifty ‘how to’ by hairdresser Mark Hill and decided to give it a go. It was quick but fiddly for my untrained, pre-arthritic fingers.
Once I’d pinned it back, it was nowhere near as neat as in the picture but just as I was about to tear the Kirby grips out and start again my four-year-old son came in and with a pure genuine delight said, “I LIKE your hair, mama”. I kept it in for the rest of the day.
Emboldened by that mildly triumphant ‘bang braid’ I decided to dive straight in to a very pretty braided low bun from hairstyle.com. It wasn’t as polished a French plait as others I’d seen so would hopefully be a little more achievable.
A quick glance in the mirror an arm-aching 10 minutes later and it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, but I clearly needed a bit more practice. My thin plaits were lost under a wispy knot of my hair and the tail of one of the plaits (complete with lilac band) was sticking out. I pulled this one out and re-did the bang braid, which was quickly emerging as my go-to do.
Try out one of Lucy's styles step-by-step below:
A new hair frontier
I decided to give my fingers a rest from braiding by giving a chic ponytail a go. It turns out my worries that high ponytails are reminiscent of the cycling shorts and neon hair clips of the early Nineties are completely unfounded.
Inspired by a black and white image that I love on Pinterest of a messy high pony, I dry shampooed (for texture), backcombed (for volume) and wrapped a thin layer of my hair around the hairband to cover it and voilà, a simple nonchalant up do that looks cool, doesn’t give me arm ache and is perfect for my cousin’s forthcoming 40th birthday party.
So while I may not have turned into the world’s best hair stylist, trying out all these different styles has really boosted my confidence. For every beautiful idea, I was able to find a how-to to create a similar ‘do and tailor it to suit my face/hair type. And it doesn’t matter that it went wrong on occasion, I now have three go-to up dos – Heidi plaits, ‘bang braids’ and chic high ponytail – to pull me out of my hair-down rut.