Bad Hair Days
George Clooney, for instance. The sexy pediatrician and king of arrogance on ER, he had perfectly decent leading-man hair last season. Not overstyled, not too disheveled. It suited him. Currently, though, heÕs swaggering around the hospital in what discerning viewers can only assume is a tribute, in the form of a haircut, to Eddie Munster. ItÕs all widowÕs peak. It suggests the pelt of a terrier. When a magazine asked one of his publicists about the curious new style, the publicist replied that Clooney was uneasy about being perceived as a sex symbol, and so didnÕt want to discuss his hair. With hair like that, who would?Certain celebrities you can count on for bad hair. You expect it from Jerry Seinfeld, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Michael Bolton, all of whom should invest in three-way mirrors so they can finally see whatÕs been obvious to the rest of us for years: that they need major trims at the nape. Juliette Lewis has never had good hair; neither has Reba McEntire. Madonna has good hair in only about one appearance in 20, despite her resourcefulness. Same for Mel Gibson, hunk though he is.But on a nighttime soap like Beverly Hills 90210, where the celebrity actors consist of hair and clothes and really not much else, good coifing has always been mandatory. Not lately, however. Kelly, who once had pretty hair, long and blond, is shorn like Florence Henderson. And Donna, the character played by Tori Spelling (whose fatherÕs fortune could convert her locks to real platinum, if she liked), looks as though sheÕs wearing a permanently affixed white football helmet.Other recent inductees into the bad-hair hall of infamy: Connie Sellecca (spiky, puffy, short shag), Victoria Principal (severe bob; reminiscent of the CampbellÕs Soup kids), Ted Danson (gray crewcut; makes him look like he could have been in One Flew Over the CuckooÕs Nest), Mira Sorvino (blond streaks), Jodie Foster (brown flip), and Naomi Judd (bleach job).The roster of celebrities who are weathering a terrible hair year is too lengthy to print in its entirety (see ÒWorse Than Troll Dolls,Ó facing page). HereÕs the real alarm bell, though: Julia RobertsÕs hair looks like a synthetic version of the hair she once had. Julia Roberts, the woman who made a bad perm look heavenly, the woman who managed to look cute even in a yellow-white Tinkerbell pixie cut. When Julia Roberts begins to look bad, and all the pretty women of prime-time TV start styling their hair like Peg Bundy, itÕs time to call for help.Help.Harlot hair and KatoCelebrities need attention and have been known to go to extremes in order to get it. But bad hairÕs not just hampering TV and movie stars now, itÕs also hit the models, the very people who get paid to have great hair. On the cover of the November Allure, Cindy CrawfordÕs normally gorgeous tresses look as though theyÕve been parted by an oily-handed sailor on a badly listing deck. In the December issue of the same magazine weÕre shown stringy gray hair on young model Tish Goff; bleached hair with visible dark roots on model Anna K.; and dark-brown hair with pinned-on dirty-blond streaks of human hair on model Nadja Auermann (who had abysmally ragged hair while making out with a skeleton in the recent Avedon spread in the New Yorker, and who earlier this year got a really catastrophic asymmetrical cut Ñ on board a Concorde jet Ñ that the whole fashion industry applauded, according to HarperÕs Bazaar).WhatÕs more, the formerly honey-tressed supermodels Niki Taylor, Kristy Hume, and Kate Moss are all so bleached out that, outfitted with beards and some padding, they could pass for low-rent Santas. They look like theyÕre in pain.These instances of bad hair are no coincidence. One of the Òhottest beauty trends at the collections in Milan and Paris this fall,Ó AllureÊreports, is Òpatently fake two-tone hair.Ó The look the stylists were going after was that of a Òa woman with the face of an angel and the hair of a harlot .Ê.Ê. or maybe one who has been trapped in her bathroom during a hurricane, amid lots of flying water and bottles of bleach.ÓHarlot hair. Accidents with water and bleach. Two-tone, fake hair.Why? Why us? And why now?Several favored theories:¥ Kato Kaelin: the reaction theory.Think about it. When Kato Kaelin came into our national consciousness, the first thing anyone noticed about him was his hair. There he was, Kato Kaelin, and he had startlingly beady eyes, but, you had to admit it, the guy had great hair. Great hair for a girl, sure, but great hair nonetheless. Annie Leibovitz photographed him for the New Yorker, and the magazine chose to print the picture of him styling his hair with a little blow drier in his well-mirrored bathroom. Lots of people saw the photo and, no doubt, said Òyuck.Ó We may, therefore, be experiencing a reaction against good hair, a reaction reflecting the fact that nobody wants to be in any way like Kato.¥ Roseanne: the reverse-snob theory.Around the same time that Kato Kaelin achieved omnipresence, RoseanneÕs hair started looking really good, even on her show, where sheÕs supposed to be too poor and too lacking in taste to have good hair. There was something unsettling about that. Concurrently, Hillary Clinton started showing up at public functions with her hair teased a bit at the top and styled into a flip at the bottom Ñ That Girl hair. It didnÕt look right on her, but it was, at the time, a very fashionable hairdo. Mary Hart, on Entertainment Tonight, started sporting it, too. Very likely, the hair czars of the country were not thrilled to see the style they had deemed fashionable atop the heads of these two particular women. It was a sign that the cutting edge needed to be sharpened. Voil�: bad hair comes into vogue.¥ Meryl Streep: the emulation theory.Meryl Streep, quintessential brainy blonde, appeared in The Bridges of Madison County with long, dull, brown hair, unevenly cut and unflatteringly styled. Prominent actresses and celebrities across the country, having envied and tried to emulate her hair ever since Kramer vs. Kramer, were unable to break their long-held compulsion to follow MerylÕs lead. Thus, bad hair soon became not just rampant but somehow au courant.¥ Jim Carrey: the Òwhatever worksÓ theory.A short time ago, Jim Carrey was a nobody. Now he gets at least $20 million per movie. What has been the secret of his success? Countless entertainers and supermodels who would love to make $20 million per movie have probably asked themselves this question. They have perhaps pondered this question in the company of their hairdressers (who are, after all, the therapists and priests of show-biz folk). Before replying, the hairdressers have perhaps weighed CarreyÕs talent, discarded that as a factor, and focused instead on what they know: hair. Consider: CarreyÕs hair was bad in Dumb and Dumber, both Ace Ventura flicks, Batman Forever, even his more famous skits on In Living Color.Bad hair = big money. It may be an equation that many stars and models have considered worth trying.Needless to say, none of these theories can, on its own, account for the bad-hair convergence. Maybe it was a combination of the above scenarios. Maybe thereÕs a bad-hair virus being passed from scalp to scalp in taxicabs, in bistros, and at Planet Hollywood grand-opening parties.Whatever it was that kicked off the bad-hair momentum, the coup de grace, the blow that really brought bad hair to us regular people, was delivered via a certain very popular television show. A show that, as soon as it aired, began (very subtly at first) to wreak havoc on hair nationwide.A little help from our FriendsFrom all over the country, women are flying to Salon Estilo in Los Angeles to get their hair cut by Chris McMillan, the man who cuts the hair of the characters on Friends. These women, it has been widely reported, are particularly taken with McMillanÕs scissorwork on the hair of the actress Jennifer Aniston, who plays Rachel on the show. AnistonÕs long and immaculately styled shag has come to be known as ÒThe Rachel.Ó Everyone wants it. Those who canÕt afford to fly to Salon Estilo simply ask their regular hairdressers to copy RachelÕs layers.To make such a request of a hairdresser, however, is to make a hair mistake, one that too many women have already made.The Rachel doesnÕt appear to be complicated, but itÕs a very deceptive cut. It looks wonderful on Jennifer Aniston. It looks wonderful on you when you leave the salon lacquered in fancy hair sprays. It looks wonderful on the women you see on Newbury Street who have been Racheled only seconds before. But it is not a look a normal mortal can replicate at home, unless she is able to remove her head and place it on a table in order to straighten, tease, and spray it on all sides. Or unless she has a special attachment for her blow drierÑan attachment generally referred to as a living, paid, professional stylist.This is all true. Take it from someone whoÕs in Rachel recovery. Those layers take many a television season to grow out.But there is some comfort to those of us coping with the Rachel aftermath. If we look very closely at Friends reruns from last season, we notice that the characters all had much better hair then. Even Rachel did. Beautiful Courteney Cox herself has obviously suffered this season from having been Racheled. (Some have observed that she now resembles Joan Collins.) If Cox canÕt Rachel, how can we expect to? We canÕt.The silver lining to the Rachel cloud: those of us who tried it now have really bad hair.And so, even though we were shooting for good hair, weÕre (unintentionally) quite fashionable.The big teaseIn the 1970s, almost everyone had bad hair. But that wasnÕt the same as this time around. That was because no one did much to combat unruly strands. It was a wash-and-go era, and often a go-without-washing one. Jagged ends, dull color, greasy roots. You could read it as a reaction against the highly styled hairdos of the 1960s. The look: anti-beehive, anti-contrivance.Grunge hairstyles tried to pick up on that aesthetic. As translated by the fashion industry, however, grunge hairstyles required not negligence, but work. Molding Mud, a styling product, was sometimes applied to the hair to make it look dirty. Famous stylists fussed with grunge hair, trying to coax it into being as Mamas and Papas as possible.When the grunge look was at its height, you could walk down a fashionable street and distinguish those people who had intentionally bad hair (grunge hair) from those who did not. It was easy. You just had to look at the clothes, check for a stocking cap, check for flannel.Now, however, you can walk down a fashionable street and be bombarded by bad hair from all directions, and not have any idea what it signifies. Are you looking at someone like Mary Tyler Moore, whose hair is expensively cut but looks very bad anyway? Are you looking at someone who wants to look as though sheÕs been trapped in the bathroom during a hurricane, and has gone to some lengths to get it that way? Are you looking at someone who was aiming for good hair but was savagely Racheled? Are you looking at someone whose hair has always been bad? Or are you looking at someone who used to have good hair, but has now decided to lower her standards in order to fit in with the reigning bad-hair moment Ñ someone like Marisa Tomei?ItÕs very hard to tell. WeÕve got teased hair happening alongside flat hair, sleek alongside scrappy. The cycle of styles and retro influences has sped up to such a degree that no cut looks modern; they all look dated and a little pitiful. The same thing has happened with clothes Ñ miniskirts strut down runways with ÒDynastyÓ power suits, antique lace is matched with heavy-duty vinyl in shop windows Ñ but somehow itÕs much more annoying on the head. Still, there is something to be said for seeing the icons of fame and fashion humorously ill-coifed. ItÕs entertaining. Mary Tyler Moore in short red hair. George Clooney looking like Julius Caesar. Jodi Foster in a brown flip. It brings a welcome humorous subtext to all that they do. HereÕs hoping the bad cuts and styles keep us hairophiles sufficiently amused until a better hair era dawns. And itÕs got to dawn. Soon. DoesnÕt it?