It has gotten a bad rap as a statement of quirky individuality — or a sign of laziness. But the look’s fresh appeal lies in its confidence.
There’s a scene in “Girls” in which Shoshanna, a recent college grad, is at a job interview, and the subject of Chelsea Clinton comes up. “She’s always been one of my heroes,” Shoshanna says, “because she is such a strong woman struggling so nobly with her very curly hair.” I was at a job interview myself the first time I realized that my own curls, most often described as pre-Raphaelite, could be a liability. “You’re so brave to wear your hair curly,” my would-be boss said, running a hand through her own lanky waterfall. “I have to straighten mine every morning.”
I didn’t get the job. It had never occurred to me that my hairstyle was a bold choice, but in that particular corporate setting, it seemed, it betrayed something unsavory. The problem with curly hair is one of the outside gaze. People with straight hair (either by birth or blow-dryer) mistake it as a kind of statement — a mark of blustery confidence and bold individuality — or, worse, as careless and sloppy, a sign that you’re lazy or stubborn.
Curly hair is messy; curly hair is chutzpah; curly hair is loud, and has a lot to say. In Hollywood, it’s often shorthand for quirk: Think of Ilana Glazer on “Broad City” or Natasha Lyonne on “Orange Is the New Black.” Meanwhile, you have to go back to the Clinton administration to see when Sarah Jessica Parker or Julia Louis-Dreyfus regularly wore their hair curly. Those women — like many with naturally curly hair — go the Chelsea route, taming it with blowouts, flat irons or keratin treatments. Curly hair made sense back when starlets wore little makeup and their own vintage slip dresses to the Oscars. Now, in the era of the “glam squad,” it takes a village to primp and prep, and the results are smooth, sleek, polished and predictable.
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