Hairspray was a part of my life until I hit about age nineteen and grunge took over. There is a direct correlation between the amount of plaid and corduroy I owned and the reduction of hairspray I used.
But, before age nineteen, before the wonder years of grunge, I followed in my mother’s footsteps and joined in the cult of hairspray. But, I wasn’t alone. I can’t think of any of my friends – boys included – that didn’t use some sort of hair styling product, mainly hairspray, but gel and mousse were also in the running for most used products.
Hairspray, oh hairspray and junior high and high school – curling irons, perms, pastel shimmery eye shadow, bangle bracelets, huge plastic earrings, and stacks of Swatch watches, oh yes, jelly shoes, but hairspray seemed to bring it all together. I was considered a moderate hairspray user – I would love to claim that I was ahead of my time, too refined for all of this nonsense, but the truth is, I was pretty tomboyish and just couldn’t ever get it together to invest the amount of time it took to really, REALLY be a star hairspray user.
I knew them, though, these superstars of hairspray use. One of the most awe-inspiring uses of hairspray I ever witnessed, and I did witness it, firsthand, involved a table or dresser – it had to be a sturdy, flat surface and a scorching, hot as it would get, curling iron, a ratting comb, an iron – yes, a clothes iron, and a large bottle of Aqua Net. Here’s how it went – EVERY DAY – comb out her hair straight onto the flat surface by learning over and making her forehead even with the edge of the dresser. First round of hairspray to make the hair stick straight and flat. Wait for hairspray to dry, still leaning over with head pressed to the dresser. Place towel over hair, iron with clothes iron.
More hairspray, more waiting time. If she used the “right” amount of hairspray at this point, she could raise her head off of the dresser and her hair would stand straight up in the air. If it drooped or sagged in any way, it was back to the head against the dresser step. If she had used enough hairspray, she could move on to the second step – the curling iron.
Now, I didn’t really understand this part, but it seemed very significant at the time – and I learned early on that sometimes it is best just to keep your mouth shut and observe – but, the curling iron was used strictly to curl ONLY THE TIPS of her hair, only the very tips. The tips had to point forward, not upward. Sometimes this looked like a giant claw, growing from her forehead waiting to pounce and strike the nearest innocent person she encountered. Sometimes, though, it looked like giant eyelashes, and her pale face became a giant eyeball. It was all strange and surreal…
Back to the hairspray. Once the tips were perfectly curled and ratted just enough to make them fuzzy, out came the hairspray again. Spray, spray, spray – the smell of Aqua Net and singed hair would fill her bedroom. And, if she were in a hurry, she would break out the hairdryer at this point, on low of course – too forceful and she would have to start all over.
The end result, a stiff straight wall of hair with curled tips which reached the door before she did EVERY DAY. Now, that is dedication, that is commitment. That is what kept Aqua Net in the money for the late 80s and early 90s. That, my friends, is what hairspray could do for you in junior high and high school.
You might not be able to spell your name or count to ten, but if you committed to the hairspray, it could make you known.
Even now, all these years later, when talk of this particular girl (woman) rolls around, her hair and her use of hairspray always makes its way into the conversation. How’s that for making an impression?