July 21st, 2011

Rebekah Brooks and those curly-haired women

[Hat tip: Althouse.]

The British phone-hacking scandal is something I’ve managed to avoid writing about so far, although if you’d like to read about the substance of it please feel free. But a new and admittedly more trivial angle that caught my attention is the recent fuss made about News International editor and accused hacker-in-chief Rebekah Brooks’s hair, which looked like this in happier days:

It’s not the usual female corporate hair, which is ordinarily sleek and smooth and/or pulled back. If a woman’s hair is her crowning glory, Ms. Brooks’s is a particularly noteworthy diadem. It reminds me of nothing more than the coifs of the women beloved by so many pre-Raphaelite painters such as Rossetti, whose Helen of Troy is typical of the genre:

And then of course there was Pretty Woman:

The associations are almost inevitable: Temptress. Wild woman. Sex. Trouble. Fun. Risk-taking. Free. Or—you fill in the blanks. Certainly not Corporate, Staid, Dependable, Predictable.

Although Brooks is a Brit, her curly-hair type is more typical of other ethnicities. For example, most influential black women in the public eye have long had to deal with the choice about what to do with hair that, in its natural state, can look pretty unruly. First Lady Michele Obama’s smooth hair choice has been the subject of no small amount of commentary (for husband Barack it’s easier: clip it short). And many Jewish women, likewise, have faced their own version of the dilemma (see Debbie Wasserman Schulz and her mane).

But hardly anyone gets off easy in this hair game. Even with hair that approximates the most acceptable look du jour, there are few wash-and-wear styles any more. The preferred do is so bone-straight that it can only be arrived at for many courtesy of a ceramic iron, which is a sort of hair press.

Here’s famous hairperson Jennifer Aniston sporting the look:

As for me, I’ve got a dog in this race: I’m a curly-haired woman myself, going in and out of fashion with the tide. Back in the 60s I had a fling with ironing it: never again. My face and hair seem to go together, and straight hair looks odd on me.

I won’t give out my secrets for working with my hair and making the curls more curly and less frizzy, but let’s just say it doesn’t just happen. YouTube is a testament to that—there must be thousands upon thousands of videos instructing girls and women of all ages, shapes, sizes, and ethnicities in taming their curly manes. Here’s a rather sweet one:

Note, by the way, the stylist’s remark, “Your face is made to complement your curls.” Or your straight hair, if that’s what you happen to have. And for the most part that’s true.

But I’m not so sure about Rebekah Brooks. Her hair and features don’t quite seem to go together. The hair overpowers the face; it’s just about all you notice. Perhaps, right now, that’s the way she prefers it.

25 Responses to “Rebekah Brooks and those curly-haired women”

  1. southpaw Says:

    “and straight hair looks odd on me”
    hmmm. hard to argue with that opinion when there’s a piece of fruit blocking the way…

  2. Don Carlos Says:

    Curls is good. Straight is boring.

  3. Jim Miller Says:

    So what should Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz do with her hair?

    I pay very little attention to these things — though I remember being shocked by Pelosi’s immobile face — but Wasserman Schultz does puzzle me.

    It looks like she has a spray-on tan, and a hairdresser who hates her. The total effect is quite distracting.

  4. gs Says:

    The message I receive from hair like Brooks’ or Samantha Power’s is that the people are thinking about self-promotion than about the task at hand. Their male counterparts send out different warning signs.

  5. neo-neocon Says:

    gs: self-promotion? That’s the hair she was born with.

  6. gs Says:

    The length, Neo. In Brooks’ case, the unkemptness and fullness too.

  7. gs Says:

    neo-neocon Says:

    gs: self-promotion? That’s the hair she was born with.

    Yeah, that’s the problem. It looks like it hasn’t been cut since.

    (The Web is a boon to staircase wit.)

  8. Steve Says:

    Brooks does not radiate feminine beauty. Maybe her big hair helps take the edge off her harsh unsmiling countenance?

  9. SteveH Says:

    Brook’s hair would look normal in a deep south pentacostal church.

  10. gs Says:

    Neo’s hair harmonizes with her blogging.

  11. grackle Says:

    The reason the hair overpowers Brooks’s face is because the facial features are too small. Compare the eyes, nose and mouth of Jane Morris in the painting to Brooks’s comparatively diminutive features. Julia Roberts, whom I’ve never considered particularly pretty, comes off better(to me) because of the substantial nose and large eyes.

    But I think Brooks’s hair is part of an overall style for both men and women in which the goal seems to be to look as if they had just gotten out of bed and flown out of the front door without bothering overmuch with grooming.

    The hair looks as if the possessor had slept all night in a humid room with pillow-twists and cowlicks galore. The men sport a 3-day growth of beard. Mismatched separates are common. Loose is paired with tight. Shirts and blouses are not tucked in, unbuttoned a few buttons down the front, the collar up, cuffs open and frequently wrinkled. The jacket, which is usually a size too small or 2 sizes too large, is put over this. Trousers and pants are cut and worn to look as if they were almost ready to fall down about the knees. There are probably finer points that I’m missing. I call it “the Rumpled Look.”

    I think the problem for Brooks is that it is a style that can be carried out with aplomb only by the young and Brooks is past forty. While she was a powerful media figure she could do and dress as she pleased. Now that she has been brought down the effect(for me) is slightly pathetic. But of course she’s stuck with it. To pull her hair back, cut it or straighten it would be criticized as well.

    http://tinyurl.com/3mqzdjk

    http://tinyurl.com/44w22mn

  12. Artfldgr Says:

    Never trust a redhead.. ;)

    “While the rest of the species is descended from apes, redheads are descended from cats” – Mark Twain

    Samuel Clemens was a redhead, as am I…

  13. rickl Says:

    I like cats. And fluffy curly hair on women.

  14. texexec Says:

    While we are on the subject of hair, what’s with the young guys’ rumpled crew cut look? Seems like EVERY young guy and many older ones have that look. And some of them seem to take pride in “being different” in many ways.

    I say “huh? What’s different about looking like one of the herd?”

    I also think the three day growth of beard is silly. They trying to look masculine?

    Am I sounding like an old guy? LOL

  15. texexec Says:

    I was a red head too and I RESENT the phrase “red headed step child.” :)

  16. Kurt Says:

    I’m surprised no one has yet mentioned Bernadette Peters. I saw Peters in concert a few months ago and while I wasn’t close enough to determine anything about her “fountain of youth” appearance referred to in the linked post, she sure put on a great show.

  17. newton Says:

    My hair is naturally curly, but I keep it short. I used to have a nice, curly mane when I was in college, but nowadays, I cannot afford to have too much hair to take care of.

    My two daughters also have natural curls. More often than not, anywhere we go together, there’s always someone who can’t have enough of my girls’ curls. When my elder daughter was just 18 months old (and her little sister was barely the size of a grain of rice), two women at a Quiznos’ went gaga over her hair. After going nuts for a few minutes, one of them then affirmed to me, “Her Daddy better clean up his gun!”

  18. Janet Says:

    Boy, Neo, you are SO right that beautiful curly hair doesn’t just happen.

    I wish I had a nickel for every time someone told me that wished they were as lucky as I am having curly hair. But if I don’t cut it super short, it’s a chore and a half.

    A few years ago I went to a stylist that works with one of the curly hair ‘systems’ out now – this one was Deva Curl (Ouidad is another). They have their own cutting methods and products which must be used according to a set of rules and regs.

    After shampooing, I could not blot my hair dry because that would ‘disturb’ the curl pattern;. Then I had to sit in a chair and turn my head upside down (with a towel on the floor to catch the drips) while I proceeded to dry it with a blow dryer with a diffuser. Drying without a diffuser also is ‘disturbing’ to the curl. Diffusers probably lengthen the drying time by 50% so if you have really thick long curly hair you spent a lot of time upside down every time you washed your hair.

    No wonder that they did not recommend daily washing – who has that kind of time?

  19. Libby Says:

    Considering that Brooks isn’t particularly flashy in any other aspect of her appearance, and her hair doesn’t look well groomed, I think she’s just gave up the battle to control it.

    My sister has always had a gorgeous shade of auburn hair. She grew so tired of women asking her what hair color she used (and not believing that it’s natural) that we went to the store and found a hair coloring she could recommend.

  20. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Was sort of on the edge of a case of hair tension.
    Really good-looking young woman with whatever it is today that we used to call a pageboy asked an acquaintance for a favor. They were both into conditioning and running. She asked him to help her work out so as to look better. He, in part because he was surprised–why gild the lily–and couldn’t think of an improvement, and in part as a joke, told her that, every morning when she got up, she should remind herself that this was the day not to cut her hair. Do that daily for three years.
    Turns out, she wasn’t really asking for, you know, conditioning advice. But she did take it. Showed up three years later with long, softly-curling mane. Much hilarity failed to ensue. Probably not much hilarity during the three years, either.
    Guy was thick as a brick, but the reaction was excessive.

  21. Oldflyer Says:

    Recently told my 14, soon to be 15, grand son who seems to be too deep into a relationship, to back off a little. There are too many nice girls around to get locked in at this point.

    Well, back to the point. I also told him not to worry if he does not understand females at this point, because the effort will be a life long process. Assuming he doesn’t just give up the effort as a lost cause at some point. I suspect most men do.

    Hair. Why? Daughter always had beautiful hair with a curl that women used to pay big money for. Naturally, she always wanted straight hair. Finally, in her 40s, she figured out how to wear it. Looked great. Not happy. So, she finally achieved her goal. Straight; like Hillary Clinton. (Looks awful) Recently reported that she had spent five hours at the hair person’s. I try not to speculate at how many $$ per hour.

    I have no idea of the natural color of the hair of either of my daughters, or my grand daughters. It has been too long since I saw it.

    Who says Americans don’t have money to burn?

  22. Scott Says:

    When I first saw Brooks, she reminded me of Tawny Kitaen doing flips, gymnastics and sexually provocative poses on the hoods of two Jaguars in the classic 1980s MTV video for Whitesnake.

    Though after watching the video again for the first time in decades, I’m reminded the ’80s was the decade of big hair, and some of the guys in the band have manes that rival Kitaen and Brooks.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3MXiTeH_Pg

  23. nyon Says:

    I think Brooks’ hair and face are a lovely combination, she has large facial features which are only complimented by that big beautiful curly red hair.

  24. JimG3 Says:

    At this point I have little to add but two things, see Chris rock’s “Good Hair” for the People of Colour take on this subject. And isn’t it strange that the women with the finest hair on the planet, the Arabs and Persians have to hide it under those damed hijabs. Grackle, great heads up to Jane Morris that super star of the 1890′s, beloved of artists from London to Paris. Girls, as I get older I honor you so much on your ability to keep the show going. So much work, as Janet shows, but I for one am damn appreciative.

  25. Francesca Says:

    I also have curly hair – chin length. The absolute KEY to dealing with curly hair is an excellent hair cut.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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