December 22nd, 2016

Rollers and dryers and hair

This post by Ann Althouse made me remember the hairdryers and roller settings of yesteryear that were replaced many decades ago by blow drying and those wand thingees that press the hair into a bone-straight (and in my opinion unflattering to most people, even the young and beautiful) sleekness.

I grew up in the era of the roller and the hairdryer, and I could really identify with this reminiscence about hours spent under a hood hairdryer, reading a magazine or just staring off into space.

Like many things that are supposed to be easier and better and more convenient, blow-drying really isn’t—although I suppose it depends on the kind of hair you’ve got. For my curly hair, blow drying makes it wild if I don’t use a diffuser and tons of glop. And blow drying makes it bushy if there’s an attempt to blow it straight, even in a salon (plus, I don’t like the way my hair looks straight). Even some professionals have agreed that the product of their attempts at blow drying with me are less than lovely, with the hair becoming more straight and yet bushy and even less shiny (and curly hair isn’t shiny to begin with).

I end up just a bit like this:

roseanna

Even for the person without my special situation, the heat from blow drying is damaging to the hair, and it also takes a great deal of technique and dexterity to do well. Plus two hands are busy all the time—no way to read, unless you have absolutely mad skills.

I never mastered it. And I know a lot of people who never did, either, and who go every week to the hairdresser for a professional blowout, much as my mother did to have her hair washed and then set in rollers.

I was inspired to buy a package of rollers a few months ago, after watching the Makeover Guy (those videos I love and sometimes post here), who sometimes sets the crown of women’s hair on rollers. I hadn’t seen or thought of rollers since around 1967. But I noticed that those rollers gave women’s hair more body and a nicely controlled wave/curl, and I thought “Ah, I remember that.” My hair has become frizzier over the years, as with many women, and it turns out that a few rollers on top really do the trick. And I don’t need a hood hairdryer at all; I just waft the blow dryer over it for a while and that works pretty well.

Setting hair on rollers is like riding a bicycle; you never forget. I had mastered the skill as a teenager, when I used to set my hair every single night and slept like a baby on those hard rollers. But I don’t have to do that now. I find that just a few rollers on top for just a few minutes keep the curls more controlled and smoother until the next washing, which for me (with dry, curly hair that almost never gets dirty) comes maybe once a week.

I did a Google search to look up current information on setting hair with rollers and discovered to my surprise that nearly every single site I saw was geared to black women. Well, many of the products I use on my hair are also marketed mainly for black women, as it turns out. But I see no reason why rollers should only be pitched to that particular group. Rollers certainly were a universal phenomenon when I was growing up. I had one of those home hairdryers, too, both a soft bonnet one and a hard hood one. The soft bonnet one was easily portable, and the hard hood one was for home use but it folded up in a nifty way, too, for storage. The latter hairdryer was a gift from my clients (yes, my clients) for my sixteenth birthday, because I used to cut the hair of many of my friends, just for fun.

As a pre-pubescent and in early puberty, I wanted to be a hairdresser, actually. My parents talked me out of it.

Here’s a modern version of the type of hairdryer they gave me, for those of you who haven’t the foggiest idea what I’m talking about. I’m astounded that they still sell these things:

dryer

Hey, you can even order it through Amazon. Will wonders never cease?

[NOTE: By the way, the title of this post, “Rollers and dryers and hair,” is meant to be modeled after the famous line in the movie “The Wizard of Oz”: “lions and tigers and bears.”]

9 Responses to “Rollers and dryers and hair”

  1. Esther Says:

    I have been having some success with a simple round brush (without the evil hair eating plastic tips!) that I use similarly to rollers with a blow dryer. So it’s two handed, but quick. Too much and it’s a frizzy, bushy mess. My hair is less curly than yours, in the winter it even looks normal:-)

    But, you’re inspiring me to try curlers!

  2. Lee Says:

    I remember a pink portable bonnet. The blower part had a strap you could hang over your shoulder, like a purse. Obviously, you had to have a good extension cord. But meant you didn’t have to just sit there.

    I have your opposite problem — my hair can’t take a curl. I’ve tried to blow dry it, curling iron, dippity-do it, and I still look like I ironed my hair flat. Pulling my hair back in a tail or bun or braids doesn’t really work — my hair insists on being STRAIGHT from root to tip. So my hair just won’t “flow” in any direction but straight down. I loved Elaine’s hair on Seinfeld.

    The only time I got a curl to work was wet pin curls, with some dippity-do. Of course, it took HOURS to put them in the seventy-nine little pin curls (yes, I still remember how many) and by noon, my hair would be almost straight again. (Too much dippity-do made it hard too comb my hair, and they’d just be hard, crackly, crunchy curls, that looked like burned Cheetos.)

    I even like Roseanne Rosannadanna’s hair…

  3. neo-neocon Says:

    Lee:

    I’m a big one for accepting the hair you’re given. Not that it can’t be improved on a bit, but the basic tendency, straight or curl, is the way to go. I don’t try to make mine straight; it’s a losing battle. And straight hair like yours definitely has its beauties. It’s usually shiny, for example (mine isn’t shiny).

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    Esther:

    Try them, you’ll like them!

    I’ve been very pleased with my little experiment where I let rollers back into my life after these close-to-50 (gulp!) years.

  5. Fausta Says:

    Took me almost 2 years to get a haircut that dries “right” after moving to Florida.

    Back in NJ I could just comb through while using a blow dryer in the low setting (I have A LOT of straight hair). When I tried that in FL, I get the Roseanna look, only straight. Yuuuuge!

    I may try a few rollers on top, though, and see if anything happens.

  6. Kyndyll G Says:

    As a child of the 1970s (the Brady Bunch girls era) and a teen of the 1980s, being born with wavy, dull (but I repeat myself) hair was a curse. Granted, in the 1980s, no one wanted waist-length hippie hair, but with rare exception, there was not a cool hair style to be found that didn’t start with basically straight, shiny hair. From the 1980s on, I had the power of hair dryers to make myself look respectable, but I wondered cynically – how did the DNA for my hair even exist, since before the advent of modern hair dryers, it was impossible to look sufficiently desirable to attract a potential mate? LOL!

  7. Cornflour Says:

    I’m roughly the same age as Neo. All these years later, from a male perspective, my memory of hair dryers may be too peculiar for decent company.

    In high school, my first serious girlfriend used to frequently put up her hair in rollers and then wrap the whole business in a plastic hood attached to a portable dryer. I was shocked at all the work involved, but the fashions of the late 1960’s demanded straight hair.

    What I remember most is the smell, which I strongly associate with adolescence. Comic confessional? Suits the era.

  8. Sgt. Mom Says:

    I must be about Neo’s age as well – as I remember those heavy beauty-parlor hair dryers, and I vaguely recall getting one of those little portable home hair-dryers; Christmas or b-day present? I was lucky in my hair, though. It was an indeterminate light brown with blondish streaks, with a natural wave, very fine but very thick. I usually braided it, to keep it under control. It took forever to dry after a shampoo, which is likely why I got the hair-dryer. It was the fashion then to iron hair to encourage it to be absolutely straight, and I remember certain women suggesting that to my mother … who thought the idea was completely ridiculous. When I went into the Air Force, I had it all cut short and kept it in a modified pixie cut for many years. lately, I let it grow long again, so that I can dress in period costume for author events. Now my hair lives mostly drawn up in a neat bun on the back of my head, Yay for low-maintenance hair!

  9. LindaF Says:

    I’ve been using the rollers for over 10 years. It’s a lot less damaging to your hair, particularly if you partly dry it first, roll it, then give it a quick finish with a dryer. Let it sit for a few minutes to cool off.
    Take down, shake, and finger-comb. Finish with a light spray.
    Since starting this, I’ve had more compliments on my hair then ever before.

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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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