For the Shear Fun of It: Books and Movies About Hair

Have you ever wondered how women in the early 60's achieved the towering, conical "beehive" hairstyle?

According to American Decades (available with your DPL card through Gale Virtual Reference), "First, the volume was created. Wet hair was rolled in curlers and then dried. After the curlers were removed, the hair was teased. After being thoroughly teased, the hair was ready to be shaped. The top or front layer was lifted, not brushed, over the entire mass and then heavily sprayed with a powerful hairspray so that the rat's-nest part was hidden from view."

The style was invented in 1960 by stylist Margaret Vinci Heldt, at the request of the editors of Modern Beauty Salon magazine, who wanted a new hairdo for the coming decade. The style has endured, with devotees that include Aretha Franklin, Audrey Hepburn, Amy Winehouse, Adele, Kerry Washington, and Marge Simpson.

Hair has always been a form of fashion statement, but it's also so much more—a flash point for discussions about aging, an expression of cultural identity or rebellion, or the quickest path to a New Me. Here are a few Denver Public Library resources that examine some of the more-intriguing aspects of hair as a social phenomenon.

On Blondes: Learn where the concept of the "dumb blonde" originated, how women in ancient Rome used pigeon dung to dye their hair blonde, and the rise of the Aryan myth.  

Red: A History of the Redhead: Did you know that redheads are bullied in England?  This narrative explores all aspects of ginger hair, from the history of the gene to red hair in art, myth, literature, culture, and science.  

Going Gray: What I Learned about Beauty, Sex, Work, Motherhood, Authenticity, and Everything Else that Really Matters: Magazine writer Anne Kreamer decided to write this book about going gray in style after seeing a photo of herself with hair that she thought looked harshly colored and unflattering. Lots of encouragement and tips about transitioning into your true color.    

Being Ginger: One Man's Attempt to Find a Woman Who Likes Redheads (DVD): Redheaded filmmaker Scott P. Harris, a victim of childhood bullying due to his hair color, made a documentary about his quest to find a woman who likes men with red hair.

Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America: An anecdotal and historical exploration of the roots of black Americans' hair from fifteenth-century Africa to the present-day United States. Read how the Afro evolved from militant style to mainstream fashion trend and what prompted the creation of the Jheri curl and the popular style's fall from grace.

Textured Tresses: The Ultimate Guide to Maintaining and Styling Natural HairCelebrity stylist and master designer of natural hair Diane Da Costa unravels the challenges of textured hair, providing readers with information on the proper care of natural hair, as well as a step-by-step guide on achieving various styles. 

Good Hair (DVD): Starring and narrated by comedian Chris Rock, this documentary delves into the $9 billion black hair industry and visits beauty salons, barbershops, and hair-styling conventions to explore popular approaches to hair styling. According to Rock, he was inspired to make the movie after his three-year-old daughter Lola (who has curly, wiry hair typical of many people of African descent) asked him, "Daddy, how come I don't have good hair?" 

Hairworld: The Pursuit of Excellence (DVD): In Moscow, 300 stylists from more than 40 countries compete at the 2006 International Hairworld Championships, also known as the "hair Olympics."  In timed tests of coiffure excellence, the documentary follows Team USA as it creates towering, elaborate styles.  

Hairstyles: Features full-color, step-by-step photos to help any hairstyle novice create stunning styles for every day, as well as for weddings, proms, and other special occasions.

The Beauty Academy of Kabul (DVD): In this documentary, a group of six American volunteers travel to Afghanistan to start the nation's first Western-style school of cosmetology after the collapse of the Taliban. Poignant and often humorous, the film shows how women with very different life experiences learn about, and from, one another.   

Need help? Have questions? Librarians are ready to help you 24/7 from our Ask Us page!

Written by Lisa on December 31, 2018