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Hair in the Second Half of Life


Remember when most women would wear the latest and same kinds of hairstyles? In the 1960s, it was the bubble, bouffant, or flip. In the 1970s, long, straight hair was hip for younger women, while the older ones continued with the teased and sprayed helmet hair. The 1980s saw the BIG, permed hair or the permed bangs that stuck straight up in the air— the higher the better, while the older ones continued with the teased and sprayed helmet hair. : ) From the 1990s on, younger women didn’t seem to be so compelled to follow a single, primary hairstyle to mark the times, although the older ones continued with the teased and sprayed short hair, which was the most becoming hairstyle for most mature women that wore it, and especially my mom. But the turn of the 21st century leading up to today shows that most any hairstyle goes. 


Years ago I attended a basketball tournament in a small town, and I noticed an attractive woman that stood out in the crowd. But it wasn’t her face initially that drew my eyes to her. It was her huge hairdo (a combination of the highly teased and long hair) that seemed so out of place in the small community gymnasium. A ripple of news traveling across the bleachers informed us that she was once a contestant in the Miss America pageant. I remember thinking, she’s still on the runway. Years after competing for the Miss America crown, her beauty pageant hairstyle continued to define who she was and kept reminding every one else of it as well.


Looking at photos of women today, longer hairstyles tend to prevail in the first half of life, although we’re seeing more and more older women confidently wearing longer hair these days, more so than at any other time since before the 1950s when Audrey Hepburn popularized the pixie hair cut. Before that, and especially prior to the 20th century, women usually grew their hair long, but you didn’t see it worn long in public because it was braided or twisted it up into a bun. Long hair was a sign of femininity back then.


Today, longer hair may be more of a budget statement, or at least it is for me. I'm too cheap and lazy to maintain the short, weekly-visit-to-the-beauty-shop style. I may visit a hairdresser once or twice a year; the rest of the time I cut it myself (and it usually looks that way) because I want to save money for things like travel. 


Take a look at this group of women from their forties on up into their seventies. Can you tell by looking at their hairstyles what kind of work they do or did?

Ladies Bible Study.jpg

Pictured clockwise from the front left: Joy Ash, Anne Wentrcek, Lee Janeka, Kathleen Kelso, Karen Farley, Judy Schroeder, Christine Gardner, Hazel Chasak, Ruth Sanchez, Devvie Gibbs,

Cheryl Putnam, Donna Van Cleve (photoshopped in-- thank you, Kathy!), Cheryl Webster, Kathy Dabbs, Yvonne Oude-Reimerink, & visitor.

These lovely ladies were members of my Bible study group at church several years ago, which began as a “women of all ages” class. We eventually renamed ourselves the “Women of the Word” or WoW, for short, and before the pandemic interrupted us, we met in an even smaller classroom in our new facility. Can you tell by these women’s hairstyles which one is a nurse? A retired teacher? A language arts teacher? A secretary? A president/CEO of her company? A retired librarian? A business owner? A customer service rep at the DMV? A traveler and adventurer? A medical coder? A retired information specialist? A volunteer at the local food bank? A retired federal employee? 


I love that our hairstyles are as varied as our professions and life choices. And they're all beautiful!

Donna Van Cleve

October 2020

Aging, Beauty

Photo provided by Kathy Dabbs

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