The 1950’s revelled in the outrageous works of art created from hair, and the bubble-like bouffant was teased to even greater height and tamed into more elaborate shapes in the 60’s. One of the most unifying markers of this new gravity-defying style was the vertically superior ‘beehive’.
Teased into the giant, freestanding bouffant, the beehive was carefully shaped into a rolled cone, remarkable in its resemblance to the shape of an actual beehive. The spun sugar consistency of the hair was achieved with excessive amounts of hairspray, combined with a special process called backcombing.
Also known as teasing, backcombing matted the hair to create a stiff, tangled mass that could be pulled and shaped much like the fluffy strands of cotton candy.
The tease and style concept got more elaborate as the 1960s progressed. Dozens of tiny crispy curls – or one giant rolled cone – took precious time and effort to shape, but for many, the reward of a hair masterwork was worth it.
The teased style also created a few hygiene concerns, as girls went for weeks without washing their hair to maintain their shapes. Even sleeping became an art, forcing girls to learn to snooze with their heads hanging off the bed to keep their sculpture from getting squashed.
Ladies later gave up the time-intensive styles of teasing and took the scissors to their hair to achieve shape. The geometric bob cuts of Vidal Sassoon freed women from the endless hours of shaping required for the mighty bouffant.
‘Wash and go’ was a new concept that many women just couldn’t adjust to. The weekly excursion to the salon was a much-anticipated ritual that was a form of female bonding and showmanship.
In later decades, the beehive became a homage to the excesses of the ’60s, and only the most stylistically adventurous maintained the elaborate do after its initial decline.