I'm taking over Pretty in the Past duties from Allan this week. Clearly I can’t possibly compete with his encyclopedic knowledge of cinematic history or poetic descriptions of the silver screen beauties who have punctuated his life, so I’m not going to try.
Instead I’m going to tell you about my own gratitude to the glorious Bettie Page, aka the woman who made me feel it was ‘ok’, nay, actually cool to rock a fringe and so, in a small but significant way, changed my life.
I originally got a fringe by accident – it was a side effect of the ill-advised (by myself) bowl cut that I sported in my early ‘20s. That hideous hairdo slowly, painfully grew into a bob and then into regular ol’ long hair, but I kept the fringe because I liked it and it suited me. However this was at a time when everyone, everyone had long, swooshy centre-parted hair, or at the most a side-parted half-fringe.
No one had a blunt-cut, heavy fringe like me and I must admit that I did feel a bit ‘weird’. This was nothing new – I was pretty used to feeling and looking like an oddball and quite comfortable with it - but occasionally in moments of self-doubt, I did start to wonder if ‘boys liked girls with fringes?’
Then Friendster came along. Remember Friendster? This footnote in social media history was squished in between Friends Reunited and Myspace and was a place to upload photos, connect with your friends etc. loooong before Facebook became our time-waster of choice.
And I started getting messages from boys saying they liked my fringe and I looked like Bettie Page! Who is this woman? I wondered, and when I Googled her I was immediately captivated by her raunchy, playful style – that unapologetic, jet-black fringe, the leopard print, the cat’s eye make-up (er, not so much the whips and chains but anyway).
She looked totally, utterly happy and confident in her own skin and this gave me such a boost, because I had hair like hers! All of a sudden I didn’t feel awkward because I had a gorgeous role model to inspire me.
Now I’m not going to romanticise Bettie’s life – she had a tough childhood, experienced more than her fair share of bad stuff even while being a wildly successful photographic model and actress and in her later years she had a nervous breakdown and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Too often, as Allan has described before, the flawless, upbeat image of a star we’re presented with on screen is in direct contrast to the turmoil of their lives out of the spotlight. All I can talk about with any authority is the significant impact her image, persona and attitude had on me.
Of course, these days having a fringe isn’t particularly daring – although it does still act as a visual shorthand for being ‘a bit indie’ (see: Katy Perry, Zooey Deschanel etc.) and so being the stubborn, contrary mule that I am, I’ve now grown my fringe out. But back in the day, something as simple as 'bangs' was a bold statement to make and having the guts to make it helped me grow stronger in other, less superficial ways too.
I will always be grateful to Bettie aka ‘the Dark Angel’ for giving me the confidence to own my style (even if, conversely, that was her style) and stand apart from the crowd. Her influence acted like stabilizers on a bike, until I became brave enough to manage on my own.
Picture Credit: Rex Features