11. Perms: Not Just for the 80’s Anymore

7 Jan

While we’re on the subject of bad hair days, I might as well tackle the topic of perms. There was a time when perms were popular all across the U.S. (I believe it fell somewhere in between Bo Derek cornrows and the “Rachel” do.) Perms have generally fallen out of favor, as such things do. However, Southern women can be loathe to break a tradition, no matter how bad it may be.

I, myself, have never had a perm. Not that I think I’m above following trends. (I wore banana clips just like everybody else.) I just never needed one seeing as I have naturally curly hair. My curls and I have only been on friendly terms for the last two decades (since I discovered that growing them out saves me from being serenaded with the Monchichi song). In retrospect, I am grateful that a stray wavy hair gene saved me copious trips to the hairdresser.

From what I understand, perms are an exercise in masochism. You sit in the stylist’s chair for hours while your hair is rolled onto about 512 curlers then doused in foul-smelling chemicals. I’ve heard you have to leave in the stinky glop for at least a day or so. (At least that was the explanation I was given upon commenting on a friend’s odiferous head.)

Maybe perms have gotten more sophisticated over the years, but people still go in wanting to look like Debra Messing and come out looking like Richard Simmons.

After a lifetime of managing curly hair, I can’t understand why somebody would CHOOSE to deal with frizz. Oh, sure, curls are spunky and whatnot, but I’ve yet to meet a curly-haired person (real or fake) who didn’t suffer from the finger-in-light-socket look from time to time. Which is why I have a fairly large collection of hats. Though you will not find a baseball cap in the bunch.

6 Responses to “11. Perms: Not Just for the 80’s Anymore”

  1. Karen cronacher April 7, 2011 at 5:55 pm #

    I just walked into a kind of crappy hair salon one day in 1986 in Providence, R.I. and got a perm. I don’t remember it taking too long, but the chemical smell was awful. I thought I looked wonderful, never better. I have photos to prove it if you want to take a look sometime. I never had frizz.

    • Kim Holloway April 12, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

      I would love to see a picture of you with a perm!!

  2. adcrb@aol.com October 23, 2012 at 1:06 am #

    I’ve had twenty perms in my life. That’s a lot of perms, especially for a guy. I usually loved how they looked on me. Oh, every once in awhile something would go wrong and I’d be mistaken for Ronald McDonald’s little brother. But I tell you, for sheer ease of styling, nothing beats a tight curly or spiral perm. A few swipes of the perm pick (not to be confused with a garden rake), and you’re ready to let the world see how pretty you are!

    Nowadays, due to financial constraints (plus fear of being ridiculed by everyone I know plus their friends and the dog who lives over in the next building), I have to settle on hair curlers for a less satisfactory Greg Brady look. Let me tell you that the next time I go in for a hair tuneup I’m getting a perm so tight it will have to be called a brain wave!

    • Kim Holloway October 25, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

      20 perms for a guy is quite an…accomplishment? Thanks for your hilarious note! I especially liked the “less satisfactory Greg Brady look.” Here’s hoping your financial situation improves so you can get back to the salon soon!


  1. Beauty Parlors. « stuff southern people like - November 5, 2010

    […] such popular spots, seeing as they combine two of a Southern lady’s greatest loves, gossip and perms. Oh, and don’t forget pampering. Any belle worth her sugar loves a good […]

  2. the bigger the hair, the closer to god. « the credibility gap. - May 6, 2012

    […] just like any other southern young lady. […]

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