From my early teens I had a strong interest in women’s hairstyles and the processes involved to create them. Perhaps there was a trigger from my childhood as I recall being in a salon with my mother at different times from about age 6. It was probably during the holidays because I could not be left at home alone when my mother went for her weekly set. The perfumes and chemical smells must have become imprinted on my brain as I was addicted to all those salon “fragrances” in later years.
By the mid 70’s I was like most teenagers with hair about 7 inches long and boringly straight. Once I left school and earned my own money I began to get my hair cut at the emerging unisex/woman’s salons rather than the barbers that my father encouraged me to use. By age 19 I had discovered conditioning treatments as a way of getting time under the dryer. Sometimes I was lucky enough to be sat next to a woman having a shampoo and set. My fascination with perms developed from the rare occasions that I could watch another client being permed. I could never walk past a salon without trying to peak through the windows, hoping to see a woman having a set, perm or just relaxing under the dryer. Bliss if a client left the salon as I walked past and the “whiff” of salon smells came out with her. If it was an older woman she may even have been wearing a headscarf over her new “Do”.
Fast forward to 1980 and my girlfriend and I were sitting on the sofa one Friday evening watching TV. I commented that the woman on-screen had a nice hairstyle. Jenny agreed, saying that it was probably permed and set, so a lot of time at the hairdressers. About 10 minutes later she said “you would look nice with some curls in your hair” and my heart skipped a few beats at the thought of this. “Go on let me put my heated rollers in your hair, it won’t take long”. I blushed a little of course but could not think of a suitable reply which she took as acceptance.
She returned to the lounge with her case of heated rollers and plugged them in. I mumbled something vague like “don’t tell anyone”. I sat in a chair as she put mousse in my hair, combed it through and then wound in those big rollers. When it was all done and with a cheeky smirk she said “go and have a look in the mirror” and of course I was eager to see my appearance. It felt exciting to see the rollers in my hair as I checked myself out. All too soon she was removing them and combing my curls into place. She gave my hair a few blasts of her hairspray without a second thought and I was enveloped in that lovely feminine scent. I went back to the bathroom looking in the angled wall mirrors to see how the back and sides looked. I had wonderful, loose wavy curls surrounding my face and my big smile told her “I liked it” which was an understatement. I thought it looked slightly fem (and I was very happy with that). Jen said “now you look like one of those cool surfer guys on TV”
I had some strange dreams about my hair that night. The next morning I glanced in the mirror and while the curls had relaxed a little they still looked lovely to me. As I headed for the shower Jen said, “you will have to wear my shower cap otherwise your curls will fall out. We had no plans to go anywhere that day so I thought OK let’s keep the curls. By Saturday evening the curls were almost gone and then Jen said those magic words. “Have you thought about a perm, curls would look great on you”. My heart said “yes yes yes” but my head said “nooooo…….. ”. I was terrified what others might say and felt very self conscious about expressing my secret passion. I mumbled “no I would look silly” and that seemed the end of the conversation.
As background to this hair event: I first met Jen at a party about eight months earlier, I could tell she just had a perm so I felt compelled to go and talk to her. The relationship quickly developed but sadly for me, she let the perm grow out. In those early months I did comment how nice her perm looked. I’m sure I asked her more than once if she was going to get another one soon. After about 5 months she had it cut shorter thus removing the last of the curl. Occasionally after that she would use heated rollers to give her hair a bit of volume and I certainly enjoyed watching the process and the final result. Maybe she noticed I always seemed to hang around when she was doing something to her hair. Jen may have also noticed that I always look into salon windows when we were out shopping.
About 3 weeks after the heated rollers evening Jen said “I’ve made an appointment with Sharon (her regular stylist) and thought you might get a cut at the same time. I’d been to “Sharons Salon” once, a few months before to pick up Jenny after her appointment. It was your normal women’s salon of the time but without the lace curtains so as to appear slightly more unisex but still clearly a feminine place. Being Jens regular had made me reluctant to make my own appointment but when Jen suggested it, of course I said yes. I arrived well before Jen was finished and had to “wait” while Sharon blow dried her hair. Then it was my turn, once caped, Sharon sprayed water on my hair and began cutting without any discussion on a style. As she finished my cut, and to my embarrassment, she said “Jenny told me how nice you looked after she put heated rollers in your hair. Quite a few guys are getting perms these days, is that something that you would be interested in?” I was lost for words, subconsciously thinking yes I would love to be permed but not wanting any of my friends to see me with what many considered a very feminine thing. I mumbled something about not being sure how it might look and she replied “that’s easily fixed, we can put rollers in your hair and after drying, the curls will look somewhat similar”. Jen came over and said, “go on, give it a try, be brave and if you don’t like it Sharon can wash it out before we go home”. I knew the process of course and was very excited by the thought of curlers, a hair net and time under the dryer. I was also thinking, what if someone I knew saw me afterwards with a curly hairstyle and how embarrassed I would feel. Sharon was now standing behind me, comb in one hand and what I assumed was a bottle of setting lotion in the other, saying “it’s up to you”. Another nudge from Jen and I nodded with a big inward grin of pleasure knowing I was about to experience something I had fantasised about for several years. 25 minutes later and my head was full of rollers, – what a sight. In the mirror I watched as Sharon opened out a hairnet and carefully covered my rollers before knotting it at the back of my neck. A couple of minor adjustments to the net then the dryer was pulled down over my head. Whoosh 45 minutes of warm bliss. This was not my first time under a dryer but it was so much more exciting because I had curlers and a hairnet. I kept looking at myself in the mirror, seeing the rollers, the pink net, and me cocooned by the dryer. I was so excited, hardly able to believe this wonderful feminine process was really happening to me. In the mirror I could see Jen and Sharon talking and assumed part of their conversation was about how they got me into this situation. All too soon the dryer pinged off, net untied, pins and rollers efficiently removed before a modest amount of combing to loosen my formed curls into relaxed waves. Sharon took time to show me every angle of my hairstyle and she could tell I loved the look without even a word from me. In the mirror I could see her holding up the hairspray and I was thinking it’s going to smell so fem. Jen jumped in and said “put lots on so the curls last the whole weekend”. As we drove home Jen said how nice my hair looked and she was very proud of me for making the effort to improve my appearance. Late in the evening as we headed for bed she said “we have to protect your new look”. From her draw she pulled out one of her scarves and before I could protest she had folded it and tied 2 corners lightly at my forehead then tucked the third into the knot. “You will thank me in the morning when your hair still looks nice”.
Saturday morning I lay in bed thinking about my wonderful Friday evening and replaying it in my mind. Jen bought me back to reality saying “OK lets see how your curls survived the night as she untied the scarf and dropped it on my bedside table. She fluffed my hair up a bit and announced I was ready to face the day, reminding me to wear her shower cap as I headed to the bathroom. We spent Saturday at home and I could not help but glance in the mirror every time I walked past one. I loved this look and kept patting my hair to enjoy the sensation of feeling those curls somewhat stiffened by hairspray. Saturday night she said “you know how to tie the scarf now” and I dutifully folded it into a triangle and tied it lightly over my curls. It took me longer of course to tuck it all in but I was enjoying this part of the fem experience. Also the feel of the silk against my face and the residual scent of hair spray. Sunday morning after breakfast Jen said “lets go for a walk” to which I protested that someone I know might see me. She insisted, so off we went and after 30 minutes of walking through our local nature reserve we came out to a street with a line of shops. Jen said “let’s get a cuppa” and I started to go bright red at the thought of being seen like this even by people I did not know. She said no one will notice your curls except you. After a short time in the cafe I started to relax a little, realising no one was taking any notice of my hair. I still dreaded bumping into friends or work people but it didn’t happen and I breathed a sigh of relief when we arrived back home. Sunday night I covered my hair with the scarf as Jen came into the bedroom. “Are you going to go to work tomorrow with your new style” she asked. I blushed and said “of course not”, knowing that a good wash would remove any remnant of curl. “I know you are concerned about how some people might react but I was very proud of you on Friday night to try something new. I thought you look very nice with those wavy curls and don’t feel shy about a change of style if thats what you want. You did seem to rather enjoy it all. I took the hint and admitted I did enjoy both the process and how I looked afterwards. I then explained that before I met Jenny I had a few conditioner treatments at another salon and was ok with sitting under a dryer.