Author: Gail Kavanagh
The beehive was no ordinary `do' – it was a way of life, and it demanded complete and utter commitment. Back in the 60s, with the Summer of Love just around the corner, commitment was doomed to become a dirty word – but not with beehives.
To create the perfect beehive, your hair needed to be about shoulder length and not freshly washed – freshly washed hair is too soft and limp to behave in a beehive. Back in those days we were still giving our crowning glory 100 strokes of the brush every night before bedtime. Today's choppy, edgy, sticking out in all directions `dos' were precisely what we wanted to avoid.
The foundation of every beehive was, of course, the backcombing. Hair dressers throw up their hands in horror nowadays at the untold damage and split ends this practice caused, but any girl who didn't know how to backcomb was a loser in the fashion stakes. It was our version of Big Hair, and the simplest way to do it was the lift sections of the crown, brush them quite smooth, and start brushing back down the hair shafts, at the back of the tress. You left that bit standing up like a rooster's comb, and went onto the next section until the crown of your head was covered in backcombed tufts standing to attention.
Now you took the brush and smoothed the top hair back over the backcombing. It created a sort of balloon on the top of your head. You could fasten the loose hair back with a hair slide or ribbon, or hold the hairline down under an Alice band, but the most popular `do' was, of course, the style that became synonymous with backcombing – the beehive itself.
You had to take care because it was a tricky operation and the whole thing could end up looking more birds nest than bee hive. We would stick a picture of Dusty Springfield to our mirrors with chewing gum (a forerunner of Blu-Tack) for inspiration. This woman had the ultimate beehive – a blonde cotton candy creation that looked as light as air but stayed in place as firm as a rock.
It was best done with the palms of the hands – if you brushed the beehive into place you risked flattening the hair and loosening the backcombing. So you smoothed the hair back carefully with the palms of your hands (the oil on your palms added shine, so the beauty mags told us) and gathered the loose ends into a neat chignon or roll, held in place with bobby pins. A La Dusty, you could dress it up with a fake daisy or just leave it unadorned, but woe betide you if you didn't immediately reach for the hair spray and lay down a sticky fog around your head. Hair spray was the real secret for a firm beehive with the right cotton candy finish. Ozone layer, what's that? Give me another can of hairspray, this thing isn't properly set yet.
After all that, there was no way a 60s dolly bird was going to comb the thing out after getting back from the hot date that occasioned it – you slept in your beehive, wrapping a silk scarf around it to protect it, and tried to keep it going as long as you could. Like I said, it wasn't a `do', it was a way of life.
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