Today, there's no single hair style that's setting a trend or giving direction--no Vidal Sassoon geometric, no Farrah Fawcett fling, no Dorothy Hamill wedge, not even an anonymous shag. Without a role model, women have been forced into an independent mode, with only their own hair and hair stylists to determine the perfect haircut.
Many women question the existence of such a cut. Every woman wants one, but most remain on the quest for a reliable style with scissored-in good looks. Most say that they look great when they leave the salon but after a night's sleep or the first shampoo, the style--and their spirits--have fizzled.
"By definition, the perfect haircut doesn't disappoint a woman," says Allen Edwards, who coifs such celebrities as Mary Hart, Dustin Hoffman and Donna Mills in his Encino and Beverly Hills salons. If properly clipped, the stylist explains, hair should fall into the proper shape without extra fuss. "A good haircut is balanced and works with the texture of the hair." If it doesn't, Edwards says, a change of hairdressers is probably in order. "A stylist with good technical skill analyzes the texture and cuts accordingly."
For a growing number of haircutters, the most technically accurate cut is the dry cut. Rather than shampooing and conditioning the hair first, which weighs it down and temporarily straightens it, the stylist cuts following the natural direction of the dry hair. "Every time a client shampoos and towel-dries her own hair, it will fall into the right shape and line," says Manhattan's John Sahag of the John Sahag salon.
Another benefit of the dry cut, explains Eric Lintermans of La Coupe Lintermans in Beverly Hills and Eric Lintermans in Studio City, is that "the client can see exactly what the hair looks like before the stylist does anything else to the hair." A dry cut should be completely wearable without the addition of mousses, gels and sprays. Such fixative substances merely add variety to the style, says Lintermans, who has been dry-cutting hair since 1966.
Proponents of the wet cut say that the method gives the hairdresser control and allows for precise contouring. "The problem," Lintermans says, "is that if the cut requires a great deal of maintenance every morning, many women just don't have the time, patience or skill. If they can't handle their hair the next day--or four weeks later--that's not their perfect cut."
Like Lintermans, many stylists say that low maintenance is the main criterion of a good cut. But Richard David of the Jay Walters salon in Fullerton points out that it must suit a woman's life style, too. "An athletic cut doesn't work for a society lady, and a complicated style is a problem for a women who swims laps every morning," he says. Lintermans concurs. "That's where the communication comes in. A customer has to tell her stylist how she lives, what she wants from her hair and how she wants to look. Then he must discuss his opinions and recommendations with her."
"You've got to let a new stylist know who you are and how you fit in to your community," adds David, who also cautions, "Never let a stylist start the cut until he or she has made an analysis of your hair and explained it to you. If you don't like what you hear, speak up."
For the woman with a head full of luxurious waves or thick, straight hair, an occasional bad cut is a problem but not the major disaster it is for those less well-endowed. "For the poor woman who has terrible hair--thin, limp, do-nothing hair--a bad cut is a catastrophe," says Scottish hair stylist Rita Rusk. "With a bad cut, she is out of luck until it grows," says Rusk, who with her husband, Irvine, was named "Best Hair Stylist in the World" by a French fashion magazine. Gels, mousses and sprays were created for women with problem hair, she explains. "With the foundation of proper balance and proportion from a good cut, plus a few products, even someone with dreadful hair can have a fabulous style."
For many women, finding a manageable, flattering haircut is such a coup that they resist straying from the style. For years. Edwards grimaces at the thought. "There's never a need to be trapped into wearing one hair style. Any woman can wear her hair at several different lengths as long as the balance and proportion are right. In fact, I encourage my clients to change their cuts every two months so that their hair styles become accessories, not limiting factors."
Such obviously dated styles as the once-ubiquitous '70s shag "become a security blanket of sorts for women; they forget that times have changed," Irvine Rusk says. "You can't blame the woman totally for looking old-fashioned. It's a stylist's job to keep her abreast of changes and show her how to look modern while still feeling comfortable."