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No Matter How You Part It, Hair Heads List of Highs and Lows


I s there anything we fret over more consistently than our hair? Between men and women, it's the binding tie. Sure, there are the lucky ones who can simply shake their heads and their hair falls magically into thick, lustrous, symmetrical place, but then there's the rest of us, for whom a bad hair day is more to be feared than being struck by a train.

Yes, we primp. But men and women fuss over their locks with different intent, and often cock an annoyed eye at each other when discussing Grooming Topic No. 1.

HE: Me, I think we're all a little nuts. Men sell their children for Rogaine. Women get a bad haircut and throw themselves on the subway tracks. Hillary loses an inch or two and America pitches a fit. Bill gets a quick trim on Air Force One from an overpriced Hollywood stylist and the electorate starts howling for impeachment. What in the name of Samson and Delilah is going on here?

SHE: It's the old "crowning glory" thing. You can put on a zillion-dollar Armani suit or Chanel gown and, if you're hair doesn't cut it, you're a fashion flop.

I look at myself in the mirror after my hairstylist washes my hair, and I wince. And then, in a mere 15 minutes, she's framed my face with a flattering style.

I like Hillary's new chin-length hair. It's a great, practical cut for those muggy summers in Washington. All she has to do is wash it and shake it or run her fingers through it.

What hairstyles do you like on women?

HE: Here's the predictable Guy answer: long, thick, shiny, glorious, just a little unkempt. What did Ben Jonson say? "Such sweet neglect more taketh me than all the adulteries of art." I've always thought the old Gibson Girl piled-up style was terrifically appealing, probably because it could all come falling down with one little tug on a hairpin (remember that "Cheers" episode in which Lilith takes down her chignon and Frasier obligingly turns to bean curd?).

Less predictable: Almost all the women I've ever been involved with have had short hair. Go figure. Maybe it's because it's easier to approach the back of their neck.

SHE: Speaking of "Cheers": On the final episode, I was struck by the volume of hair on Kirstie Alley and Shelley Long. Alley's auburn locks were of the long, thick, helter-skelter variety, and Long's maize-blond tresses were as stiff as meringue. They both looked out of date. It was distracting.

In my book, the hottest look for women right now is the short, no bangs, curvy bob worn by Sharon Stone. It's feminine, manageable and gutsy. Her 'do says: "You other girls can have your big-wig hair; I'll take mine close to the head and natural."

Ditto Demi Moore. The style she wore in "Indecent Proposal" was another example of how simple, perfectly cut short hair flatters.

But Moore has changed her look. Again. Recent magazine layouts show her brunette hair as medium brown with streaks of ash blond next to her face. Smart move. A woman who enjoys being noticed is a woman who doesn't wear the same hairdo year after year after year.

HE: That doesn't apply to most guys. Usually, you pick out a decent haircut when you're fairly young and stick with that fundamental style until you don't have enough hair to support it anymore. The process begins something like this:

Barber: How's that?

You: Good. Thanks.

And, with subtle variations, that's the way you wear it until middle age do you part.

Yes, there was the late and unlamented 1960s counterculture barber hatemongering episode, but that was a societal hiccup. Now we're all back to wanting hair just like John-John Kennedy. Sound appealing?

SHE: I like the new look for men--one-length hair that nestles somewhere near the bottom of the neck. It's very G.Q. But it's not for every guy. Gov. Pete Wilson would look silly in it. But first, give me a male whose hair is clean and combed.

I'll even go for a rug if it's done as nicely as Ted Danson's. If you lost all of your locks, would you spring for faux hair?

HE: No, I'd probably spring for a large caliber weapon to take my own life. Actually, it's not so bad to think of losing all of it. Charles Barkley and Patrick Stewart are doing pretty good. And Yul Brynner would be considered sexy if he weren't currently dead. No, it's evil Male Pattern Baldness that rankles. No guy wants to end up looking like a badly trimmed privet hedge. The only thing worse is trying to disguise it with a rug.

SHE: I've worn my hair an inch or two below my chin for almost 10 years now. It's time to whack it off.

There's an old haircut strategy that some women regularly employ and this year, I think I'll try it.

They get their hair cut short for summer and by fall, it's grown long enough to warm their necks against a sudden chill. By winter, their hair is the perfect length to pile atop their head or tie back for the parties that dot the holiday season.

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