Sunday 12 October 2014

The Perfect Permanent

Ah, how I've missed my curls, and now I have them back!
It must be more than five years since my last one, I don't know how I've gone so long without one. Oh, yes I do - I've had children.

(Please excuse the phone pics, taken by me).

My dad is a ladies' hairdresser, so perms are nothing new to me - I've neutralised many in my time. He trained in the sixties, when sets were de rigeur, so perms were required to hold that set in all week. (Sometimes two)! His training actually included finger waving, and pin curling, not because those styles were popular then, but to loosen up the hands, and make the fingers more nimble. So I am doubly grateful to him, not only can he perm, but he can do awesome finger waves and pin curls.

The style above has not been waved, it is pretty much untouched since the perm the day before. I popped a few pin curls in the front, but the wave on top was there.

Below is pin curled, the ends slightly damp, which took about 10 minutes, then left in all day. When I took them out I just put my fingers through it and manipulated it into the shape I wanted.

I had my first perm aged 11. Sounds precocious, huh? I went off to the salon he was working in, in St. John's Wood High Street with a picture that I had chosen with mum, of a nice layered style, suitable for my long, fine, poker straight hair. When he sat me in the chair, I saw a glint in his eye, then he asked me with a little laugh - 'Shall we do a perm?'

I was about to start at secondary school - how cool would I look?

Poodle. Perm. But that was THE perm of the 80s, so I WAS cool. My mum freaked when we got home, but I loved it, even though the ends were all frizzy and about three shades lighter than the roots. After that first one, I had more. I blame Whitney Houston.

I actually really enjoyed the process this time. My life is so sad.

Here's my lovely dad.

Applying the lotion,

Hmm, the fumes from the perm lotion...

As you can see those perm curlers are the hardcore, old lady ones. We insiders don't use the phrase 'body wave', or use those bendy sponge curlers. But seriously, if you want a proper perm, one that you can set easily yourself, (relatively), one that won't drop out, you've got to ask for an 'old lady perm'. And if you have hair bob length or longer, the hairdresser has to apply the perm lotion to each section as it's being wound, as it won't penetrate to the ends of the hair once it has been wound, and you will end up with straight ends. I've had that before.

And the rinsing, don't get me started on the rinsing! At least ten minutes, especially for that length hair. And the neutraliser has to go on the ends too, after the curlers come out, and be left on a bit longer.

This is what it looks like straight after.

The waves are there, and so easy to manipulate when damp, you don't even need setting lotion.

I let it dry naturally. It does lighten the rest of your hair, especially if it is already coloured, but hey-ho.

Kind of frizzy, but good and curly.

And this is what can be created.

 Unfortunately, not by me.

This amazing set was the work of Claire Hair, who lives near me. She now has her own salon in Wood Street. Yay Claire!

This was all done with pin curls, placed at perfect angles. I've never been able to achieve this.

I'll leave you with another great set done by dad, for one of my dance nights out.

Very early 30s. Set with perm rollers and setting lotion, and waved with long metal section clips.

I think I've waffled on about perms for quite long enough, but getting the right one is very important - if you're vintage obsessed that is.


  1. Wow! Your hair looks utterly Beautiful! How wonderful that your Dad can perm it for you, that is really cool and you know you can trust him to do a great job! I'm so jealous I so wanted a Whitney/Kylie style perm back then, though my hair did have a natural curl which the years (and er-hum, greys) have now killed off :-) I keep toying with the idea of a perm but I keep chickening out, I'll have to make it a new years resolution! Ooh a vintage hairdresser in Wood St, I shall have to have a proper look next time I'm down there as I have clearly missed her! x

  2. Vintage hairstyles elude me. I've got naturally curly hair -- corkscrew ringlets. So unless I want to look like Mary Pickford, I'm out of luck.

  3. I've also had great luck with old ladies perms :) I've used them for 1920's to 1940's hairdos, and it really is a great solution if you don't want to spend too much time setting your hair.

  4. That looks amazing! Haven't had a perm since I was a teenager, and my hair's been short ever since. I'd grow it if I was confident I could get it to look like that :)

  5. I think it is so lovely that your dad can do those amazing hairstyles for you. That last set is fabulous. I have never had a perm so it was interesting to read all about one.

  6. How cool to have someone who can do a proper perm for you! Do you set your hair at home too?

    I hate my hair. I can do nothing with it. It's getting quite long, because I have been ignoring it for ages.

  7. Soooo cool to have your Dad doing your hair. I too had a poodle perm in the 80's. I was meant to look like one of the girls from Bananarama but it didn't quite work out that way. Oh well!


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