As Fall is quickly closing in on us, I have returned to the standard TV programming and fashion/beauty updates that often pepper this time of year. While I was expected to be bombarded with the usual trend of sex sells EVERYTHING, I noticed a quite dynamic and maybe slightly unflattering motif surfacing in these trend-setting avenues. After watching the entertainment season opener, the MTV VMA‘s, and witnessing the new face of CoverGirl Cosmetics, Janelle Monae; I think 2012-2013 will be the year the female quaff reigns supreme! This hair-do’s increasing recognition in pop culture/ aesthetic markets is setting a new precedent for women, and a new message to serve to society. With this staple look, women are stating they will not be held back by standard modes of feminine beauty or appeal to the softer/easily identifiable and understood fads females have mostly exhibited up until this point.
Although I am very proud of what the quaff means to my ladies, it also got me thinking about where the hell this style gained all this power from. What was its original functionality and how did it develop to a social statement? To answer these questions and see where the dippity ‘do’s strength evolves from, I took a trip back in time. Below is the Timeline of this Hairline:
The quaff got its claim-to-fame back when Elvis was first gyrating his hips. He was a man who liked to wear his hair long, but had to still keep up social appearances (especially when media outlets only showed him from the waist up) so he combed his mop into a curled-up line on top of his head. Not only was this acceptable for his public appearances, but it kept most of the hair out of his eyes, except for one curly tendril that let the world see his bad-ass side as it swayed in sync with his hips. The second sighting of the ‘do was in the late 1950’s, early 60’s with the dawning of Motown and other synchronized Doo-Wop groups. The style was a way to fold all loose hairs into a nice cohesive style that was aero-dynamic for when performers, like the Temptations, glided across the stage and quickly improvised new dance sequences. Honestly, these acrobatic performers couldn’t let their hair hold them back from staying fast on their feet! Continuing with this practicality into other professions, the quaff continued with the popular 1970’s film, Grease, where it was all about presenting a realistic projection of the mechanics beneath the hair. This was an image of the young grease-monkey, aka John Travolta’s Danny Zuko, who made-do with what he had and used the grease he worked with as hair styling product. The hair was pushed into the quaff to hold it together while working on cars, but also for any easy representation of who they were; with a few loose strands to tease their mysterious/wild side that came alive after a long hard blue-collar work day.
The up-‘do then took a turn from the functional to the more socially relevant as the A-line style became more aggressive. With the turn of the 1970’s and 80’s, the quaff was transformed into what most punk-rockers called “the Mohawk” which pulled the quaff out of its accepted curled-line and spiked it up. This style proved hair was a quick mode of rebellion as it is a very outward and instantly understandable way to get your message across. The main message being that these punk-followers wanted to go against the grain and present an image threatening enough that no one would approach them to adjust their behavior. This trend was then carried out to a more embarrassing level with the ‘Fohawk of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. This take on the quaff was still aimed at showing strength and alienating any potential threats to their way of life, but with the fuzzy hairstrips and lack of commitment to a more pronounced style, the effort was completely abolished. The trend then took a breather for a few (approx 10) years and re-surged with its original intentions during the 2012 Grammy Awards with a performance by Bruno Mar. During his set, Mars sported an old school Doo-Wop quaff and gave homage to the impact this style had on musical performances/the people who sported the ‘do, while also tying in the social impact of strength and rebellion that is now combed into this style.
As I answered all my quaff questions, I look to the women sporting it these days i.e. Pink, Janelle Monae, and at times, Alicia Keys, and I think of the long way this style came from functionality, to social commentary, to a combination of the two for an easily recognizable symbol. Women can now keep the hair out off their necks and out of their eyes, while also projecting an image of unorthodox beauty and strength to shake their fists at a stereotypical world. I hope as the year progresses, I see more and more quaffs flooding my TV screen and my magazines to finally take the first step in re-defining the outward image of feminine beauty/power.