From Rihanna to Theresa May, the fringe frames the face and is now projecting assertiveness
Wearing a deconstructed, caramel-coloured Craig Green coat, cream-coloured Balenciaga power heel boots and a leather lace-up bodysuit, Rihanna performed at the V Festival at the weekend. Topping off this nomadic, Game Of Thrones-ish look, her hair, a lob featuring a tawny-coloured fringe, was worn like a metaphorical battle helmet.
This year, the fringe has denoted one thing: power and transition. It’s the unfussy haircut that Gets Things Done. In the UK, it’s our version of the American no-nonsense “big hair” that suggests both political acumen and economical style. Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon each has a semi fringe (May has a complicated fringe-with-a-side-parting while Sturgeon’s is brushed out wispily above the eyes).
In the world of celebrity, the fringe has denoted comebacks and autonomy. Selena Gomez grew one as she reasserted herself post-Justin Bieber and as a post-Disney popstar while Ariana Grande wore one, post donut-licking gate, to indicate her good girl turned bad status. Real Housewives fixture Bethenny Frankel got a fringe and, indicating its transformative power, announced the haircut indicated “the summer of freedom”.
With its blunt finish and precise edging, the hairstyle has historically represented a strong independence paired with an adaptability and decisiveness – from the popular image of Cleopatra to pin up star Bettie Page through to Anna Wintour and Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction. Thanks to the way it sits there is something powerful about the way it pulls you towards the face.
But the fringe has another meaning. It’s the look of the wallflower who uses it as a cloak of invisibility. Bat For Lashes has called her fringe a “black nocturnal shield”, useful for times when you “don’t want to look at people”. This shy, verging-on-innocent, look is something that has been referenced by the likes of Doris Day, Jane Birkin, Velma from Scooby Doo and Stevie Nicks. Interesting too, is the semaphoring indicated by those who have referenced both sides of the fringing coin, a troubled innocence turned into power (Nico, Dusty Springfield, Ronnie Spector). As part of her kinderwhore style, Courtney Love in Hole deconstructed this idea. She mixed a fringe with subversive takes on babydoll dresses, knee length school socks and tiaras.
This year, the fringe is no longer about hiding, it’s the Alpha, assertive cut that’s about being fully present and in complete control.
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