Return of the perm: whose classic hairdo should you emulate?

Return of the perm: whose classic hairdo should you emulate?

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The perm – beloved of 80s footballers and your nan – is making a comeback. La La Land actor Emma Stone has done it; as has Lola Kirke, younger sister of Girls actor Jemima. Blake Lively seems to be channelling Cyndi Lauper. Wigs were used to create a perm-like effect on models such as Marjan Jonkman on the Off-White spring/summer 2018 catwalk, for a collection that owed a lot to the 80s wardrobe of Princess Diana.

Although the process is much the same as it was in the hairspray 80s – apparently minus the noxious chemicals – it has been adapted, so the one-note frizzy perm is very much a thing of the past. Salons such as Mare in LA, Takamichi Hair in New York and Hershesons in London are customising the perm to allow for more natural-looking waves. So, who should first-time permers be looking to for permspiration?

Barbra Streisand.

Barbra Streisand

From her turn as the bubble-permed Katie Morosky in 1973’s The Way We Were right through the 80s, Streisand did for perms what Chris Waddle did for the mullet. This would be a bold look in 2018 – one for those with a pioneering spirit.

Whitney Houston.


Whitney Houston

Houston’s 80s permed hairstyles were the aesthetic equivalent of a power ballad. Think specifically of her spiral-permed look in the video for 1987’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody. Wear with a minimum three shades of eyeshadow and a one-sleeved dress.

Deidre Barlow.


Deirdre Barlow

The Weatherfield One was almost as famous for her perm as she was for her geek-chic specs – a look so on trend it appears to have inspired designer Alessandro Michele’s spring/summer 2018 collection. If Deirdre’s cultivated frizz is good enough for Gucci, it’s good enough for us.

Meg Ryan.


Meg Ryan

The actor’s shaggy perm from When Harry Met Sally was the perfect complement to that salad scene. It was 1989 and the perm was on its way out, but not without a final fling.

Kylie Minogue.


Kylie Minogue

Kylie has already revisited the perm, going for a slightly more modern wave in 2016 – but the Neighbours-era interpretation packed far more of a punch. Uncharitably referred to as a “poodle perm”, it was reminiscent of Olivia Newton-John’s Sandy in Grease. Wear with tight PVC trousers and an e-cig for a modern take on the Rydell High look.

David Bowie.


David Bowie

An early adopter, Bowie appeared with a delightfully fluffy perm on the cover of 1969’s Space Oddity – an album described as channelling “the world’s awe at humanity’s boot on the threshold of the universe”. Buzz Aldrin and Nasa have been in with the style pack recently, so this is for the fashion-forward.



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