In 2003, I was lounging poolside in Miami, chatting with my friends, when a Real Housewives type came over to compliment me on my curly hair. “It’s so in right now,” she remarked, referring to coil compadres Carrie Bradshaw and Felicity. I thanked her and mentally started to shop around for a new hairstyle, knowing full well curls are never in for long.
Thirteen years later, we’ve witnessed the reign of straightening irons and Brazilian keratin smoothing treatments, which did everything to prove my natural texture was as out as frosted lip gloss. But just as Juno Temple began stealing scenes on Vinyl earlier this year with her angelic spirals, curls began springing anew on the fall ’16 runways. At Lacoste, Laurent Philippon, global artistic director of Bumble and bumble, defined God-given twirls, let them air dry, and then fluffed them to curling iron-free perfection. And in a top moment of the season, Canadian photographer–artist–cool girl Petra Collins wore her ’70s-era signature curls like a boss at Gucci.
Next came Louis Vuitton’s resort show in Rio, where it-model Mica Arganaraz opened—followed by plenty of others cast for their awesome hair hoops—and even inspired me to try out a loopy fringe.
For Philippon, the curlicues are just another example of the individuality trend he’s seeing in fashion right now, which has recast models’ unique features, be they freckles, thin lips or ears that stick out, from unbookable to bankable. “The feel of the moment is embracing who you are,” he says. “We need to accept one another and our differences, from skin to hair to sexual orientation.”
Thinking optimistically, this could mean that having curls, and by extension an individual look, isn’t a fad; it’s a seismic shift in societal perceptions of “normal” beauty. Dove has long been championing female beauty of all shapes and sizes, and this spring, they launched Dove Quench Absolute, a hair-care range to complement a “#LoveYourCurls” campaign that kicked off last year. The YouTube video shone a light on young girls’ insecurities about their corkscrews. “There’s a narrative tradition of what beautiful hair looks like,” i.e., shiny and straight, says Diane Laberge, marketing director for Unilever (Dove’s parent company). “Media and society reinforce this beauty ideal and drive women into a cycle of disappointment. Our studies have found that only 11 percent of women love everything about their hair.”
After an adolescence spent fighting to control my own curls (especially on humid days), I can relate. But in adulthood, I’ve happily accepted that which I cannot change. As I write, Lion Babe’s Jillian Hervey, with her trademark mega mane, has just been crowned Pantene’s newest ambassador. Meanwhile, Dove reports that curly hair products are growing by the double digits. Released earlier this year, Bumble and bumble’s Bb.Curl range was used by Philippon backstage at Lacoste. And Redken recently revamped its Curvaceous collection, boasting innovations like a CCC Spray Gel, inspired by silkening Korean skincare. For now it seems, curl is queen.