I Got The Shaggy Fringe Taking Over Salons — But I Have Regrets

Photo Courtesy of Fiona Ward
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I was practically gagging for a new haircut when I strolled into a local salon and asked for a face-framing, eye-grazing fringe. I'd been dabbling with the idea for just a few days and I soon realised that I wasn't the only one. 
Most hairdressers will agree that the fringe is having more than a moment. What was once dubbed 'pandemic bangs' (thanks to the countless people who gave themselves a spontaneous face-framer during lockdown) has since developed into a multifaceted hair movement. It seems there's a catchy new name and shape every month.
So far in 2022, we've seen the French-girl baby fringe (full but bitty), 'bottleneck' bangs (in between a curtain fringe and a full fringe) and '70s drapes (an overgrown, softer version of curtain bangs). Modern fringe trends include another of my favourites, too: the effortless, curly fringe, as seen on the likes of Natasha Lyonne and Sandra Oh. Though slightly different, each style is a little laissez-faire and lived-in rather than the perfect, straight-across look you might usually associate with fringes.

A fringe is ideal for a lazy girl like me. It allows you to achieve a 'look' without doing too much. But Instagram's cool girls make it seem more effortless than my reality.

My only past experience with a fringe was the crisp bowl cut my mum graced me with as a child, and a brief flirtation with heavy bangs during my university days. Neither stuck. But the trend for grown-out bangs really felt like me and the return of the shag haircut only upped my urge to go for the chop. Generally, I don't like my hair to look too 'done' and I spend as little time on it as possible. In that respect, I think my fantasies about my laid-back new cut were a little misguided.
On one hand, a fringe is ideal for a lazy girl like me. It allows you to achieve a 'look' without doing too much. Even on greasy topknot days I can give my fringe a wash and feel like I've made an effort. But all those relaxed images of cool girls looking cool with their shaggy haircuts and undone texture make it seem a little more effortless than my reality.
Fringes always look perfect on Instagram but I'm here to tell you that it's taken some serious tweaking to get mine just right. Actually, it's been something of a reality check. I started with some eye-skimming bangs, which I loved in theory but in practice tickled my eyeballs, causing me to constantly tuck them away. This gave me '90s boy band curtains, rather than the '70s chic I longed for. I also learned (along with the majority of fringe TikTok) that the dreaded gappy fringe is a pretty common occurrence. Countless videos prove that bangs are fun for a while but they actually need a lot of styling — and that your lifestyle might get in the way, too.
My decision to get a fringe might have come on a whim but I was in for the long haul. Some dodgy home cuts later, I went back to having regular trims and trying on a few other fringe shapes for size. With the help of my hairdresser, Ben Jones of Massarella & Jones, I tried a blockier, straighter look, which was actually one of my more complimented cuts. But I felt it was a little too statement for me. We cropped it much shorter and choppier in the middle (exactly like bottleneck bangs) to add longevity, since I'm prone to an at-home snip when necessary. After a bit of tweaking, we've learned that there's a balance between keeping it long enough to look lived-in while maintaining an element of practicality.

Which fringe will suit me?

TikTok is filled to bursting with fringe regret videos. But if you're sold on getting one, I spoke to Larry King (the man responsible for many of my favourite cool-girl Instagram cuts) about how to find a fringe that really fits.
"A fringe is a very personal thing and it's something that you really have to work together on with your hairdresser," he told me. "I find that cutting a fringe over two sessions can help, as we need to look at the texture of the hair, for example, if there are any cowlicks that can affect how the fringe sits."
Contrary to popular belief, Larry says that there's no universal fringe style as everyone’s hair is different. In other words, asking your stylist for the exact fringe you've seen on Instagram might leave you disappointed. It's why all of London's top hairdressers practise instinctive cutting. The bespoke technique looks at your face shape, hair texture and even your lifestyle to create a look that's unique to you — and easy to style at home.
Learning about my own hair texture has been helpful. I have wavy (verging on curly) hair, which probably needs a little more TLC in the form of styling products and treatments to reach its full, natural potential. My dreams of a lived-in, wavy fringe — sitting pretty with little to no effort from me — were not quite as straightforward as I'd hoped. It always turned out frizzy and flicky in the wrong places. 

How do you style a fringe?

Unless I was willing to let go of my lazy-girl hair routine, something was going to have to give. I learned that generally it's better to blow-dry a fringe (even roughly) to keep a little texture and to help it sit where you want it to. According to Larry, using a flat brush (try the ghd Paddle Brush, £34) is the best way to keep your fringe looking laid-back. "Whatever you do, always blow-dry the fringe first, before it gets too dry," he says. In fact, Larry usually cuts fringes when the hair isn't wet, so you can see where the hair naturally jumps and moves.
If your hair is on the straight or wavy side, Larry adds: "At home, use a flat brush or an oval Mason Pearson Brush, and blow-dry the fringe in different directions to take away some of that root lift in the front." What you don't want, says Larry, is too much volume in the fringe, otherwise, it could look a tad too '80s. "Stay away from round brushes and rollers in the fringe because that will give you that overstyled, round fringe," he says.

Why does my fringe get greasy?

Another top tip? Leave your fringe well alone. "If you play with it too much, it could look greasy or too stiff, so I would avoid this as much as possible," he says. For those with a curly fringe, like this beautiful style created by Michael Kent at Blue Tit, "use a curl-defining cream or a mousse but stay away from oily products."
If you jumped on the curtain bangs trend but you're not a big fan of styling? London-based duo The Hair Bros are making a case for air-drying. Simply part your damp hair down the middle and tuck your fringe behind your ears as it dries for an effortless face-framing effect sans heated tools.
I think the biggest lesson I've learned is that Instagram isn't reality when it comes to haircuts. Hair moves and sits in different ways and it will never permanently look like your inspiration folder. A good stylist will always tell you that.
My camera roll is full of pictures of my fringe at its best, taken at just the right angle. But looking back, what I wanted was a cut that matches my carefree approach to hair. As fringe TikTok proves, you might have to prepare for some trial and error if you're opting for bangs at your next salon appointment.
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