Up until last year, the thought of switching up my hair had never even crossed my mind. I've worn the same length and the same shade of blonde since I can remember and before lockdown hit I saw no reason to experiment. Months without a haircut and highlights changed that mindset pretty quickly, though. In the last 12 months I've done more with my hair than ever before. I tried the feathered look à la Fawcett, dyed my ends bright pink, and crimped and curled my way through every new hair hack on TikTok. Next on my list? I've decided to try summer's favourite trend, dubbed '70s blonde.
The '70s inspire our hair in some form or another every season but the decade has reigned supreme in 2021 in particular. From feathered flicks to the distinctive shag haircut, curtain bangs and teeny tiny braids, the era's most iconic looks are making a serious comeback right now. Even super-straight Cher hair is having a moment. "The '70s was such an iconic era for hair," agrees George Northwood, celebrity hairdresser and founder of Undone. "Think of the hair icons that have emerged from that decade: Farrah Fawcett with her floaty, flicky layers, Jane Birkin with her statement bangs and Debbie Harry with her rockstar layered bob. It was only a matter of time for these looks to be celebrated again."
Defined by gourmand honey tones, a curtain fringe and bohemian waves, '70s blonde, as it is known, is now cropping up everywhere. Originating from the golden blonde bombshells synonymous with the '70s, the retro shade is emerging in various iterations veering from light vanilla blonde and bright butterscotch tones to rich, darker caramel colours. The look is said to have become a hit back when colour treatments became more accessible and more people started experimenting with blonde highlights.
Years later, legions of fans are emulating the look once again. Retro golden shades of blonde have infiltrated Instagram feeds this summer, while #70shair has amassed a casual 77 million views over on TikTok. Two names in particular have had a helping hand in making the trend go viral. The first was Margot Robbie with her French girl '70s fringe and honey hair on the cover of British Vogue, and the second was Billie Eilish who, replacing her signature jet black and green look, sparked a frenzy among fans with her modern shag haircut and bombshell blonde locks.
"When I think of '70s blonde hair I automatically think of that honey hued, layered style with tons of volume. Choppy, heavy bangs that frame the face," says Northwood, adding that he is enjoying seeing this trend evolve in 2021. Taking on a more sophisticated aesthetic compared with the dramatic layers and volume of the '70s, the style has been reimagined and reconstructed in countless ways of late. For the modern update, Northwood tells me, "The colour tends to be a brighter, creamier blonde while the cuts are a bit more subtle and wearable, offering a fresh take on a classic retro style." Think bohemian waves and statement French girl bangs, he says.
When I arrive at George Northwood’s salon in London’s Fitzrovia, I'm equal parts nervous and excited. Staring back at my reflection, my hair is now very long and flat and my outgrown highlights have turned a dark, brassy blonde, revealing my natural mousy brown hair underneath. Am I a little nervous about the fringe? Yes. But like everyone else you’ve spotted coming out of the salon post-lockdown with a total hair transformation, I'm ready to try something new.
This seems to be the sentiment where all hair trends are concerned right now, and perhaps the reason why '70s hairstyles are so popular. "After a monotonous year of lockdowns, so many people are looking for a dramatic change for their hair — and the '70s hair trend is offering just that," Northwood confirms. "At the salon, we have seen an uptick in clients referencing more '70s styles since we reopened. However, our clients often adopt a trend in quite a sophisticated way. They are more into the wearable, less stark take on trend-led styles. For example, they would be very much into something like Billie Eilish’s flattering layers and a statement fringe, which is a very cool girl, undone take on the '70s shag."
To get the shade just right, the pros at Northwood deploy highlights and balayage, a technique that delivers the creamy vanilla hue akin to the '70s shade. By painting pieces between the highlights, the balayage technique helps create the perfect retro hue and offers up a slightly different tone compared with solo highlights, my hairstylist Agi tells me. Mixing highlights and balayage avoids over-bleaching, too. The result? A more wearable, understated, retro blonde with creamy butterscotch tones that catch the light. I'll admit I was very nervous before the bangs were cut; this is the first time I've ever had a fringe and I wasn't sure it would suit my face shape. However, when parted directly down the middle, the French girl bangs added instant shape to my naturally poker-straight hair while the soft layers helped create more texture. Modern and retro all at once, I loved the loose bohemian waves (created using the George Northwood Curl It Tongs) that were paired alongside the look, too.
Out of the salon — and without the help of a pro to guide me — I feared that the curtain fringe might be trickier to style. I've seen the 'effortless' bed hair and cascading curtain bangs (for which French women are famous) sweeping their way onto my feed all summer long but I always assumed them to be a lot harder to emulate in real life. George Northwood stylist Shellie reassured me that you can just rough-dry your hair and they'll fall naturally without the need for constant blow-drying or styling. She was right. I quickly dried my hair using my favourite BaByliss Hydro-Fusion 2100 Hairdryer, £60, and left as is. The curtain bangs and lighter boho layers are so much less maintenance than I was expecting and instantly frame my face without me needing to do much else. I can simply pair the centre-parted sections with my natural hair and add soft, undone waves if I feel like it, or wear in a low ponytail.
Since my hair is now a lot brighter, lighter and therefore more prone to breakage and damage, I'll need to take extra care of my strands. Starting with haircare, I’m currently using Oribe Run Through Detangling Shampoo, £44, which is a miracle-worker if your coloured hair gets as knotty as mine does, along with Vita Coco Haircare's Repairing Coconut Conditioner, £9.99. I'm also going to add Gallinée's Hair & Scalp Care Mask, £28, to my lineup to mitigate possible hair damage and tend to my sensitive scalp, along with Fable & Mane’s Holiroots Hair Oil, £29, to strengthen roots and help with frizz.
All in all, the French girl fringe, boho waves and retro blonde shade have lifted my entire face, along with my spirits. From the face-framing bangs and added texture to that uplifting vanilla blonde, it's the perfect late-summer style if you want a subtle shake-up — and it’s low maintenance, too. I now see what all the fuss is about.
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