10 Aug 2015

French Women And Their Hair

French girl hair, Vicki ArcherFrench women and their hair is the subject of many conversations.


 

What is it about their hair that makes us pay so much attention? Is the French way of hair styling something we can adapt and work?



Simply put, the French way is the messy way.

French girls encourage volume and wear their hair in a relaxed fashion. The blow dry is tussled, never slick; the cut is longer and not severe, falling ragged on the ends.


I admire the look but I have a feeling that this is a French girl rather than a French woman way of styling the hair.



I would enjoy nothing more than to emulate this hairstyle but I am not entirely convinced the complete “messy” works on an older woman. I have tried (unintentionally) this summer to let the locks go, work with the I-am-natural look; I am not going there.


I think this “natural” look requires way more work than at first inspection. A good cut and great colour to start with. I am feeling that the grey (yes, still hanging in with that) works better slick. Somehow grey frizz, grey tousled has the wrong connotations. My grey left to its own devices really does look like “bed hair” and not the sexy kind like the women featured.



I won’t be beat.

There is something to this messy hair. The carefree, not too put together and not trying so hard is natural and refreshing. The key is to adapt the principles to an older face.


The long.

I am already convinced that as we age, longer hair is the way to go. Long hair is gentler, kinder to the face and has elegance. Yes, much grooming is required but so worth it. FIne hair is the exception and makes this transition harder; finer hair is most likely better shorter. Think of the superb Helen Mirren and her short cuts.


The cut.

Slightly razored on the ends gives the hair that less structured, messy look that French women wear so well. “Shaving” the points is more modern than a blunt cut and provides plenty of movement. Intentional styling that looks unintentional.

There is nothing natural about “natural”; I have finally worked that out.


The messy.

Messy is about trial and error. Finding that mix of rumpled and controlled that works with an older face. Too messy and we look like we don’t care; too controlled and we can appear too prim.  There will be nothing quick or easy about this dishevelment but I’m working on it this winter.



These French beauties made me re-think hair.

Looking like them might be a stretch but adapting the style to suit is something entirely possible. I’m up for it, are you? xv



What To Wear With The French Hair

***marc fisher oxford lace-ups  //   ***topshop unique crushed velvet blazer  //   ***magaschoni tie-neck silk blouse


images via byrdie

subscribe for updates from vickiarcher.com

In This Post: , ,

FEATUREDFEATUREDFEATUREDFEATUREDFEATUREDFEATUREDFEATUREDFEATUREDFEATUREDFEATUREDFEATUREDFEATUREDFEATUREDFEATUREDFEATUREDFEATUREDFEATUREDFEATUREDFEATUREDFEATUREDFEATUREDFEATURED

55 Comments

Pamela

Interesting and fun. My local hairdresser when we stay in Paris for a month each time persuaded me to go for some movement around the ends instead of straight and sleek (it’s below shoulder length). Decided to try it and was really surprised to find it looked good. So now we’re back in Oz again I ask my hairdresser here to blow dry it this way too. I’m lucky to have a very thick mop of hair with natural volume and colour, similar in colour to the girl on bottom left (one of the Birkin daughters?)- sorry don’t know who she is. But sadly it does get the frizzies in humidity). Best wishes, Pamela

Reply
Vicki

The humidity is a killer when it comes to hair! I am with you on that Pamela… WHere is your hairdresser in Paris? Should we be adding him to our Parisian notebooks? :)

Reply
Pamela

The salon is in the Marais, a couple of narrow streets back from the Bd de Sebastopol, closer to the Chatelet end. It’s not a de luxe in-place – just somewhere the locals go. No appointments (so don’t have a business card for them) – you just walk in – I never had to wait longer than 10 minutes. Our local Sephora store (in Bd de Sebastopol) recommended them. Only 24 euros for shampoo/blow dry for long hair. Cheaper than my hairdresser in Canberra. And such nice staff. I always got the young fellow whose family came originally from South Africa (but has lived in Paris for about 15 years). He speaks English well of course, in addition to fluent French. Last time I was there he was also doing an American woman’s hair – she was a regular and v enthusiastic client. Will definitely go back next time we’re in Paris – it’s only three minutes walk from where we stay. Sorry I don’t know the name of the salon as I never needed to use it. Best wishes, Pamela

Reply
Vicki

Doesn’t matter Pamela… I am a very good detective… and for a great haidresser… I shall put these skills into play into play and track this salon down when next in Paris… ;)

Reply
Heather in Arles

V, if you are looking for a good hairdresser in Paris, I have a great one but he is private and only takes clients via word of mouth. Let me know if you are interested and I will ask him!

Reply
Donna

Hello Heather in Arlies
Would love your hairdresser’s name in Paris, about to head off and always looking for a shampoo/blowdry with a good hairdresser there. Thankyou! Donna

Reply
Pamela

Donna
Have a great time in Paris!
There’s a rather good boulangerie/patisserie (usually with a queue outside near lunchtime) just across a tiny rather long square from the salon (closed on Mondays). Sorry can’t remember the name of the patisserie either (has changed hands in the past year as it used to be called something else in 2014). There are also several bars/cafes in this little area and a shop for remaindered/second hand books – but it seemed to be closing down round the time we left so maybe something completely different now. Good luck with finding them. Pamela

Reply
Donna

Hi Pamela
Thankyou so much, now with that extra little info I should be able to locate the salon!
Situated opposite a Parisian patisserie..its getting better by the minute!!!

Reply
Mimi Gregor

“To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up.” — Oscar Wilde

It hasn’t escaped my notice that all the pictured women are young and pretty. They can get away with this look. When I try for “windswept”, I end up looking like an escaped mental patient. But I don’t want to go to the opposite extreme and look like a lacquered anchorwoman. I am still trying to find that sweet spot.

As for long versus short as you get older, I agreed that longer was the way to go, until I slooowly inched my way into an inverted bob. Several people have told me that I look younger with it, though I don’t see it. Really, long or short, it’s just as much work. I have baby fine hair, and humidity is a killer for me. I think that, with fine hair, shorter IS better. (As long as it’s not “butch short”, like so many older women get and reeks of “giving up”.) It looks thicker, and it also gives me a chicer look. Let’s face it: once you get to a “certain age”, you can’t turn the clock back to “pretty”. But you CAN look chic… at any age.

Reply
Vicki

Absolutely Mimi… of course it is always about the individual and I did laugh as you described how you feel “windswept” I feel the same… I love to analyse style, break it apart and adapt it to ourselves.. that’s the secret… adaption.

Yes chic and elegant are our mantras… :)

Reply
Jodashde

I cut off my shoulder length bob to a short cut several months ago and have not looked back. I get out of the shower, add some product and blow dry without even combing through! It gives a tousled look and I am very satisfied. I do have a bit of waviness that became more predominant now that it’s shorter, so that helps. My hair is thinning and fine and I am 62.

Reply
Vicki

Sounds heaven…
I don’t think I will ever go short by choice… I love short hair on others but it wouldn’t suit me. I could not manage it… even being an inch or two shorter this summer has been a nightmare with my wavy frizzy hair!

Hair is one of those things that we are all so particular with… I guess I might always feel this way… :) Too old to change now… ;)

Reply
Anita Rivera

Oh, another fine discussion. Let’s begin.

Well, last year, I tried to grow my hair long again. Once, my hair was my beauty, having a THICK mane like a horse to the point that a high school pal used to called me, ANITA CABALLO (my name was Anita Pelayo, and Caballo in Spanish for horse)…..my hair was like the fine mane or tail of a Spanish stallion. BUT, from the day I lost both my parents, the stress took a toll on my hair. My hair was falling out in clumps, and it took years to recover, but it never came back in the same thickness.

During my thirties, I tried to work with my long hair, in my forties, I cut it ultra short. I have learned that I look best with short but not too cropped hair. I still have a bit of beauty left in it. But to achieve the look these young French beauties sport is of another nature: THE TEXTURE of the hair. Like you, I tried the toussled long look and all I got was messy, gray and wirey hairs flying about in the static of our cold winters. My straight hair does not lend itself to this natural look, so I have to go with what works for me. I have come to enjoy the 60s Audrey Hepburn short hair look…that is what works best since it’s casual, but immediately takes on a more elegant look if I simply wear pearl or diamond studs. OH the conversation can keep going here! Thank you Vicki, for always helping us look at ourselves from a new perspective!

Reply
Vicki

It’s funny isn’t it… I have spent my life yanking out my hair! It’s a pity I didn’t appreciate this “french girl look” when I was younger… life would have been much easier for me and my hair… ;)

I will spend my mornings straightening my hair and then making it slightly messy… How silly of me… but I can’t deny it… ;)

Reply
katerina stepovikov

I still have it like jane birkins…..sometimes i think i will have it “styled” Then EVERYONE , even hairdessers cry out NOOO !!! Wit hair like yours never , ever cut it…not even when ye are old and grey . Who am i to argue xx

Reply
Melanie

I believe this topic could go on for days! As I’ve gotten older, my hair texture has changed. It used to be straight, now it has a little wave and with all the humidity we’re having in California, it’s started to puff out :( it’s like I have someone else’s hair. My hair is shoulder length and very thick. I’m do for a haircut and am thinking of something new. My stylist is French. I may just let her have her way and do what she wants. It will grow out again, right?

Reply
Vicki

Yes it always does… :)
Not sure about letting the stylist have her way with your hair unless you know her very well… ;)

My hair has multiple lives too… all weather dependent!

Reply
david terry

Well, Vicki…….my own hair is kept just as it’s been since I was twelve or so; whenever I go to the barber, I simply tell him/her that I don’t want to be able to grab any of it. Keep it short, in a phrase.

As for French hairdressers/salons? That’s why I’m writing this; no one, man or woman, has ever asked me for my “hair secrets”, and I seriously doubt that anyone (of either sex or on either continent) will ever be likely to do so. In any case…..I read your posting and immediately recalled my first solo trip to a Parisian hair salon (which took place during my first trip to France, years and years ago….for those who don’t know, my partner is French). All I wanted was a plain haircut. At the time, I thought I was”fluent”, having studied the language throughout high school and college….and having afterwards been certified as “fluent” during my doctoral proceedings. I quickly learned that being able to read Derridas and Lacan was of no use when trying to tell a hairdresser what I wanted.

I know, I know, Vicki…….I’ve read “My French Life”, and I recall your eyepoppingly frustrating, early attempts at communicating with teams of carpenters, electricians, and plumbers. At the hairdresser’s (Herve had gone off to some meeting), I realized that, when the subject was hair, I communicated in entirely un-translatable American idioms……”take a little off the top”, “could you taper the nape?”…..and when would I have ever learned the French for “bangs”????????

As ever, I left that experience with (1) a haircut that looked like a narrow-stemmed mushroom, and (2) the realization, which I’ve had many times since, that I was just going to have to move and LIVE there for at least a year before I would be even moderately fluent when it came to daily doings

Oh well, hope all’s well with you and your family,

david terry

Reply
Vicki

You are by far the most sensible of us all David when it comes to hair care… but there will be no way I will be following your hair instructions… ;) ;)

Reply
Karena

Vicki my hair is naturally wavy and it is SO much more time and work to wear it that way than straight. More products mussing and fussing, it does not look good naturally! Ha!

xoxo
Karena
The Arts by Karena
Artist Nicoletta Belletti

Reply
Astor Adams

I am also working with my grey. I think women look amazing with grey sholder length or longer. As for the “messy” French look with grey hair, that’s a no go for me. Grey hair is still looked at as if you are not taking care of yourself add messy to the equation and now you really look as if you don’t care. For me it’s one or the other, grey or messy not both.

Reply
Monica Robinson

Qui, Qui…….. to long hair for older women. I made this decision myself. I am 63 and have always had long hair. I decided not to cut my hair as I got older. It is long, going naturally gray (hard to adapt to I must say) and I like it. It takes work and patience and yes, trial and error. I am going to work on the French messy look also.

Reply
Heather in Arles

Gray plus frizz = utter sadness on my part. It makes me think witch! You nailed it for me on that one. And so (especially with the crazy heat we have had here – you know!) I have been wearing my hair pulled back tight in a bun every day and it is practically waxed down to keep the frizz at bay. I think I will be able to wear it down again in October. :(

Reply
Vicki

I could audition for a part in a horror show today… I will be getting that blowdryer out tonight… despite the heat!!
Don’t want to scare the natives.. ;)

Reply
La Contessa

I too am letting it GROW……..last visit she took off too much.I am NOT HAPPY with it up or down………..
This was what I needed to decide.THANK YOU!
I read you do NOT like SELFIE’s but can WE all have a recent photo of YOU PLEASE!MAYBE have HEATHER Take one……..hint hint.I still think of YOU as THAT woman in the TULLE climbing the STAIRS at your MAS…………from the First book!
Happy to see DAVID is BACK……………….where has he been?!!FRANCE no doubt!
XX

Reply
Monica

Tulle……… yes, yes, yes…… I love tulle but I have never worn it.. :( How do you wear it Vicki? In other words a tutu over your jeans, just the tutu. I have yards of tulle but have never worn it. I am afraid, now, after hearing you wear it, that I have missed out. Please let me know how you do it and I may start doing it myself!

Reply
valerie

Vicki, I think I have a mind like you regarding hair! My hair was/has always been too frizzy for the above ‘messy’ looks to look okay on me…in fact I am still in search of a hair product that works for slimming and smoothing down my waves…if ladies know of any please do tell!
I would LOVE to see some photos of older women’s hairstyles that you like! Please post photos! I feel like I need more inspiration and love the celebration of beauty of nous, les femmes d’un certain âge : -)

Reply
Cathy C

Hello Vicki,
When I was quite young I had beautiful (if I do say so, myself), tousled blonde locks. At 8 just before a family trip to Hawaii, my mother had my hair cut very short (in the 70’s, I think we called it a shag, regrettably) and when my hair grew back, it came in course, frizzy and wildly thick. My family still refers to it as the great hair debacle of ’72! I have been coloring my hair for at least 25 years and getting keratin treatments for 5…oh how I would love to to natural-if for no other reason but the expense, but it is daunting. Maybe start with growing out the grey…you know baby steps.
Good conversation…I haven’t checked yet but I suspect you have a pinterest board with elegant grey haired women. Off to check. Ciao!

Reply
lisa thomson

I love this look! My hair is not nearly as thick as these ladies but still I would like to try this. I’m debating getting bangs again similar to one or two of the pictures (although my hair is only shoulder length). I’ve had the long bang for about a year now and I tire of having to swipe it off my face constantly. What are your thoughts on bangs, Vicki and a woman’s age? Maybe we’ve talked about this before but would love to hear your point of view again!

Reply
sel

The hairstyles as shown, were and have been used in America since the 60’s….
the hippie era. Still, they continue to be used in the USA….nothing new for us
in this country. Trying so despartely to look French is somehow over rated.
It seems to me all of the world wants to closely imitate America. Yes, my roots
are European. Being first generation in America and keeping close contact with family
in Europe brings to mind how much this is true.

Reply
Gloria N.

Sel….so true! The last time I went shopping for a t-shirt to send to a niece in the U.S., a shirt with PARIS written on it, I could find nothing. Everything I saw said NEW YORK, or USA One shop owner said all the Parisian kids, especially older students want American stuff. I think the average French citizen is amused with America’s obsession with all things French.

Reply
Janet

Oh, my. I know I’m getting old when I look at that supposedly wonderful “messy” style & think it just looks unkempt. I’ve done long, done short, am on the short side of mid-range now (barely shoulder length). Mid-60s, good thick healthy hair, natural curl. I colour because my gray sux something awful, using a home product that makes my hair shine & the colour, an ashy blonde, blends the grey & is so close to my own colour it actually — believe it or not! — looks natural. I keep the frizz down as much as possible with various hair products (no favorite) and while I probably shouldn’t admit this, I will: I cut my own hair, too. Just whack it off with big scissors every few weeks, the fullness & curl hiding all but the worst mistakes. I can’t be doing too bad a job because I have people stop me now & again to ask who my stylist is (or maybe I flatter myself & they’re wondering whom to avoid!). My point to all this: one benefit of getting older (& thank God there are a couple!) is that I simply don’t care as much as I once did about every little detail. I like my hair to look good, don’t get me wrong, but I think finding a style that works for you at whatever age you’re enjoying is much more important that following whatever trend is on-going at the moment. Which, of course, is pretty much what everyone here is saying . . .

Reply
Antonina

Just recently I saw a woman in Paris with grey, wavy, messy “just out of bed ” hair and she looked divine. No longer young but beautiful and elegant with a dash of bohemian !

Reply
Teddee Grace

I would call this hair style “early woman.” They all look as if they just crawled out of a cave. If this is the French style, I’ll look elsewhere, and I’m guessing this won’t be around long. I still like the messy bun, however. Very sexy.

Reply
Sara de

I read all the previous comments and honestly some of them made me laugh out loud! I particularly loved the ” escaped mental patient” quip and can so, so relate. I let my hair go grey (or mostly grey as I still have a bit of mousey brown color left) for a couple of years and have to say that I looked like a demented Irish washerwoman. Frizzy grey, straight bits, wavy bits, bits that grow in patterns not normally found in nature. I finally relented and began coloring my hair again. It seems to me that skin tone has everything to do with whether or not grey works. Olive toned skin=gorgeous. Length-wise I have settled on a chin length bob styled to be “tousled”. Some days that means looking like an unmade bed but most days I find it to be the most flattering cut for my hair type (fine) and facial structure (square-ish). And thank goodness for modern hair products! <3

Reply
Beeta @ Mon Petit Four

Hi Vicki! I have been following you on Instagram and have now stumbled upon your blog, which I am so happy to have! As a francophile, I couldn’t be more excited to discover this lovely space on the web :) I laughed reading your post as I feel the same way about messy hair. Even though I am in my 20’s, messy hair has never worked for me. I think this is mostly because my hair has a lot of volume and “poofiness” in its natural state. I think the women who successfully wear this look often have pretty tamed natural hair. I much prefer a sleek blow dry, as it makes me feel more polished and put together too. From your photo, you and your hair look absolutely beautiful so I can’t imagine you looking less than perfect in any way! ;)

Reply
Karen in VA

I like the messy look … It has to be practiced though. I too would love to see some elegant older French women. I know many women who are quite literally hooked on their long hair, seriously attached and cannot think of going shorter. Many experts say a younger look can be gained from a chin to neck length cut. Anything longer accents the growing jowls. I have shorter hair and like it messy. Meg Ryan of late has perfected this look. Looking forward to seeing more older French women. … Oh, and I do admire you for unleashing the grey. I do think it’s easier for blondes though. Cheers, great as usual.

Karen in VA

Reply
Vicki

I agree… it’s much easier for blondes.. :)
I think the trick is to start the process by colouring lighter and gradually the change can take place…

Reply
Karen in VA

I was going to send you my favorite Meg Ryan messy hair photo on Pinterest, but your settings don’t allow it … Or something !!! Just wouldn’t work. (It looks great, distracts from age effects, she’s no spring chicken, but looks young.)

Karen in VA

Reply
Cristine

My hair is my current battle! The grey has come in frizzy, breaks off easily and it has thinned terribly… after a lifetime of shoulder length hair, I’m just not sure what to do. I look best with it pulled back (so everyone says) and might just stick with that until I find a hairstylist I trust. I second the request for products that help with frizz- I have tried so many, but on a windy day I still look like I should be stirring a cauldron!

Reply
Gloria N.

Please understand where I am coming from. The women in the photos are probably in their teen and early twenties, and that’s fine. What you are suggesting, Vicki, is that women who should know better…women who wish to be taken seriously…. consider this look as something to admire….to aspire to. Who says this is a great look? A hair product company? A twenty-something editor for a fashion magazine? When we are told something we can clearly see is not to our benefit….why do we throw common sense out the window and all jump on the bandwagon and oooh and ahh over how great it is.
I have not seen anyone in Paris out of a school uniform….or out of college army fatigue jacket days sporting this look..

Reply
Vicki

Hello Gloria,
I do agree that this style of hair is best on a younger face,

“I admire the look but I have a feeling that this is a French girl rather than a French woman way of styling the hair.
I would enjoy nothing more than to emulate this hairstyle but I am not entirely convinced the complete “messy” works on an older woman. I have tried (unintentionally) this summer to let the locks go, work with the I-am-natural look; I am not going there.”

However, these girls get away with this messy look but as an older woman my point was that we need to adapt and these looks don’t necessarily work as a “copy” for us. Like all fashion style it is about breaking trends apart and working with the pieces that suit us. :)

Reply
Maxine

I honestly think grey hair is ageing. I am growing my hair and definitely agree that as you get older you shouldn’t cut your hair. Love your books Vicki

Reply
Deidre

In the hippy 60’s we wore our hair in this messy, unkept style. Now I think it’s hideous no matter what your age. Grey hair can be beautiful but if it messes with your self-esteem then dye it but we still look like women of a certain age who dye their hair. Nothing can turn back the clock. Be confident and grateful for every day.

Reply
Tennessee

We all have looks that work for our own styles. I have what one commenter would probably consider a “butch” haircut, but I consider it to be pixieish. I haven’t given up, even with the few beautiful strands of gray that catch the light. Sometimes, I tousle it with product to be messy. Sometimes I slick it back to be a bit sleek.
I love seeing women look confident in their styles–long or short, gray or colored, curly or straight. It is fun to experiment with all sorts of looks, and I love hearing that it isn’t one look for all women of a certain age.

Reply
Judy Lambert

Well I guess that makes me a woman of a certain age! I have decided after a year of contemplating to go the gray route. With a few dark highlight about my facecas I think I could be white! As my hair is fine, it will be short or will look ridiculous on me. But why can’t we be short and funky and have that “french look” too.

Reply
Janis Lyn Johnson

It was so fun to happen upon your post and read your opinions about longer and gray hair on older women. I will turn 56 soon and stopped trying to hide my gray hair 4 1/2 years ago. I wear it long (approx 12 inches below my shoulders), and unstyled (air dried). I love classic fashion, am a girly girl at heart, and wear my makeup understated. I’m sure there are plenty of people who would prefer my hair colored, cut, and styled, but that just wouldn’t be me. Thank goodness we can each do want makes us happy! Cheers ~Janis Lyn Johnson

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Read previous post:
Dior-Legendary-Images-Henry-Clarke-1956-Vicki-Archer
Inspired by #23: Christian Dior

Close