15 Mar 2018

French Women And Their Hair

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


What is it about their hair that makes us pay so much attention? Is the French way of hairstyling 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 beaten.

There is something about 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 haircuts.

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

images via byrdie

VA In Your Inbox

subscribe for updates from vickiarcher.com

In This Post: , ,




Ha ha… It’s such a thing.. and every time I am in Paris I notice… on so many ages… not just very young girls… on all ages… Mostly I notice a very good cut.. but worn with messy volume… :)

tomate farcie

I lived in Paris for 8 years. French women have crap hair, horrible color. You’re showing women who pay big bucks for hair services, it goes downhill from there.


Me too! I think of my mother saying “get that hair out of your face, what are you hiding from? Show confidence!” Smart lady.

Elaine Reisman

I love the messy look- I think even on older women, such as myself, a very rigid and straight look makes the face look very severe. That said, I think older women can not look well with the long hair of young girls. At least, I do speak for myself. I have recently moved to L.A., and gone to Meche where I have gotten the most amazing color, and my hair is a shorter shag. It works well, no fuss, and I don’t feel like and old lady.

Sandy Bromley

Could you please post or send me a photo of your new haircut? I have grown out a pixie cut for about 6 months now and am desperate to find a length and style that is not too short.
Thank you


Wonderful post today! Wonderful & insightful musings. I love all the photos you included as well. I agree with you about the longer length as we get older. I tried a shorter cut for the last two years and it just did not sit well with me…I felt odd, off, I felt I photographed odd as well and looked “heavy” in my own eye. I gave it a shot though, two long years. Now I am ready to move on to a longer length. Am working on it….t


Love it! Life is definitely and bewitchingly and quite messy, and don’t we live it!! Go Vicki, I’m with you! And thank you for your posts! You’ve come a long way!

Jay S.

When I watch a “Violette” Youtube videos – with regards to advising on French women’s hair – I could scream. She is a YOUNG and beautiful Parisan woman who has great command of skin care and makeup application and is the Estee Lauder Global Beauty Director. She has commented on more than one video that American women look too “done” with our hairstyles (and, sometimes, makeup). That, if we want to look like the French women, our hair needs to look like we had sex five minutes ago. Their men like it that sexy way. And, she trims her own bangs. Well, that does indeed work when one is on the younger side. But, if women “of a certain age” work that look, it might come across like we’re, well, street people. Let us see what her advice is when she gets a little older.
That aside, I appreciate what she does and how well she does it.

Sandra Sallin-Apart From My Art

I have grey hair which I love. I don’t think this look would work on me. At 77 I think I’d look like a grey haired mess. But anything looks beautiful on these beauties. If I was much younger I’d give it a try. Not that I’m an old foggie. I have a fabulous layered bob that is very cool looking. I just think messy grey hair might look too much like my lines.

Mimi Gregor

I, too, want to trim the ends. I just think that ragged ends look uncared for — not chic. That said, I do wish to have less “exact” looking hair. Which is why I’m growing it longer, and having long layers cut in. I want something that I don’t have to comb each time I come in from outside.

I also feel compelled to warn against razor cuts. A hairdresser once perpetrated this disaster upon me… and it did look good. At first. But if you color your hair, or if it is fine (mine is both), you will end up with the longest split ends you have ever seen. It took me a long time (and a different hairdresser) to repair the damage done. This is only a look for virgin hair! (My hair is so far from virgin that it hangs out at the waterfront, saying “Hi, sailor… want a date?”)


Thank you Mimi for the warning on having razor cuts – it was going to be on the agenda for my next cut – not now tho!
Only elfin looking women can wear short cuts the rest us need balance.
I love the messy hair look on an older women it can look youthful but the remainder of ‘the look’ needs be well groomed – not stiff just well groomed. Nails, makeup, clothes, shoes (manners 😄) to be impeccable.
Chic messy is not messy at all but is a carefully orchestrated look.
Love Vicki’s blog – l look back on them time and time again
Just my thoughts


A little messy volume is a sexier, younger look in my opinion, I have below the shoulders silver/steel hair at age 59, but the texture stayed the same even after turning gray……fine, straight, shiny but a lot of volume……when I see a sleek precision bob type cut with silver hair, it automatically looks “older” to me and almost helmut like. All it says to me is, there is a woman who has regular frequent trips to the salon to keep the carefully controlled precision cut…..I see this cut everywhere in my hometown and the older women wear it like a uniform.


I would love to see some photos of a more mature woman with longer hair, gray, not gray, with the intentional (unintentional) messy look. I agree with you about longer hair as one ages….I’m struggling with not letting it look “tight” and styled. I love the messy look – but how messy can one get? I know it depends on the texture on the hair….but, I need more validation. It would help with my hesitance on leaving the house and not feeling like I just rolled out of bed! Love your insight, style and critiques!


Dearest Vicki, how your opinions here resonate with mine. OK, I just saw a photo of me when my hair was at its best. I was about 15! I can say that I made it at least into my mid 30s with a head of hair that literally stopped traffic. Literally. HOWEVER….

I too have struggled with letting my hair go long as I age. But like you, I feel that long hair on a woman looks much better slick and calculated, rather than messy. There is one model who I think you have featured here (she is divine, with long gray hair, very slender) can pull it off. I have very straight hair and with my profession (I prefer to be clipped and neat), I just can’t see myself with long hair. Tousled as opposed to messy…they are different. I think on me, long hair would look messy.

I am with you. I think much of what works is individual. We find what works and work it!


Interesting that three out five of these gals have bangs….something I haven’t had in a long
time, but do think they look cute. Maybe it’s an age thing, but bangs could be a whole other


I’m too scared… but I would love to discuss… it’s in the diary… thank you Janie ..


A second (strong) warning against razor cuts. Precision cutting with super sharp shears and cutting the points with the shears and a very patient stylist are key.


We so rarely see pictures of regular French women of a certain age, it’s difficult to imagine their approach to hair. I recently was reading a book by three young French women and one mentioned that as the face gets more “messy” (aged), the hair should become less so. This makes total sense to me.

Jay S

To all … I posted earlier about the Estee Lauder Global Beauty Director named Violette and her advice on French women’s hair. Well, as luck would have it, she posted today a hair tutorial on her messy undone hair. Here’s the link if you would like to see how they do it! Products are at the end of the video.

Jana Pena

Hahaaa…loving these comments. I’ve tried the messy look, not for me either at my age. Vicki I’ll be staying at your places in St Remy next month! My girlfriend and I will be exploring the South of France, with St Remy as our base! Can’t wait to finally see it all in person!


I think that on the American side, Linda Rodin does the long and “un-done” and gray hair look very well. She seems to wear her hair up most of the time. I have seen Sophie Marceau with a nice undone shorter look.


I agree with Jay S. These are girls not women. How do French women in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s wear their hair??


Another benefit of longer hair is that it will hide any hearing aids we may need in the future 😂


After wearing my hair short for years I decided to let it grow out a bit – bangs, and a layered shorter bob. I have discovered I can go longer between cuts and colors, as well as not have to wash my hair everyday as I used to. I do use either a light oil rubbed in before drying, or a creamier color protector, as well as a mousse, and I use the new “air” sprays instead of a stiffer hairspray. My cut is by a very good stylist who uses shears and she does cut the points with shears as Evaline suggested. My hair is thick, healthy and I am enjoying the change very much. I had kept it short for years because I thought the shorter length would somehow disguise the top part area as my color grew out. I had my hair cut and colored every 4 weeks for over 20 years – very expensive. Now I can go 5-6 weeks. Oh, I am 67. I think the longer hair cut makes me look younger – at least I hope it does!


Continue this post Vicki, it has been fun. Looking forward to the next installment.
Longer hair for older women gets my vote. Makes us interesting once again.


Agree about going for sleeker long hair as we age. When in Oz I almost always ask my hairdresser to blow dry it sleek and straight. As I have a very thick head of hair despite age they say it puts muscles in the their arms! But in Paris my hairdresser (have had the same wonderful lovely guy for maybe six or seven years) nearly always recommends a blow dry where he’ll give it movement. He’s so good I usually go along with this. It does look more French – not that I want to look French, with my natural colouring it would have been impossible anyway. Although it’s not really messy either – and I feel happy with it like that while there. But when I get home again my hairdresser can never match his styling and the result doesn’t seem quite right so I go back to sleek and straight. Funny about hiding the hearing aids. Old age is not for sissies – as people say here. Best wishes, Pamela


I think Carine Roitfeld does the slightly messy look so well! Often we see her looking more manicured but she does do casual messy in a way that defies her age (64 I think). Her fashion sense is superb and she’s thin, 2 factors that help older women get away with the slightly messy. Whether we like messy or not and clearly a lot of readers here don’t, I think it’s all about creating and being comfortable with our own look and lifestyle. I’m an older woman, outside a lot, love jeans, tee, jkt and boots and longer, messy but well cut hair suits. And yes, still wear the bangs!

Beverly (Canada)

As I’ve aged and my hair has gotten more and more grey, (I’m 63) my strategy for keeping it clean and “messy” has changed. In the past, shampooing every day or every other day was the norm but, (and this may be shocking to some of you) I now can go for several weeks before washing it! I find if I brush my hair throughly every day and use a volumizing dry shampoo periodically (to combat any oily roots) followed with a light gel hairspray as needed, this combination helps me achieve the matte finish and “messy” look I’m after. I wear it long and have bangs which I trim myself. (I’ve yet to find a stylist who can trim my bangs without cutting them way too short!) So far my overall approach to my hair seems to be working and just today I visited a nephew in the USA who I see only once a year and as soon as he greeted me said “you’re looking ageless”. I think I can handle that! …


Agree, as I’ve got older too my hair seems to need washing less often. Though the longest I’ve ever gone between shampoos is one week. But both my hairdresser and skin specialist say shampooing every day is a bad idea for most women, especially as they get older, as it deprives the scalp and hair of the natural oils they need. I never use dry shampoo either. Have never liked any of the products I’ve tried and they certainly don’t make the hair feel clean. Also washing and drying such long thick hair, pulling all the frizz and curls out takes way too long to do it every day. Except perhaps at the beach/pool. I go to the hairdresser once a week for a shampoo blow/wave – sometimes more frequently. Since I’ve never spent a cent on colouring in my life as it’s always been natural coloured I tell my husband he can afford to spring for a weekly salon visit now. In Paris my hairdresser is cheaper than here at home so I often go about every five days – agree about the Paris water being so hard. I prefer not to wash it myself there. I think as we get older and our skins get tireder and jawlines slacker as gravity begins to take effect, having good hair seems to be even more important. And good hair is relative and depends so much on our personal preferences and style. Best wishes, Pamela

Polly O'Neill

I am sixties, with silver/white hair, wavy and thick and cut in a longish shag style…I am NOT going to straighten it ever again and go against its natural texture. I am anglo Irish, my boyfriend is French, somewhat younger and he loves my hair

Esther George

Hi Vicki, I’m one of those lazy people when it comes to my hair, now that it’s in the salt and pepper stage its going back to the way it used to be when I was younger which was big curls, but it tends to be slightly frizzy in summer these day. I have bought so many hair products ..it’s ridiculous. My thing for now is to have hair down to my shoulders with a good cut and I use mousse by Goldwell it’s the only thing that makes my hair behave. I would love to have longer hair but it’s a bit of an effort. Thank you for sharing beauty. Till next time, regards Esther from Sydney. PS I’ve started using Scwarzcoff shampoo for fine, mature hair (more products) so far so good. By the way I think your hair always looks lovely.


Boring long hair…no French flair or creativity. They are not unique, they are interchangeable. I am in my seventies. I had long hair for years and cut it off to shoulder length. Much more versatility. I can wear it up or down. It can be messy (preferred) or neat. I can look sassy or elegant..whatever. It doesn’t take as long to dry or style. There are other things I would rather do than my hair. But most important I like it and that is really all that matters.


I think if I were to pursue the “messy, just out of bed look” at my age (58), my children would be concerned about my mental state. One consideration not mentioned here is the water. When I lived in Paris, I noticed my hair didn’t feel clean and shiny after shampooing, and was told the water is quite hard “practically comes out as tiny rocks!” (followed by “French women don’t shampoo as often, they just rearrange the comb marks and rock the ponytail another few days”-hilarious). Agree with the other commenters that lifestyle plays a part, also thick vs thin hair, and texture. Last year, I gave away my blowdryer and brushes, got a bunch of layers cut and embraced the natural curl. 40 years of blowdrying, now free! What a change from pin-straight, heavy sheets of hair to curls. Change is different.


I’m with you Vicki. I love these photos but I think at 68 simple is better than messy. Same Helen is my hairstyle icon. I have very fine hair but keep it colored Auburn my original shade. I have to go shorter w layers. I will say American women are too blonde and too done. There’s a way to look my “bien en sa peau” (did I spell that right)? Most of us American women watched Hwood growing up and it was all about perfection. We didn’t learn to find our personal style and go from there. At least that’s my experience. 7


I too noticed and was surprised that when I was in Paris the hair color and cuts were not attractive on many. Vicki, do you have any old posts you can refer me to about when you started to grow out your color. I have tried to grow my hair out on several occasions and chicken out. Yours looks beautiful.


Great discussion and posts. I changed my “attitude” about hair and makeup after I retired. I embraced “all” my imperfections. And life could not be better. Whatever your attitude should dictate. I embraced the messy look because I have shorter fine hair. I do have a very good hair cut for that look which can also be flat ironed. I also do not wear a lot of makeup on a regular basis. I color my hair, so no grays. I receive compliments on my look often. I travel often and find that a versatile hair style works wonders on vacation too. French women can teach us a thing or too about simplifying our lives. Thanks Vicki! Love your blog.


When I lived in Paris my hair and skin looked TERRIBLE due to the hard water. You really can’t get clean or soft hair with any shampoo or conditioner combo in Paris and as I say my normally good skin was a state.
I also put on the inevitable stone in weight because I was enjoying myself eating and drinking. Not a good look though :)


If a women has well cared for hair and good skin, even if she is over 50 or 60 I think longer hair looks good. Maybe not waist length, or totally messy. Now that would be too much, but shoulder length and a bit below the shoulders could look soft and lovely.
I’m a fan of mid length hair but I sometimes grow it a bit longer just to do it before I go for a trim.
I am over 50 and I rebel at getting the short hair cuts I see all around me that all the women I see get as soon as they turn 55 and they mostly get bad hair cuts. I’ve only seen a couple with fashionable short cuts.


Leave a Reply

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

powered by chloédigital