Kevin Lee, creative director of Kenneth salon, cited “not looking sexy” as the modern woman’s No. 1 fear. But it wasn’t always a concern. There was a time when one would not deign to leave the house for a night on the town with the kind of carefree strands seen at parties today. Lee has witnessed his share of updo evolution since joining the salon, in 1987. As he coaxed my hair into what he referred to as “a little fucked-up bouffant French twist,” he recalled how Ivana Trump revived the updo in the early nineties after her divorce from Donald.
“She redid herself,” he said. “She brought back Brigitte Bardot. It was kind of flat in the back with a lot of height in the front. It was very retro, but it was the best she had looked in years—it softened her up and made her seem thinner than she actually was.” (Apparently, there are some body parts for which extra volume is in fact desirable—and proves a distraction from those where it isn’t.)
Nowadays, those who want their hair up go for the back knot, a safe permutation of the comfortable ponytail. And to hear Lee tell it, more women should follow suit.
“You can have a little volume with it, and then you soften the face and bring out what you want. If someone has a very weak jawline or no cheekbones, the hair can be styled to compensate,” he said. “But if it’s too starched, it looks dated—unless there’s irony. Like this French twist,” he said, motioning at my head, which, with its roughed-up vibe, was a deviation from the classic. “If I hadn’t done it in a deconstructed way, you’d look like Tippi Hedren from The Birds. And although she looked fabulous in the movie, people seeing it on you would be like, ‘Is she trying to look 50?’ ”
I’m not going to lie: Though Lee’s creation was transformative, lending elegance to my understated J. Mendel cocktail dress, it was still a lot of hair. Could I pull it off? Or was I going to look like I just stepped off the set of Mad Men? My driver, Bob, was my first test: He initially balked when I reentered the car post–salon visit, not recognizing me beneath my cotton candy confection; but he quickly gave me the thumbs-up. When I arrived at the Princess Grace Foundation-USA’s awards, Fe Fendi praised the look: “I love your hair like that. It’s more formal for the prince and princess!” (The Prince and Princess of Monaco were in attendance.)
Surprisingly, underneath all that follicular fanfare, I was comfortable. With my hair all done up, I felt less like I was playing dress-up in fancy clothes. Even better, as a pathological hair twirler, I was forced to keep my hands to myself. (My mother would be proud.)