RIDING THE COOL WAVE…by Yuna Zavelskaya
The jazz era, the “Roaring Twenties” was the age of autos, freedom of morals, avant-garde arts, night cabarets and dancing. It seems as if the whole world was moving to the ragged off-beat jazz beat and it reflected in the dresses, shoes, fur neckpieces and even women´s hairstyles.
It has been noted throughout the decades that the length of hair and skirts is directly related with the periods of political instability. World War I shortened women´s skirts from maxi to midi and sowed the first seeds of feminism. Jazz finished the work. It was impossible to dance properly even in the dresses shortened to the middle of the calf, that is why the style of reggae required the change of the whole entourage. Gone are the dignified S-shaped silhouette and beehives of the Art Nouveau epoch. In the beginning of the decade, the tournure, or bustle, was replaced by the so-called “dress with a basque,” or Robe de Style, the best models being created by the Paris fashion house of Jeanne Lanvin.
For the first time, the new women´s haircut, the “bob” for short, lank hair was presented in New York, and brought to Paris by the American dancer, Irene Castle. Yet, the world fashion capital gave the invention its proper name, “La Garçonne” (on the basis of the French word “boy,” but with the feminine flexion). Of course, the first to appreci-ate the advantages of the new style was the Bohemia. The ideal image of the era was implemented by the model and silent screen actress Louise Brooks, her signature black “bob” and a straight short dress with a lowered waistline which became a uniform for the whole generation of young women called “flappers” in English-speaking countries. Jazz music itself also played art and part in creating that name: While performing quicksteps, overshoes were emitting a characteristic squelchy sound — a flap.
By 1926, the philosophy of the new generation had finally shaped. Its typical representatives were young women up to 30 years old, who dared go out without any hat (yet, later the “bob” was covered with a bell-flower-shaped hat), while using makeup (especially the scarlet lipstick which had been used only by prostitutes and actresses be-fore was considered to be especially scandalous.) Flappers smoked and drank equally with men, and spent a considerable part of their money on manlike entertainments and fashionable clothes. Yet, there were too many women for whom the formless silhouette with a small head did not fit well, and French women still wanted to appeal men, while being feminists.
The famous Paris stylist Antoine de Paris who had created a great deal of scenic images for the cabaret dancer Josephine Baker, man-aged to adapt the traditional French jocosity to the man-like haircut. Thus, the first “bobs” were shortened to an even more boyish cut and in 1928, the cold-waved Shingle cut was born, tight to the nape of the neck and angled forward. The hairdresser styled hair smeared with a flax seed decoction using a comb and his/her fingers, fixing the ends with hairpins. Josephine Baker was the first to start large-scale production of that gel. When on sale, the frozen mass consisting of a quarter cup of flax seeds and a cup of water with three drops of rose-mary oil got the name “pour se baker fixer les cheveux” or “Baker´s Hair Fixing Gel.” The Shingle model for medium hair impersonated the transi-tion to new, aggressive and at the same time, more sensual femininity. The flappers´ era which lasted only three years, from 1926 to 1928, did not survive The Great Depression. However, the images of that epoch were eternalized in the collections of novels by Scott Fitzgerald, “Tales of the Jazz Age” (1922) and “Flappers and Philosophers” (1920) and books by Anita Loos, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1925) and “…But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes” (1928), after which the comedy, “Some Like It Hot” was filmed. In hairdressing schools, styling hair in cold waves with the use of only gel, fingers and a comb is still considered to be one of the most beautiful assignments.
In the end of the 20th century, students were often annoyed with study-ing such archaic material, yet the flapper style which seemed to have fallen into oblivion returned to fashion in the beginning of the next cen-tury. Nowadays the images of great dancers, models and actresses of the silent movie era caused a new wave of imitation. It was not for noth-ing that the fashion historian Alexander Vasiliev who felt the dawning of the new trend and disclosed his archives before the public eyes in au-tumn 2006. The collection, “World Silent Movie Stars” of the Carte Postal series comprised the pictures of all the 1920´s style icons — from Lou-ise Brooks, Josephine Baker, Clara Bow (who was the first to be called “It-girl” of her epoch), and Joan Crawford to Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich who actually survived the oncoming of the screen sound era.