OH, BEE HIIIVE

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I'm a dork, and always have been....

On my first date with my now-husband, I recited a soliloquy from "Hamlet" just to spice up the conversation. Then I argued the merits of anarchy to see if I could get a debate going. He didn't bite. Even dorkier: When I'm bored, I pass the time trying to recall poems I memorized in high school.

As a young adult, I made a habit of collecting knowledge that was entertaining but useless. My brain is like one of those airport stores full of stuff you don't need, where you walk in just for the hell of it and spend three whole minutes contemplating whether a shot glass is cool or tacky, knowing good and well you should keep walking. Welcome to my brain.

As long as I can remember, I've been fascinated by style, beauty, art and history. Many of the random anecdotes and curiosities I've collected are related to these topics. When I embarked on my career as a small business owner, I decided to dive into the world of style, fashion and art. I bought a hair salon.

After more than a decade on the business side of the beauty industry, I want to help elevate the art and style elements of it. I'm offering here a study of hair history. If we understand inspiration, we can recreate it. Dorkiness, full circle.

Do you know what malaria, a fez hat in Illinois and the baby boom generation have in common?

I'll give you a few hints. Those three factors influenced the creation of an iconic American hairstyle famously worn by Dolly Parton, Audrey Hepburn, Amy Winehouse and even Lady Gaga. You give up? OK, I'll give you one more hint: This hairstyle was also known as the B-52 because its shape resembled that plane's distinctive nose.

You guessed it: The beehive!

So where do these connections come from? Throughout history, women have battled gravity with their hairdos. Hair styled high atop a lady's head came into vogue in Paris during the late 1600s, during the reign of Louis XIV. Of course, at that time women had to build horsehair pads and wire structures to weave their hair into these towering styles.

About 100 years later, the queen of style and elegance, Marie Antoinette, hired the first celebrity stylist. The coiffeur simply known as Leonard (a one-name artist like Madonna and Cher) would climb a ladder and take up to four hours to build his creations as high as five feet above her head. The ladies of the court followed suit, creating the first hair trend. It reached ridiculous proportions: Ladies sometimes could not walk through doors because their hair was so high, and eventually the hairstyles were banned from theaters and opera houses because they blocked the view of other patrons.

Now, let's fast-forward 200 years and cross the ocean over to America. Everything was different, except that ladies still wanted to style their hair high. This is when the trifecta of malaria, the fez hat and the baby boom generation come into play.

In 1941 the U.S. was on the verge of entering World War II. With young Americans being shipped off to the Pacific Islands, the federal government had a stake in developing a convenient way for troops to carry insecticide to protect them from the spread of malaria. Research sponsored by the government brought about the patenting of aerosol technology, which the beauty industry proceeded to make use of — so much so that by 1964, hairspray became the top-selling beauty product in the U.S., outselling even lipstick!

With the advent of hairspray, stylists could give hair self-supporting structure. In 1960, Modern Beauty Salon magazine put forth a challenge, soliciting every stylist to submit an entry for a new hairstyle. The instructions were simple: The new hairstyle must represent the new decade.

Margaret Vinci Heldt was reading the article at her kitchen table in Illinois when she looked to her right and saw a fez hat. Her mind started churning and she decided to make a fez hat with hair!

With the assistance of a lot of hairspray, she created the first beehive, and it became the hairstyle of the decade.

But by the mid-'60s, the beehive was banned once again, this time from schools, as it blocked the view of students sitting behind its wearers.

What made this hairstyle so successful? The baby boom generation. In the 1960s, the generation born at the end of WWII was reaching adolescence and young adulthood, and unlike many generations before them, this one was determined to be heard, ushering in an era of accelerated change.

Although the beehive was the biggest trend of the early '60s, it left just as quickly as it came. In the late '60s and early '70s, the unisex look came into vogue and people began to wear their hair long. But that's a whole different decade, and a different story altogether.

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to figure out why Sandra Bullock's hair wasn't affected by zero gravity in her last flick. It was hard to focus on the plot. I know, I know…
I'm a dork.

Jason Facio is an entrepreneur with nearly twenty years of experience in the beauty industry. He has helped shape careers of countless nationally acclaimed hairstylists as he partners with them to elevate the industry. elementsalonnashville.com

Abagail Bobo Photography

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