Fashion Masochist: The Beehive

By Rachel Baker | Boston Magazine |

One might have thought the combination of Amy Winehouse’s skyscraper ‘do and last year’s Hairspray remake would have prompted beehive backlash. Instead, the rest of the Hollywood hive is swarming to the trend. On the red carpet recently, Scarlett Johansson and Gwen Stefani, among others, have opted for stiff and soaring updos. And clearly Cindy McCain endorses the look.

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THE EXPERIENCE

I arrive excitedly for my beehive building session with the Loft Salon’s Michael Albor. When he mentions his plan for a style similar to Audrey Hepburn’s in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, though, I object. If I’m going to get a beehive, I want something extreme. He promises I won’t be let down.

When I emerge onto Newbury Street two hours later, I realize how right he was. With my long blond hair in a mountainous French twist, my already-5-foot-10 frame stretches well past the 6-foot mark. There’ll be no McDonald’s drive-throughs for this look.

On my way back to work, I find myself on the receiving end of countless smiles—probably from people who think I’m a runaway bride or a stage actress between shows. Part of the reason the hairstyle feels so costumey is its contrast to my jeans. When I make an effort to appear more polished, in a cinched coat and heels, there’s less bemused staring; a stranger in Whole Foods even approaches and shyly tells me she likes my hair. But after I catch my reflection in a window—and see a member of the B-52s—I begin to ache for a regular ponytail.

A properly maintained beehive can last a week. My routine requires hourly hairspray sessions and wrapping my head in toilet paper every night before bed—just as my grandmother, a beauty shop devotee, used to do. On the other hand, getting ready for work takes mere minutes. Then, on day three, just when I’m considering swapping my flat iron for a lifetime supply of Aqua Net…the itching begins. That night, I can’t sleep due to the constant need to scratch—and scratch, I do.

By morning I’m sporting a hornets’ nest. And despite attempts to revive the hive, my coif is utterly deflated. So is my mood, until I get to the office and the compliments pour in. "Looks great today!" my coworkers say. One asks in all seriousness, "How’d you make it do that?" It does, I realize, look sort of messy-cool. (Unfortunately, it still itches, too.)

THE VERDICT

Yes, by the end I was certainly ready for a wash, but I’ll miss the get-up-and-go perks of a salon-executed hairstyle. And while I’m simply not put-together enough to pull off an immaculate beehive, I plan to break out a lower-key updo in the future. Also: I have a whole new respect for my grandmother.