Bang! Bang! (my baby shot me down)
Fimbria n.; pl. Fimbriæ . (Anat.) (a) pl. A fringe, or fringed border.
FimBRIA. Coincidence? I think not. Call me one hair short of a shroom-trip fringe conspiracy, but I refuse to be swayed from this feeling I have deep inside: I didn’t choose the fringe life, the fringe life chose me. And whilst I can accept that not everyone may believe, like me, that they were destined to don a fringe, I cannot accept the idea that anyone could turn away from the fringe life. If anything, the practicalities of owning a fringe, especially those of the particularly full and heat-insulating variety, make it a necessity for those of us who inhabit the chillier climates of the world. While middle-parters, the forehead liberationists, scurry hastily to source a winter hat to cover their exposed fodicals, we fringers can sit back, smug with our superior life decisions and considerably warmer higher ground. Side-parters, let’s face it, are just in possession of the poor man’s fringe, and are therefore irrelevant in any discussion of merit.
Alas, last year no Fringe was able to pollute the cobbled streets of Edinburgh with tourists, comedians, and drunk tourists who think they are comedians. But at least this hairstyle – wait, what am I saying? Excuse me, I mean, this lifestyle – hasn’t died out in the absence of it’s namesake. In fact, contrary to every single consequence of this virus, I think that the fringe is perhaps the only thing, besides misanthropic hermits, which has grown in strength and number. Every bastard has been at least tempted by the lure of those straggly bits of hair which lay luxuriously across the northern hemisphere of the face. And, as a proud fringe owner myself, I cannot say that I was not smug, when thousands of people witnessed Marianne’s wondrous fringe on BBC’s adaptation of Normal People last year and immediately took to hacking off their own locks. Of course this was ridiculous lockdown fever at its most wicked, and sprouted dozens of ‘I cut my own bangs and now I have a buzz cut’ YouTube videos.
Indeed, the fringe is a man of many faces and appears in many weird and wonderful forms. There are so many kinds to choose from nowadays – full, blunt, curly, micro, curtained – I think it is only right that I create some kind of lasting document, a Fringe Manifesto if you will, which will serve as an hommage to the great forehead vanquisher, and will perhaps provide some inspiration for those budding entrepreneurs among you, who are considering becoming first-time fringe owners.
In defense of the fad
The fringe is just face decoration, sure, a convenient solution for the five-headed among us, who wish to walk through life freely, without the constant paranoia that innocent birds, hanging flower baskets and low-flying aeroplanes will be brought down by the sheer force of our massive fods. But the fringe, unique in its line of work, is the answer to many of life’s big problems. Feeling self-conscious about owning one of the aforementioned abnormally large foreheads? Stick a fringe on it! Getting the itch to change up you hair, but can’t quite commit to anything involving putting in any a) effort b) time and / or c) money, only to be left with the permanent consequences and subsequent therapy sessions? Cut yourself a fringe! (And yes, this requires a DIY job.) Ask any self-respecting fringe owner, and they will happily tell you (regardless of weather you have actually asked) that they have foregone waiting weeks to get an appointment at the hairdressers, just to have a quarter of an inch of hair snipped and be charged the price of a RyanAir flight to Dublin for the pleasure of being able to see again. So, if you are indeed seriously considering making the chop, and joining the (sometime partially obscured) fringe life, you will need to get comfortable employing some seriously blunt children’s craft scissors and practicing the fine art of staring down your own terrified reflection. Whilst embarking on this DIY fringe endeavor, the key is remaining calm: ignore your reflection’s desperate pleas for salvation from this scissor-wielding maniac, and believe the post-cut lies you will tell yourself about always wanting a micro-fringe. The age old proverb is true, and only true allies will stop you from rationalizing this fringe follie, and point to the fact that yes, whilst there are no hairdresser-grade shears in reach, why stop short of realising your full potential, when there’s a perfectly good pair of nail-clippers in the bathroom?
*I would also like to preface this next part, in anticipation of those of you who may demand to know if I am in fact a qualified hairdresser / hair historian? The answer is twofold. Firstly: what the fuck do you think this is? Secondly, I have a fringe. I have friends who have fringes. And, the icing on the cake, the niche skill on my CV that pushes me into the realm of credibility: not only do I have friends with fringes, but I have friends to whom I gave a fringe. A privilege, to be sure. So, am I qualified, you ask? Let’s see, years of experience in cutting my own fringe? Check. Experience in bringing new-born fringes into this world and onto the foreheads of new fringe parents (sanity and/or willingness aside)? Check. I think it is fair to surmise that I am, most certainly, over-qualified. On with the show.*
A brief (and historically dubious) history of fringe-kind
The fringe has a pretty vast and long-standing history throughout the world.
Medieval Spanish musicians, ancient Egyptians, and European Renaissance courtiers are among some of the groups who had a penchant for the fringe life. The Japanese ‘hime cut’ (translating literally as the ‘princess cut’) is a style that is though to have originated in imperial courts in Japan during the Heian Period, and features long-cut side locks and a full fringe. You no doubt have seen this one in action, as it was popularised in the 70s by the likes of Megumi Asaoka, and more recently in South Korea by many a modern K-pop celebrity.
During the 20th century, the fringe once again rose in popularity with the 1930s, in part thanks to actress Louise Brooks, who also reintroduced us to the bob. The 1940s and 1950s have Audrey Hepburn to thank for ushering in a new, curved micro fringe look. Very classy, very popular among the literarzzi of the time. In the 1960s, the French Nouvelle Vague saw starlets like Brigitte Bardot and Anna Karina pave the way for 1970s icons such as Jane Birkin, who toted a new, more relaxed ‘Brit abroad’ style. The 1980s blew everything out of proportion, and the fringe was no exception. The rise of the supermodel in the 1990s made us all realise that being impossibly thin and sleek was not just a fashion trend, the fringe also felt the pressure to slim down. Suffice to say, the fringe has undergone more identity changes than Charles Sobhraj. So, here are some notable mentions:
À la française
In some ways the fringe has become synonymous with French girl chic, though it has inevitably evolved into two distinct camps. The first, inspired by the likes of Bardot and Birkin, is as free-lovin’ and easy as any fringe could be. It is messy, but never messy. It falls perfectly, flawlessly, and somehow directly into the eyes of the wearer without at all impeding their ability to see. Magique. This fringe knows how to have a good time, but will no doubt leave you at the party that it brought you to without saying goodbye, leaving you surrounded by equally dashing, fringed frenchies and no French skills to speak of. They could perhaps over look the language barrier, but the stark sight of a naked forehead? They have beheaded aristocrats for lesser offenses. The second kind, however, has taken a slight detour into more mystical and haphazard realms, inspired by Amélie and her wonderfully choppy, ‘hacked at by a blind person who hates you’ hairdo. But don’t worry, it works. This fringe is most definitely very emotionally unstable, and will force you to go on spontaneous outings in large, but strangely provincial seeming cities, and will also probably ditch you on the way to see an obscure Danish horror at the old hipster filmhouse in Montmartre.
Mad mod bowl cut
Mod icons like Peggy Moffit sported sleek, sculpted fringe looks that re-positioned the framework for the mod bob. If you saw this fringe doing its weekly shop, you would most likely encounter it in the frozen food isle, because it likes to remind itself of its roots as the coolest of the fringe famiglia. This fringe is blunt, straight to the point, smokes a pack a day and will tell anyone trying to pull a fast one to promptly, and discreetly, go fuck themselves. This fringe, after all, is always demure and articulate. This fringe is a real no-nonsense kinda dame.
Disco fever fringe
The disco fringe owes all it’s power to Donna Summer and Chaka Khan. Unlike her fellow fringe brethren of the 1970s and 80s, the disco fringe is a classy broad. Neither wispy, nor blown-out to preposterous proportions; this fringe is the third bowl of porridge that Goldilocks declares to be just right. It is, quite frankly, a beauty to behold, and will quite skillfully boogie all night long without becoming in the least bit disheveled or unsightly. In fact, the sweat seems to glitter on this bad boy, making it all the more ravishing, and prompting the club-going populous to try and emanate such splendour.
Barely-there baby bangs
The barely-there, is it a fringe or just some late to the party, newly sprouting baby hair?, fringe does deserves a shout-out, seeing as it has traversed so many decades (and foreheads) to get to the year 2021, and fulfill its true destiny. From Eartha Kitt, to Grimes, to every cargo-wearing, artisan coffee-drinking skater boi you have ever encountered: the micro fringe has made its mark. But, beware of this particularly evasive fringe. Behind it’s cute appearance and unintimidating size, it is crafty and may be hiding a mullet-agenda. Proceed with caution when interacting with this highly dangerous species of fringe. It can often be found rolling a cig in university lecture halls, and will immediately befriend and kidnap you, delivering you in the back of an uber to a electronic music rave held in an abandoned shipping crate in an undisclosed location.
Manic pixie fringe
If Jameela Jamil and Zooey Deschanel were to ever have a baby together, the resulting child would be entirely fringe. The fringe evolution of the 2010s saw them coming thick and fast. Quirky girls and boys across the land had finally found a way to express their quirkiness to the world. This fringe is less a fringe and more of a FRINGE. It will not give you the chance to organically acknowledge its existence; no, no, it will announce itself. And, of course, this fringe isn’t like other fringes. Its kooky and kinda clumsy, but ultimately conventionally attractive and will always trample over its fellow fringe brethren to prove that it is the most worthy (and modest) fringe of them all. Being around this fringe may feel overwhelming, and the sheer force of its voluminous presence will require you to be on copious amounts of sense-depriving drugs. It is manic and puckish, but has a good heart, so take what it says with a pinch of fairy dust.
A fringe is for life, not just for Christmas. Think long and hard about any fringe commitment you have spent hazy lockdown hours, days, weeks contemplating. If you decide to pick up those mini craft scissors/ toe-nail clippers/ really quite sharp chopsticks, remember that this could be a major turning point in your life- and it’s pretty 50/50 about whether it be for the better or for the worse.
I, too, was once a forehead streaker, a strident campaigner for forehead visibility; until, at the age of six, I came to my senses and declared, “To hell with all this unnecessary brain ventilation; this pitiful single-glaze life!”. I then proceeded to hack at my hair with all the righteous vengeance and gore of a six year old who is wielding a pair of blue plastic scissors. It was a blood-bath, to say the least. Dark strands of hair lying everywhere, drastically varying in both length and thickness. Later, as my parents asked me, gently, bemusedly, if I had given myself a little haircut, I employed all the tactics of an extremely powerful presidential figure accused of sexual harassment, and I denied it all with a smile. Despite the crooked, shark-bitten ‘fringe’ that now resided about an inch from where the hair sprouted at the crown of my head, and evidently pointed to the contrary.
Of course, that horrific excuse for a fringe was immediately corrected. Or, so I assume. Curiously, I can’t seem to trace back any photos of myself between the years 2005-2006… So in all likelihood the PR division of the Fringe Conservation Association got hold of all the photographic evidence and subsequently destroyed it, deciding that it was not the kind of promotion they would like to give to the world. Oh, well! At least I went out with a bang!