Yeah, you wait three years for a book review and then two come along at once – ain’t that always the way?
Ok, so none of you were waiting for a book review in the first place, but you do get two at once – and both are on vintage hairstyle books, at that. While the first one, however, was very much not for the beginner as it was about elaborate formal ‘dos, this one is at the other end of the scale – entry level, if you will. If I had to label myself, I’d be hovering somewhere between absolute novice and intermediate… I can do a victory roll – after several attempts and a lot of swearing. A lot of what I do with my hair, though, is fluke and requires c.50 bobby pins/kirby grips to stay in place, so I was keen to go back to basics and learn better ways to do things and hopefully pick up some new techniques too, and that’s certainly where this new book came in handy.
I’d definitely say it’s pitched at the beginner – along with all the hairstyles, there’s also historical context explaining the fashions, hats etc of different eras. That was nothing I didn’t already know, but I could forgive the book that because I can accept it’s not really aimed at me and no one’s making me read it, right?! What I really like about it is that nothing in this book is all that technical as it uses quite basic skills and tools most people have. However, if, like me, you’re hopeless at getting curls with straighteners, you’re going to find it annoying how many times it advises you do that! (Seriously, has anyone managed to master the art of turning the straighteners 360 degrees without losing a finger?) Generally, though, when instructions for a hair style fit on 1-2 pages with c.4 steps on each page, you know it’s not going to be too difficult to do and I’m personally more inclined to give it a go.
I did find there was surprising extra info in this book, though – for example, the section on makeup. It goes into detail about brow shapes, lip shapes, what colour nail polishes each era liked… Again, I knew all this stuff and I couldn’t figure out what it was doing in a book about hair, but probably a nice touch for those new to vintage style. There’s also a section about making things for your hair e.g. hair flowers, pillbox hat, little fascinator, which I thought was more in-keeping and a nice idea. I did feel a bit misled by the ‘modern twist’ promise of the title though. Apart from one particular style I’m about to mention, most of the looks in this book are quite classic, as far as I’m concerned, finger waves, gibson roll, chignons etc. Perhaps the modern twist is more referencing the modern methods taken to achieve them… Actually, lightbulb moment, of course it is! But anyway, I was hoping for a bit more diversity than I got. Perhaps I’m being greedy and I might also want something no one else does!
Mostly, though, this book is ideal for learning or brushing up on the basics and while in some cases for me, I’ve got a way of e.g. doing a beehive that I prefer (as less backcombing), it did help me nail something I’ve been struggling to get right… the hair bow (now that’s what I’m talking about for a retro hairstyle with a modern twist)!
Using the book’s guide to the bow, I finally managed to get one that almost looked neat (not as neat as the one on the cover, but that wasn’t gonna happen – still too much of a novice for that). Several YouTube videos hadn’t got me there, so for that alone, I’m really glad to have this book on my shelf! Along with the hair bow, it also gave a handy tip that helped with side rolls too, so I feel like I’ve got a new perspective on both that make them simpler and less frustrating. Big thumbs up for that. You can teach this old dog new tricks.
Er, I didn’t wear this dress for the old dog comparison. Anyway, the proof is in the pudding – there’s both the bow and a side roll on my head here and both look good (you’ll have to take my word for it on the roll). Overall verdict: a great book for those that are new to vintage style and might just teach the veterans among us a few new tricks as well. It’s also a great price for one of these kind of coffee table books, coming in at just over £10 for a hardback.
In the interests of full disclosure, my copy was provided by the publisher, although that hasn’t changed my opinions here.