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Looking For Big (Hair, That Is)

90s supes, side swoops and the skinny on the hair from the "Freedom 90" video.

Photos courtesy of Pepsi Co/Jane HouleLeft: Cindy Crawford in the famous 1991 Pepsi commercial; Right: Sabrina preps Sara for some modern 90s volume.
Big 90s Hair

An awesome editorial hair stylist I’ve worked with, James Pecis, has a signature bumper sticker he uses to tag his hair kits, backstage at fashion shows, and, oh you know, Williamsburg, Brooklyn neighborhoods. It reads: “The higher the hair, the closer to Jesus,” and Miss Dolly couldn’t be more on point.

Credit our unabating obsession with all things 90s, but big hair is everywhere. Haloed by flyaways and a signature side swoop, there’s a certain “freedom” to the new big that makes it modern. As if sexy Cindy forgot about her steamy bath for a few days and added a bit of hair powder to her roller set. She’s Pepsi commercial Cindy’s slightly dirtier lil' sis. As hair stylist Guido Palau, the man behind all that good root lift of the “Freedom 90” video puts it: “The combination of grunge and 90s supermodel gives hair a modern direction.” Who's gonna argue with the man who handed Cindy her towel?

More importantly, how can we mere mortals get this modern take on 90s volume? Here’s the lowdown with some Freedom video tidbits thrown in, because aligning oneself with supermodels is always smart.

Mousse was a key product used on the Freedom set, albeit in different ways. Guido says: “It was all about bringing out their own personality. The girls all had such strong personalities and looked so different from each other. Cindy was a sexy wet style, Christy was glamorous and womanly, while Naomi was a natural beauty as she always is. Tatjana was more mysterious and romantic. They cultivated their own style.” 

He applied mousse to Tatjana Patitz and Linda Evangelista’s ‘dos from roots to ends. On Linda he used a small round brush to give her short boy crop subtle root lift, and on Tatjana he blow-dried and then went in with a 3/4 inch curling iron and pinned each curl to set it. He then applied a bit of hair oil to give the curl some moisture. His mousse of choice these days is Redken Guts 10 Volume Spray Foam and he’s a fan of Redken All Soft Argan-6 Oil.

I wanted it for myself, so my fine-haired friend Sara and I enlisted the help of the Director of Styling Education for Bumble and Bumble, Sabrina Michals, made like SJP, and set out looking for big.

Sara and I have very different textures. My hair strands are numerous and each individual strand is super thick, while Sara’s hair is fine with medium density; each of her strands is thinner than a sheet of paper. To achieve that awesome fluffiness, silicone stylers are banned for both of us because they smooth down the cuticle and take away the awesome dry texture.

But there’s more to this look than avoiding silicones. According to Eric Spengler, Chief Commercialization Officer/SVP R&D at Living Proof Haircare, “The most common way to add friction to hair is to rough up the cuticle. This gives hair the feeling of added texture and volume by creating more space between fibers.” However, since these methods can lead to breakage and even thinner hair, conditioning is essential. Lots of fine-haired ladies skip conditioner for fear of limpness—but don’t. A good product to try is Living Proof Full Conditioner, an oil- and silicone-free conditioner that won’t weigh down fine hair.

Photos: Jane HouleSara before and after. Scroll down to find out how it was done.
Saras Hair Profile

Sara’s Hair Profile
In fact, Living Proof Full Conditioner is one of the products on Sara’s constantly updated product list. Past faves include Terax Crema, but she is currently obsessed with Oribe Masque for Beautiful Color; she’s used it for about a year and has seen significant improvement. A coconut oil regimen last summer also yielded ultra hydrating results. A raw foodist and Tracy Anderson devotee (she sweats alongside GP from time to time), Sara is not only as blonde but as healthy as Gwynnie, which is also important for hair health. New Chapter multivitamin, Omega and collagen supplements round out our golden girl’s routine.

She uses no stylers regularly but if she air dries her hair she will occasionally add a salt spray to achieve some texture. She also uses heat in moderation, air-drying 50 percent of the time. A great root-lifting tip from Sabrina that Sara could add to her arsenal is to apply conditioner from roots to ends, and then layer shampoo just at the roots in a backwards shower routine, to give the roots some hydration without coating the hair.

James (he of the Dolly bumper sticker and multiple Paris Vogue covers) also has a great trick for root volume. He loves to use dry shampoo, working it through the roots and massaging it in, but with a major focus on the roots. Now I’ll just say roots because I’ve used it so much in this paragraph. How good is the Jimmy Fallon/Carly Rae/Roots cover, by the way? OK, back to hair.

An overachiever in all areas of life, including hair maintenance, Sara’s got a great layered cut shaped with scissors and a moderate amount of razoring. (Thanks Coby at Marie Robinson salon.) Leaving the bottommost layer a bit blunt gives the appearance of more hair.

Supermodel Sara
Thanks to Sara’s careful approach to her hair, Sabrina had a great base to work with, but it took some styling wizardry to take Sara from Great Expectations Gwyneth to Guess Girl Claudia. Sabrina applied Bumble and Bumble Bb Thickening Full Form Mousse from roots to ends, and then rough-blow-dried the hair. She dried the roots with tension in her fingers, which is key. She then sectioned the hair and set it with electric rollers for 20 minutes. Hair was released and backcombed at the crown and voila.  Bumble and Bumble Bb Thickening Dryspun Finish was used on the roots to refresh the style.

For the curling iron averse, James has a trick to achieve subtler cool-girl body. Spray wet hair with a thickening agent of choice, either mousse or thickening spray (James loves TIGI Bed Head Superstar Queen for a Day) and comb through. Loosely twist hair away from face and pin. Be sure to keep it loose and rough. Then sleep on it and shake out in the am.  

Photos: BMI Music/Jane HouleLeft: Tatjana Patitz in "Freedom 90;" Right: My modern version.
My Version of Big

My Version of Big
I have keratin-treated hair, so my roots can go pretty flat. I use a technique similar to the one Guido used to create Tatjana’s epic curly bob in the Freedom video. Like James, I love a slept-on style, so I curl my straightened hair using a one-inch curling iron, making sure the curls are going away from my face, and then I sleep on it. In the morning, I apply Dryspun Finish to the roots and massage it in to create subtle root volume. James does this a lot backstage and I adopted it. I also constantly change my part, swooping my hair from left to right.     

So there you have it—all you need to start your own raging love affair with big! And just for fun, Sara with her new Cindy hair also channeling Linda in the iconic black sweater:

Photos: BMI Music/Jane Houle
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