Michelle Obama stole my bangs.
Well, technically speaking, she and I were both influenced by thousands of years of hairstyles and happened to pick the same one to debut within 24 hours of each other.
Fun historical fact: Bangs have been around for as long as the Egyptian pyramids. Cleopatra was the first iconic figure of fringe, sporting blunt bangs with her dark auburn hair (yes, she was a ginger!!) while she reigned over the Egyptian peoples. The trend traveled along the trade routes, spreading to Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire.
Later, in medieval times, men and women in Eastern Europe put their own spin on the trend, cutting the bangs exactly one inch above their eyebrows to make what would later, incorrectly be called “French school-girl bangs” (yet another example of the French trying to take credit for all the cool things).
In the 1600s bangs got a saucy reputation, becoming associated with a slide into sin when cut and curled on the foreheads of women.
This calmed down by the conservative Victorian times, when almost every single woman wore the signature hairstyle parted in the middle and combed to either side of the forehead. While this is a unique way of rocking some fringe, there is a reason that particular bang trend didn’t make it out of Kate Chopin’s prime- it makes you look like a conehead.
Thankfully, Alexandria, Princess of Wales, gave all her frizzy haired friends the chance to finally look hip with the introduction of her wiry bangs: short, chopped unevenly and curled and combed until they were practically vertical.
As with all curly hair trends, it didn’t last long, and by the 1920s, flappers were rep’ing Cleopatra with their blunt, straight bangs that hit just above their false eyelashes (Thanks, Maybelline!).
This trend weaved in and out of the rest of the decade, only briefly disappearing in the 1980s, an unfortunate decade of teased bangs a la Alexandria that turned the prettiest hair into a dried out, caked in mess.
Then, enter “The Rachel.” Friends, the most popular TV show of the early nineties, showed women what side bangs and layers were- those face-framing strands that show that you have a forehead and aren’t afraid to show three quarters of it.
When the show ended, the world had been taught the valuable lesson: there is a bang for everyone. Side, blunt, chopped, cropped- every girl could and should wear bangs once in her life.
This was most likely Michelle Obama’s thought process when she chose to debut her bangin’ bangs a few days before the inauguration of the one and only President Obama. Online magazines and blogs were abuzz with the First Lady’s fringe, speculating that it might be a youthful nod to her recent 49th birthday.
I was looking for the opposite effect, hoping that the bangs I sported as a kindergartener were not the same ones I would sport coming out of the salon. Due to the expertise of my stylist and advancements in hair cutting technology, I was confident that that I wouldn’t end up looking like five year old getting ready for her pre-school photo this time around.
Now that both Michelle and I have settled into our styles, I can see that I was right; bangs are awesome, and they are great if you haven’t plucked your eyebrows in a while, have a zit on your forehead, or have a premature wrinkle on your forehead that won’t go away no matter how much anti-wrinkle cream you use.
College is a time for experimentation, of sexuality, of food, of friends, and most importantly, of hair. The next time you are standing in front of the mirror wondering if you should add some streaks or buzz it off, consider bangs. If they’re good enough for Michelle Obama, they’re surely good enough for you.