A Bit of a (Hairy) Do!

Elizabeth France’s first-ever permanent wave-in the ‘Gina Lollobrigida’ style.

Elizabeth France’s first-ever permanent wave-in the ‘Gina Lollobrigida’ style.

I’M sure many readers of our generation remember going to the hairdresser’s for their first perm, better known in the late 1940s and early 1950s as the ‘permanent wave’. I certainly have vivid memories of my first ‘hair-raising’ experience!

I telephoned a local high-class salon and nervously asked if I could please book to have a permanent wave in the ‘Gina Lollo-brigida’ style. I was working in a well-known high street jeweller’s at the time and purposely arranged my appointment for 1pm on a Thursday afternoon, my half day off. Of course everyone knew film star Gina Lollobrigida, but just in case, and to be on the safe side, I took my Picturegoer magazine with me to show the hairdresser Gina’s style and the style I wanted.

My hair was shampooed, cut and saturated in a mixture of solutions before being squared off into sections and rolled over very painfully into tight metal curlers. These were then connected to wires from a machine which certainly looked like something from outer space! Unfortunately at this stage the hairdresser hit upon a very big problem – the machine didn’t have enough wire for my full head of hair!

This of course meant that the ‘baking’ procedure had to be carried out by instalments, so to speak – three in all! Right side…left side…top and back! The process took so long that I was still sitting in the hairdresser’s chair at 6.45pm. In fact just half an hour earlier, in a state of panic, my mother had telephoned the salon to inquire what time I’d left. Not for one minute had she expected to be told I was still sitting there, and least of all did she expect to learn that I was still wired up!

I arrived home finally at 8pm, tired,
worn out and weary after the ordeal. It had taken almost seven hours of what can only be described as torture to achieve my ‘Gina Lollobrigida’ hairstyle, and what’s more it cost me all of ten shillings – quite a lot of money in those days!

Soon afterwards the permanent wave was replaced by the cold perm, preempting for a short while only the home perms which appeared in the shops. Just as well – because if that hadn’t been the case I’m afraid my ‘Gina Lollobrigida’ hair-do would not only have been my first – but also my last!

Elizabeth France