This post on The Clothes Horse inspired me to write the post I've been considering for a long time. She spoke about how people would act differently towards girls dressed in a more feminine style, like skirts and pink, than towards smarter, power dressing with hair tied back. Also this amazing post from Daddy Likey a while ago made me question my own insecurities and this post from Forever Amber has been really significant to me. While I don't expect self questioning rambles on my hair to be of as much interest as cute rompers or dip-dying, I thought I'd explain why I've taken to straightening my hair, especially as I was so lyrical and proud about it always being curly before. This isn't a compliment requesting or self pitying exercise, I just want to be totally honest. Sometimes I feel like I parade around this blog with self belief that is faltering. My mom says I bottle everything up, so now it's time to open up.
I was always skinny with bushy, frizzy ginger hair and glasses but during primary school it never bothered me because I was never teased. I was confident and clever and no one ever mentioned it so it was never an issue. When I was eleven I went to an all girls school and by then had even bigger glasses, the frizzy waves tied back in a middle parted pony tail, and over time the teen drama of spots and no curves and fancying the paper boy. But I was never bothered. Maybe if I'd gone to a mixed comp things would have been different as my younger ginger brother is crucified.
I started creating weird hairstyles and experimenting with makeup tips from Bliss mag. One day I started twisting my hair after I washed it and suddenly started raking in the compliments. People stopped me in the streets to touch and rave about my new long curls that I spent an hour over every night. In my last year of secondary school I made a new group of friends who were crazy and cool and we ran wild around town, the highlight of the month being a rock/emo teen club where we made a name for ourselves. I didn't have to fit in with the straight blonde, tanned girls because liking alternative music meant you could look how you wanted and wear what you wanted. Check out the video from 2005, we're at 3.02. I'm showing off the tshirts that we made saying 'pink ribbon crew' across, I still wear my ribbon today, how could I cut if off!? (Don't ask about the bunny ears though...!)
I wasn't until I started college that I started to doubt myself. Rather than stay on for sixth form in the stuffy girls school that was obsessed with super high grades, I 'lowered' myself and went to the local college and had the best time ever! Everyone said I would drop out and end up working on a checkout. And finally I was around boys for once and could wear whatever I wanted!
I started embracing fashion and my friend Dave and I became the first people in college to wear drainpipes, aka skinny jeans, months in advance of the soon to follow masses. This was when I started getting negative comments. Well, it's not necessarily negative when someone shouts 'ginger' at you because I know that I have ginger hair already. It's a fact. It's like someone insulting you and you can't shrug it off or tell yourself different because it's true. There was something wrong with having red hair all of a sudden. I got on a busy bus and some younger girls from my old secondary school were sitting at the back. They recognised me and started talking about me for the whole upstairs to hear. One girl told a joke about a baby dying but the doctor said it was OK because it was ginger. These were prim and proper, grammar school educated girls and are probably applying to University right now. I sat there and took it while the whole bus heard, knowing I was who they were talking about. Fast forward through months of calls from cars and comments at college. Maybe I'd reached the age where abuse was ok. I once bumped into a girl accidentally and she said 'move ginger freak.' From one side I was getting compliments from strangers in the street and hairdressers running out of salons, from the other there was heckling from strangers and mocking in complete public. If this was you, which side would affect you most?
I started telling myself that people have different opinions, and while I may be hideous enough for someone to bother telling me, not everyone thinks like that. I made friends with an outrageous, afro-ed girl who used to shop in charity shops for prom dresses and discovered the amazing world of vintage out there. I made friends with Melissa in college and her confidence and spunk boosted mine. But Indie came into fashion and soon everyone was wearing tight trousers and kids H&M and vintage.
I turned to real fashion. Why follow a trend when you could start the trend or hit it straight away. I got a fake ID and started going to cool clubs where everyone wore prom dresses and glitter makeup. I raved it up all summer. I discovered original magazines and blogs and in the second year of college I turned down a totally different road. If I look different anyway, what's stopping me look even more different? School girl pinafores with stockings, gold lamé dresses, leopard fur coats- the more 'out there' the better.
Once I was wearing my favourite black PVC look leggings from Mango and as I was walking to Media Studies I heard a group of students behind me talking about them. I was just wearing them with my black smock coat but they started throwing around bondage comments and someone said 'she can't have sex, she's ginger, eurgh!' Then they came up to me and one boy said ''scuse me, what material are your tights?!' while being pushed by the rest of them laughing their heads off. I smiled as though I'd never heard their conversation and said 'I follow runway fashion, they're Christopher Kane inspired.' He looked at me like I was crazy and I saw it had made no change so I said 'I modelled them for a designer and he gave them to me.' I felt quite happy about my split second justification of why I was wearing what I wanted to wear while minding my own business, when he stepped back to his friends and said 'She got them for free!' and they all said 'Eeeeuuurghh, gross!' and carried on like before. There is only one kind of feeling when you're in you own world by yourself and you realise someone is saying horrible things about you with the intention of you hearing them. Your stomach falls and the blood rushes to your cheeks. You want to run away but you don't want to act like you've heard and let them know they're affecting you so you act as natural as you can while you're dying inside.
I took the taunts and pushed them away. People were still saying they loved my hair and I found a new sense of purpose through fashion- I knew my outfits were what everyone would wear in a few months, no matter how weird I looked. Then I started this blog. It was originally a LiveJournal where I documented my fashion wants and needs but after I found blogs like Style Bubble I knew it was the way to go. I emailed Susie and she advised me to get a real blogging platform so I started Flying Saucer on TypePad. People started reading and half the comments were about my hair. Half my brain is telling me that I must be officially unattractive, below society, while the other half was giving me lovely compliments. But each compliment is worth ten negative comments. I can remember the horrible experiences so much better than the surprise street adoration. Every day I looked in the mirror and thought why me? Birmingham is so multicultural, a million people of different ethnicities and religions and cultures. Why do people feel the need to shout at me? Am I that repulsive that people have to remind me of it when I'm just walking down the street?
As ID for clubs got stricter I couldn't go anymore as my birthday in August is always the last. My friends had boyfriends and I started wondering why don't I? I have high confidence but low self esteem. I realised that boys liked nice, normal looking girls, not a mass of ginger curls and quirky clothes. But I didn't care, I was happy to delve into the new fashion world where people look like they do on Face Hunter and would never shout at me. I look at other ginger people and think they're stunning. Surely there are people who love red hair like I do? Why do people have a problem? Can they see what I can't see? Boys still didn't really like me and street compliments started dwindling. I knew my outfits would look sleek and sexy if I didn't have loads of frizzy, ginger clashing hair. But it was like a comfort blanket. I didn't change my hairstyle or get a hair cut for years because I held onto the nice comments. I used to bring it all infront of my shoulders like a barrier. Still every night I washed it and twisted it. It may look ok for the photos on here, but after an hour it's messy.
Fast forward through a Summer of stressed A-Level exams and I was suddenly going to University. I put in hours and hours in the library with Melissa and I'd actually achieved it, even at the college that people from my stuffy girls school down the road said was rubbish. By now I had accepted that a boy wouldn't pick me over any other girl with smooth, bouncy hair, not my frizz that deteriorates throughout the day. I was very self conscious before arriving here. I didn't know anyone and had to make the right first impression. I assumed people would take one look at my off the norm outfits and deem me a little strange. But I also assumed that because my course had a textile marketing part I would be around girls who liked fashion how I did. But the girls are just like normal girls. I still wore the dresses I loved and washed my hair every night but inside I knew I was a level lower than everyone else. Living with 500 clever, lithe girls and 500 searching boys does not help. I made some amazing friends and we went out all the time last term but it's only the gay guys that think we 'should be friends' and the girls that say 'we always admire your hair in the dining hall!' that approach me.
I don't really get street compliments anymore. I don't know whether it's because I rarely leave the student campus, which stretches over 3 areas and half of town, or maybe because I'm older. People kept asking me if I'd ever straightened my hair. Everyone has straight hair now and they say wistfully, 'It's actually really curly but I straighten it.' When did people stop liking curly hair? And still the boys ignored me. It always tends to be men who leer at me rather than the guys my age. I decided to straighten my hair at the hairdressers for a change and liked it. The hairdresser urged me to buy some straighteners rather than the hairdressers of the past that ran out of the shop to ask me to model. We all went out and I found that guys were looking at me as well as my friends. I finally felt equal to everyone. I still had the hair that I loved but I didn't need to worry about it going frizzy after an hour and shoving a hundred products in it. I could have hairstyles and change my parting and not need to wash it every single night. I could wear edgy outfits that didn't clash with the girly, rag doll curls. In the end I had to wash it and went back to feeling ignored. I've always been blind to what people see. It's just hair? When I went home for Christmas I had a trim and got it straightened again. I got ready to go out and relished in the fact that I didn't look exactly the same as I did for the past 8 years. I didn't need to worry that all my friends would go off if a group of guys approached and I'd have to stand in the sidelines. I didn't put a whole can of hairspray in it so it wouldn't turn into a frizz bomb. I took immense pride in having ginger hair that I could make shiny and sleek without frizz all the way down my back. I could create an outfit from scratch rather than considering that I had so much curly red stuff as a base.
I don't know where I'm going now. I like having straight hair for no fuss and I feel I can be more original in what I wear without it holding me back. I've received almost nothing but good comments while having straight hair but I still got on the bus and some boys started telling ginger jokes and talking about me even when I was with my twelve year old brother who was uncomfortable and confused about it. I just looked at them and said 'Don't talk to me like that, you don't even know me' and they shut up. I feel like I've had a boost of esteem and don't feel below everyone else now. I could just be a change after so many years that's fresh and something new to work with, but for now alternating with curly for girly days and straight for frizz free and no fuss is the best I've felt in a long time.