Just what is it about the French-girl fringe that is so youthful? As my hairdresser Joel Goncalves snips cheerfully away at my hair, bundles of it accumulating in my lap, I can’t help but marvel at how the careful placement of wispy bits, sharp bits and blunt bits can make eyes look a little wider, lips look a little fuller, and freckles pop more… foxily. To clarify, I’m talking about the Margot Robbie British Vogue cover that inspired me to book in for the chop in the first place, and not my own reflection in the mirror.
But while the 31-year-old actor totally rocks the look (created by hairstylist Bryce Scarlett), it’s the spirit of this particular type of fringe that makes it so wearable at any age—including mine. Long summer evenings, barefoot in the park, oversized Celine shades… the French-girl fringe is the antithesis of those power fringes that rule the boardroom, their geometrical perfection creating a businesslike air that allows the wearer to channel their inner Mary Portas. “It’s Françoise Hardy, Brigitte Bardot,” says Goncalves of the Gallic alternative. “Always easy to wear, always iconic, and it’s grown in popularity over time.”
And it’s that sense of freedom—perhaps needed more than ever following lockdown after lockdown—rather than any desire to knock actual years off, that is seeing more of us in our fifties request one. At least if my casual survey of those gracing Goncalves’s chair is anything to go by. “Two yesterday and another later today,” he says.
Dare I say it, with a fringe, you’ll never need Botox in your forehead, which might be why some women are trying it for the first time at a later stage of life. “Not only is this fringe very youthful,” says Goncalves, “but a lot of women who have fringes don’t have Botox in their foreheads.” If you’ve never tried it before, it’s worth revisiting the notion—your face shape may have changed slightly over the years—something a good hairdresser can identify and make the most of. “It’s all about where the hair lands on brows, cheeks, and jaw. A soft fringe shows off the cheekbones, the jawline and expands the eyes,” says Goncalves. “If you cut a bit further back from the eye it can make the eyes look a little wider—it has a very strong impact on bone structure.”
His preference is to aim for the sort of fringe where the center, just above the bridge of the nose, is quite short, and the rest fans out towards the sides and cheekbones. This way, the longer bits also blend into the rest of the hair as it grows out, meaning the fringe lasts longer between trims. “A square fringe will just grow into your eyebrows and attack them, all at once,” he explains.
Color is also critical. “It’s important to think of the fringe as a part of your hairstyle and connect it to the rest of the haircut,” says Nicola Clarke, colorist and founder of the eponymous salon Nicola Clarke at John Frieda (where Goncalves is artistic director), who added a few light pieces in the actual fringe and left a little dark root showing. Elsewhere, it was balayage. “It’s a good way to wear a fringe when you’re older because it keeps it soft and more feminine,” she says.
The other all-important detail is how you dry it. A hairdresser at David Mallet’s chic Parisian salon once taught me a great trick: rough dry the fringe, then blast it with the dryer first to the left, and then to the right, keeping it close to the forehead. If your hairdresser picks up one of those round brushes and starts lifting your fringe away from your forehead, curling it upwards and out, head to the sink and politely ask them to start again. “Do not try and blow dry the fringe under,” says Goncalves. “This is all about using your hands, or a paddle brush. Fringes go wrong when people overdo it.”
Of course, it occurs to me as Goncalves makes his final tweaks, that though a fringe is quite “wash and go,” having regular fringe trims makes the upkeep rather high-maintenance. Fringes grow. Fast. But these days I’m in the salon so often for hair color, I figure I might as well kill two birds with one stone. Clarke points out that a good hairdresser will want to maintain your fringe at no extra cost anyway, because frankly, they’d rather do that than have you go at it with the kitchen scissors. Several hours later, all fears are assuaged by a fringe that I absolutely love. The final verdict? It’s a keeper.
Goncalves suggests using Hair By Sam McKnight’s Lazy Girl Dry Shampoo for those days when your fringe needs a wash, but the rest of your hair doesn’t. “You can always tell when you’ve washed just your fringe,” he says. “Using this product will leave it looking fresh and keep it consistent with the rest of your hair.
Something to define those ends. “Flyaways look sexy in pictures, but they are a nightmare for everyday,” says Goncalves. Try Virtue The One For All 6-In-1 Styler, or Hershesons Almost Everything Cream to smooth and define ends.
Get regular trims, not just for the fringe, but for the lengths of the hair. If COVID taught me anything, it was that not getting your hair cut for months on end makes it look raggedy and tired, not long and glossy. A trim every six weeks gets rid of split ends, preventing the damage from traveling up the hair strand and breaking further up.
Originally Appeared on Vogue