WHETHER a messy bun or an elegant chignon, nothing signals efficiency like an updo.
Being told to let your hair down is sort of like being told to put your hands up in the air: The idea is you don’t care, but then again you’re following orders.
The political theorist Herbert Marcuse would call this repressive desublimation; last season, on the runway, we called it “meh” hair.
The object of the look was to signal naturalness and ease, a symbolic deconditioning or blank slate, but it came out more like “brainwashed”. With their uniform centre parts, the straight-haired women of the runway looked to me like lost girls in search of a mantra.
I wanted to give them all hair ties and shepherd them to safety, lest they fall into a wormhole and land square in the lap of Father Yod.
A relief, then, to see that for a/w 2015, updos are back in their full range and versatility: finally, women who look like they have something to do besides sulk around the commune all day.
While updos usually connote high maintenance — glossy wedding side-buns, teased-up beehives, prom hairdos, soft nests of hair stitched together by braids — in everyday life they’re practical and forgiving.
Dirty hair is not only allowed but preferred, lending malleability and doing the work of hair spray. A degree of complication is required, but not much: A ponytail doesn’t count, but a ponytail with a strand of hair wrapped around the elastic does (as does one with an off-centre part teased into irregular, sculptural mounds, like Miu Miu’s).
It takes very little practice and dexterity to twist braids into a high bun, or to tie a chignon without a mirror. High or low, tight or loose, pinned-up hair is as much about being able to see as it is about being seen.
If letting one’s hair down is a striptease in miniature — the cliché of the fusty, prim woman who transforms into a chill babe when she pulls out her hairpin is familiar even to children — this is a male fantasy in reverse.
It suggests confidence, focus and a task at hand. Like a rolled-up sleeve, it says, “I’m busy.”
Perhaps this is why the low-key styles of fall seem like the perfect foil to the impressionability of hippie hair: You don’t have to abandon your will just to prove you’re not uptight.
Elegant but functional and slightly undone, like ballet buns after rehearsal, they know how to get out of the way.
Altuzarra’s high lace-and-ruffle necklines could fan out without distraction as hair was kept swept back and woven into a rectangular mass pinned at the nape, and ponytails at Miu Miu cleared space for big printed collars buttoned up to the throat.
Semi-greasy buns with loose strands pinwheeling outward at Isabel Marant and Giorgio Armani offered the pleasure of recognition — this is the knot I know and wear — but Balenciaga mastered the look’s symbolism.
Pulled slick against the scalp, sculpted into a bun and cemented at the crown like a helmet, this hair was not going anywhere. Nor was the mind underneath it.