On the Fringe
Fringes [or bangs if you're from the US] can add real interest to a hairstyle, enhance, flatter or tone down distinctive facial shapes and features such as a large nose or receding forhead. They can turn drab into daring, boring into edgy, cumbersome into cutesy and simple into stylish. In short, fringes are fabulous!
While hair pulled off the forehead, all the same length and parted on the side or middle can have a dramatic impact, many of us need the softening effects of a fringe. Plus, same-length hair can become a tad uninspiring. A fringe lets a woman with long hair liven up a style without the drastic step of a major cut; just that small emphasis of hair around the forehead can create a completely fresh look.
Ideas for Fringes
A fringe can also be a good solution to hair which is in that awkward growing out stage, enabling the wearer to inject some style while still growing out the bulk of the hair. Best of all, a fringe is something you can often create yourself, without having to pay a hairdresser. You can do this with or without one of the special "fringe cutter" tools available. They can be fun to experiment with and if it it all goes wrong, fringes usually don't take very long to grow out.
Fringes are also very versatile and there are a wide variety of styles to choose from; it's even possible to buy a clip-on fringe if you can't bear to cut off those long tresses. Check out the style guide below to find some fringe inspiration.
Fringe Cutting Tool
When cutting your own hair, be careful with the scissors and protect your eyes.
The Classic Fringe
Traditionally, a classic fringe is cut more or less straight across, just covering the eyebrows and normally has some weight and bulk to it.
It draws attention to the eyes and is great for obscuring any scars, sunspots, wrinkles or other blemishes on the forehead. It also works well with long, straight hair.
Cutting Tips for a Classic Fringe
- If you cut with wet hair, remember the fringe will shrink after it dries so allow a little extra length
- Start on the outer edge of one corner and cut to the middle, then cut from the middle to the outer edge of the other side [if you're using a tool, you can cut straight across]
- Most importantly, don't start the fringe too far beyond where the eyebrow ends or it may be too bulky and look imbalanced.
- Cutting the hair straight across will create a blunt look, while slightly angling the scissors will make for a softer fringe
The Side-swept Fringe
Side fringes have long been a popular choice and work particularly well with layered hair that has wispy, long tendrils cut into the groove of the neck.
One major reason for the popularity of this style is that it's flattering - a long sweep of hair crossing the forehead not only softens and feminises a face but it also adds an air of mysterious allure, especially if it gently falls over one eye.
This style is perfect for fine, straight hair as it creates body, shape and movement but can also work on wavy or curly hair if you use a straightener.
Do-it-yourself Fringe Cut
The Uneven Fringe
Long uneven fringes are often the favoured choice of emo or scene hair but very short hair can work well with a choppy, uneven fringe as well.
Great for radical, *out there* styles and those who want to get noticed but subtly done, an uneven fringe also suits a more conservative hairstyle and adds interest to what otherwise might be a fairly dull hair style. (see right)
For a striking uneven fringe, the hair starts shorter on one side and then graduates down to long tendrils that blend in to the rest of the hairstyle.
Here is where a fringe cutting tool comes in handy as you can angle the tool to expertly cut the fringe into a variety of lengths.
The Spiky Fringe
The spiky fringes and hair product go hand in hand, as the style really requires some definition and texture to work.
Tips for Cutting a Spiky Fringe
- Comb hair down over your eyes
- Grab a chunk of hair and cut to slightly longer than you want the final fringe. Do this for the full width of the fringe
- Hold the cut chunks upwards and cut vertically with the scissors to thin out the bulk
- Flatten out the fringe and cut a V shape into the ends of individual strands
You can also cut a wispy fringe with texturizing scissors, which thin out the fringe as you run the blades along your hair
The Wispy Fringe
If the heavy-fringed look is not for you (and it doesn't suit everyone, it's true) but you still want some emphasis around your forehead, opt for a wispy style. Wispy fringes pretty much look good on anyone and can really flatter and emphasise the eyes. Plus they have a certain sexy quality.
The wispy style can be worn in a number of ways - side-swept, tousled, jagged or straight across. One classic variation of the wispy fringe is to have a shorter centre fringe graduating to longer tendrils that frame the eyes, as in the photograph below. Very 70s.
Tips for Cutting a Wispy Fringe
- Best to cut wispy hair when it's dry and clean, otherwise you run the risk of cutting the fringe too short
- Take a small amount off at a time, starting with the underneath hairs. This way you can leave some longer tendrils overlaying the shorter bits, which will add support to the fringe
- When you've cut the fringe to the desired length, hold your scissors (preferably very sharp ones) vertically and cut through the ends of the hair lengthways, thinning them out
- How Retro.com: Cleopatra Hair
Think Cleopatra, think vamp. Powerful, passionate, crusher of hearts, destroyer of men - the infamous Queen of the Nile.
The Cleopatra Fringe
Another classic, the Cleopatra fringe is dense and heavy and best worn on dark hair for full, dramatic effect. This style is definitely not for everyone and you have to have the confidence to carry it off but when it works it's a real head-turner.
This particular fringe is also one that requires the rest of the hair to be cut to match, usually into a short or long blunt bob so it has plenty of body and thickness to blend in with the heaviness of the fringe.
The Long Fringe
Arguably one of the most flattering fringe styles and suitable for most face shapes, the long, gently layered fringe, parted on the side or middle, leaves most of the forehead bare.
Sometimes the long fringe is pushed completed to one side creating asymmetrical heaviness - a kind of peekaboo style where the hair obscures one side of the face when the wearer moves their head around.
Long fringes can be worn with long, mid-length or short hair. If worn with the latter, they allow the wearer to opt for an easy to care for short cut while still keeping some feminine softness around the face.
- The curling iron is the fringe fancier's best friend, useful for achieving a variety of styles.
- Al iittle gel, sparingly applied, can help keep a wayward fringe in place
The Short Fringe
Pert and pretty, the short, baby fringe is a distinctive look and it's not for everyone as it can be quite severe and usually requires a good bone structure [and a nice broad forehead] to carry it off.
Short fringes are great for recreating a 1950s look and blend perfectly with a high ponytail or topnotch. They can also look great with a very short bob.
The trick to creating a classic baby fringe is to cut the sides slightly shorter than the centre, creating a subtle dip in the middle. This gives the fringe a fuller, rounded look.
The Curly Fringe
This one is for the curly-haired or it can be created with a curling iron or hair curler (see also Perming a Fringe, at bottom).
Lots of different looks can be achieved with a curly fringe, from wispy , flattering tendrils to a full-blown jumbo roll.(see video below under Retro Fringes)
The beauty of curly hair is that if you make a mistake in the fringe cutting, it's usually a lot less obvious than with a straight fringe.
A curly fringe can look great with an up-do, as putting all the emphasis around the top and forehead highlights an elegant female neckline.
Short bobs with fringes cut straight across or dipping in the centre of the forehead were very popular in the radical 1920s. It was the first time in centuries women opted to chop off their locks in favour of the freedom and modernism of shorter hair.
Fringes were often heavy and dramatic and were the main feature of the overall hairstyle. Many flappers wore black kohl around their eyes which the heavy fringes further emphasised and the whole effect was vampish.
Fringes of the 40s
In the 40s, women's fringes got very elaborate and stylised - rolls were popular, as were bunches of curls and the blunt, straight fringe all but disappeared.
40s hairstyles were time-consuming and women used curlers, pins, hot irons and permanent waves to achieve their fussy fringes.
Another great look from the 40s was the addition of diamante or marcusite hair clips - pin your fringe back into a simple pin curl and add a sparkling clip for glamour.
Over the decades, fringes have gone through some weird and wonderful transfigurations, from elaborate side sweeps to tiny baby fringes and high-rise jumbo rolls. Also popular were small, wispy kiss curls worn high on the forehead and pointed toward the face.
50s actress June Alyson''s fringe at right is a kind of combination baby fringe and roll, swept to the side to clear the forehead and add drama. This one works best with wavy, shorter hair.
It was a popular style of the era and Audrey Hepburn sports a variation of it in the photograph below, this time with a slightly edgier look and less heavily stylised. The baby roll/fringe was a fun style and radiated a kind of brightness and energy.
How to do a Bumper Bang
A wide variety of hairstyles made an appearance during the 60s and although the decade saw the introduction of some revolutionary hair styles, fringes didn't lose popularity.
They were worn with bubble-cuts, beehives, bobs, upward flips and long, straight hair.
While full, rounded fringes were popular choices in the early 60s, by the end of the decade choppier, wispy fringes worn with a full mane of long hair were favoured.
Hair in the late 60s, leading into the 70s, got considerably more natural, wilder and sexier.
This was the hippy era and while not everyone was a flower-child, the hippy movement had a widespread influence over the fashions and hairstyles of the period.
In the early 70s, pageboy cuts, which were worn with a thick, turned-under fringe were in. "Dolly" cuts (layered all over) also came in and these were worn with short, thinned out fringes.
Upward flicks, achieved with a curling iron, were big in the mid to late 70s. The hair was layered and windswept back - the emphasis was on uplifting the face and creating the illusion of hair in motion.
The 70s was also a big era for Skinheads, who wore their hair assertively short with a few long, wispy tendrils and razor cut, super-short fringes.
Big hair was the order of the day in the 1980s and in keeping with the theme fringes tended to be big and bushy. This was the era of the boofy mullet and fringes were integral to 80s styling.
Perms reached new heights of popularity as people with fine straight hair struggled to achieve the necessary bulk and even those with naturally curly or wavy hair sometimes got a poodle perm to enhance height and width.
What will they think of next?
For anyone who has hair all the same length and doesn't want to make the leap to a radical fringe, there are inexpensive clip-on fringes available which can provide a dramatic hairstyle change without the risk. They're also good just for fun and experimenting, to see what type of fringe might suit.
Clip-n fringes might come in handy if your hair is very thin due to illness, patchy at the front or receding.
You can make them as obvious or as subtle as you like - choose a contrast colour or blend one in naturally, although typically, the most natural-looking ones tend to be higher in price. However, you can help make an inexpensive one look more natural by wearing it with a headband to cover any tell-tale joins.
Try a crinkly or curly clip-in for a swank up-do or funk it up by adding a printed vintage scarf.
Perming a Fringe
If your hair is particularly lack lustre, it's possible to perm a fringe to give it body, leaving the rest of the hair chemical free. Perming a fringe (quite a common occurrence in the 80s) can be a risky business, however, believe it or not and despite protestations from the hair nazis, it can work.
This is best done with a gentle acid perm on large perm rods as you don't want to end up with a super-curly fringe and straight or near-straight hair everywhere else. You could wind up looking like a refugee from the 80s - the aim is body and style not frizz and tizz. Here's some caution tips for perming a fringe:
- Don't, whatever you do, leave the solution on for too long. Better if the curl is too relaxed than over-processed
- Be sure not to wind the hair too tightly and if it bunches up in the perming rod, remove it and start again.
- Do make use of the end papers when winding. They're there for a purpose.
- Protect the hair you wont be perming with a cotton wool "headband" strip and lean forward over the sink when applying solution (protecting your eyes in the process) so it doesn't drip toward the back of your head
- Only attempt it if your hair is unbleached and in good condition