Written by Emma Turnbull


Coil of the wild

Fed up with a series of bad chops, curly-topped Emma Turnbull took to cutting her own. Three years on and it’s going very well, though she does keep the hats on standby.

Emma overlooking waterThe recent opening of Matthew James’ Spring salon in Birmingham – the first salon purely for the curly-haired – is surely cause for wild rejoicing. And if I lived nearer I would certainly give it a shot. I like to think you might get a Curly-Wurly on arrival and perhaps one of those twisty marshmallow flumps when you leave.

For years now, for me, all hairdressers seem to have had an invisible sign over the door saying, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” So three years ago, after an endless series of horror chops, that’s exactly what I did. I abandoned the whole salon experience in favour of taking up the scissors myself and having a stab at cutting my own hair (happily, no actual stabbing took place).

Emma wearing a headbandIt started when a very beautiful woman with gorgeous curly hair told me she did it herself. I was flabbergasted and presumed she was some sort of rocket scientist but she assured me it wasn’t as hard as I thought.

She was right. My first faltering attempt looked like I had been nibbled at by timid dormice but I quickly graduated to looks more akin to a savaging by hungry dolphins.

I soon realised that the problem hadn’t been the many, many talented hairdressers I had visited, the problem had been that I had felt intimidated by the shiny world of beauty and splendour and so hadn’t explained to them what I wanted properly.

Well that was sometimes the problem. Sometimes it wasn’t just me. Take the chic boutique in Camden where I was made to comb my own hair and the Newcastle diva who told me, “Darling I can’t do anything with this. I don’t know how the follicle BEHAVES.”

Mostly I would emerge from salons looking like an astonished but very neat poodle. Now that I cut my own hair, the look is more ‘poodle gone wild in field full of brambles’ but, actually, that’s what I want.

I like to think that if I said to the hairdressers at Spring, “Make me look utterly chaotic, bouncy and cheerful. Do not try to tame or smooth,” they would help me out and I’d leave without the usual hasty purchase of yet another headscarf.

The secret to cutting your own curly hair is simply a fact that all twisted sisters know: “If you cut us do we not spring back far more than you would have anticipated?” So less is more with a curly chop.

Emma walking awayDH Lawrence once wrote about “Hair like a living rug” and that’s about as much as I achieve when I cut at home but that’s OK. I am spared the trauma of the salon and if it looks insane it’s my own fault. For glamour and sleekness a salon would be a better bet but for confusing, wilderness hair then a random chop when things are getting Busbyesque is, for me, just the ticket.

The process is very simple: wait until hair starts to become obstructive to others in the cinema. Go home and find scissors. Do not attempt to cut very straight across the ends (to avoid ‘hair caught in a bacon-slicer’ look). Do not attempt symmetrical formations (to avoid an incremental ‘shorter and shorter’ scenario). Do enjoy self with haphazard, creative snipping and sing-songs, and stop regularly to ensure I haven’t gone too crackers on one side.

So far, three years in, I’m very happy with the setup (though I’d be lying if I said I ever looked very smart).

On the rare occasion I need to look professional I don’t go to the hairdresser but instead take the opportunity to break out THE HATS, mostly accrued to see me through seasons and seasons of ‘growing out’ various ‘beans on toast’ looks.

If only I’d had Matthew James, eh? Spring will fill many battle-scarred curly heads with fresh hope. God bless that salvation salon and all those who are snipped therein.

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Written by Emma Turnbull

Emma lives in Scotland but her heart is in Newcastle. She is rubbish at cooking and maths but excellent at losing keys and waving back at people who are actually waving at someone else.