Farrah Fawcett: The Hair That Launched a Thousand Feathers

What Women Really Think
June 25 2009 1:45 PM

Farrah Fawcett: The Hair That Launched a Thousand Feathers

For a boy growing up in the 1970s and '80s, Farrah Fawcett was a dreamgirl; but for a girl growing up then, she was a nightmare. Everyone knew that she was the quintessential Charlie’s angel. She was the prototype. Jaclyn Smith was the brunette. Kate Jackson was the "brainy" one. But Farrah, she was perfect-pretty, blonde, and with a gorgeous body, posterized in a bathing suit and adorning every teenage boy’s bedroom wall. I remember the first time I saw that poster at Spencer Gifts and was shocked on two accounts: that the poster was so overtly sexual, and that a human could actually have a body that looked like that. When Farrah left the show, the producers tried to replace her with a series of other, lesser blondes: Cheryl Ladd, Shelley Hack, but no one compared to Farrah. She even had an unusual and angelic name.

And her hair. "The Farrah" was to the '70s and '80s what "the Rachel" would be to the '90s. Farrah’s long, blond, feathered hair was an unkempt shag-I remember adults complaining that she ought to comb her hair-yet it followed very specific rules of layering and it got a nation of girls hooked on feathering, a trend in hair that would go on for years and years and years and years. In my junior high school and high school, one was judged on how well one’s hair could "feather." Feathered bangs, feathered layers, feathers, feathers, feathers, and wings. Farrah was the one to live up, to measure yourself against.

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I had curly hair. Feathering was an impossibility. Maybe this was just as well. Farrah got older, her flower faded, she kept the hairdo, she kept acting in more and more obscure roles, was replaced by an endless parade of young beauties.

As one colleague said, "What does it mean to have your whole life amount to a hairstyle? Bums me out."

Fortunately, my hair has never cooperated enough for me to find out.

Ellen Tarlin is a former Slate copy chief and writer of the "Clean Plate" blog. Her essays have appeared in the Boston Globe, the Boston PhoenixBrooklyn Bridge, Bark, and  the RISK storytelling podcast. Follow her on Twitter.

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