Hairstyles, Hair Care & Fashion

Bubble Perm

Q: Was the Kevin Keegan/Martin Shaw style Bubble Perm fashionable for footballers from 1977 to 1982?
A: The Bubble Perm is an iconic hairstyle that has been both vilified and celebrated over the decades since it became popular. The secret to the “birth” of the bubble perm is two-fold:
It was a means by which ethnically-challenged Caucasians could get the “power style” of the Afro. Since Caucasian hair tends to be straighter and finer in texture than African-American hair. The Afro became a popular hairstyle in the 1970s (because of the black empowerment movement to some extent) but mostly as a cyclical backlash against the trend of relaxing and processing the natural texture of African-American hair.
Many individuals began letting their natural hair grow, and the ideal of accepting and celebrating the diversity of their hair made for a powerful statement. Many people liked the image presented by such notable afro-wearers as super-cool Jimi Hendrix and super-bad Richard Roundtree, not to mention the ever-popular Jackson 5, and a hairstyle was born.
The bubble perm was also a matter of practicality and convenience. Styling your hair became easier, for many men especially, the bubble perm made their hair “wash and go”. They could get up in the morning, shower, add a little product to their damp hair and either fluff it with their fingers or a pick and be done with it. There was also for some men, the added benefit that the tight curls added volume to hair that was thinning as they grew older. The bubble perm could disguise receding hairlines and bald spots better than most other styles and was less obvious about it.
As to whether the bubble perm style was specifically fashionable for “footballers” I think the evidence speaks for itself. Take a tour through your back issues of sports magazines and look at the hairstyles being worn back in that period. Not only were Kevin Keegan and Martin Shaw (and Paul Breitner) sporting bubble-styles, but so were other athletes in other sports. John McEnroe (whose curls were natural) as well as Bruce Jenner and others all sported a bubble perm at one point in the past. Other celebrities who sported “bubble perm” styles included Robert Reed and Barry Williams in latter seasons of “The Brady Bunch”, and countless television newscasters of the era on local and semi-national channels.
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Perms and perming
Do men still perm their hair?
Can a man perm his hair and if so how long should it be?