Throughout history humanity has created some truly excellent hairstyles. In the late 18th century, Marie Antoinette and her contemporaries competed to come up with the most outlandish looks. Embellished, ornamental, powdered, and sumptuous, these creations towered two feet above the face and were lavishly decorated with ribbons, pearls, jewels, flowers, ostrich feathers, and even ships and birdcages.
A century later, the Victorians had ditched the wigs but kept the ornamentation, embellishing their curled, braided updos with pearls, bows, and ribbons.
Inspired by the creativity and excess of hairstyles past, photographer James Emmerman and hair stylist Charlie Le Mindu have collaborated on a series of images “HAIR UP!”, which aims to re-contextualise the updo in a 21st century light. “Charlie and I were both drawn to the opulence,” says Emmerman. “It’s all about details and textures, wigs and accessories, the more elaborate (and taller) the better. It’s very creative in a way that’s not common today.”
Taking a modern, experimental approach to the looks, Emmerman wanted to incorporate contemporary ideas of gender fluidity and diverse representation into the images to explore what these styles might look like if worn today. “Hair exists as a distinct indicator of time. When you take something out of its context and reinterpret it, you can compare where we’ve come from and imagine where we will go as a culture,” he says.
“I’m also always paying attention to hair as a form of gender expression. As we see the gender binary beginning to break down, I found it interesting to reimagine what hair could look like if these updos were in style for the queer and non-binary youth of today.”
For Le Mindu, it was a chance to take inspiration from one of their all time favourite hairstyles, La Fregate. Popular in the court of King Louis XVI, the look saw women accessorise their poufs with miniature models of ships which sat atop the waves of their hair as expressions of patriotism and celebrations of French naval victories. “Since I was very small I was obsessed by how the volume was made and how the boat was held in place by the hair,” Le Mindu says. “It’s beautiful to see how these wigs were made and amazing to see how things have evolved to better techniques.”
Photography James Emmerman @ Born Artists, hair Charlie Le Mindu, make-up Kuma @ Streeters, styling Kristi Kruser, casting Margeaux Elkrief @ By Margeaux, photo assistance John Novotny, talent Finlay @ IMG, Alexis @ New Pandemics, Mecca @ Kev, Vineeta @ Kollektiv