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Can someone tell me why every second influencer has those bleached bits at the front of their hair?

IMAGE VIA DUA LIPA/INSTAGRAM

WORDS BY CAIT EMMA BURKE

And is Dua Lipa really to blame?

There is a hair-related trend I remember from my childhood more clearly than any other trend from any other category. I first took notice of it when I was in primary school, where the popular older girls were easy to pick out because they all wore their hair in the same style; two thin pieces of hair pulled out from their ponytails and slicked into two strands at the front of their faces.

At the time, by young people in New Zealand at least, this trend was crudely labelled ‘slut wings’ or ‘slut strands’. Usually, the strands were lighter than the rest of their hair and were streaked with blonde dye. From what I can remember, the trend lasted for a few years, reaching its peak sometime around the early 2000s, at which point I’m assuming it became unacceptable to refer to a hair trend by such a name. 

Why these strands of hair (and, it seems, a host of other trends that groups of young girls and women adopt) were deserving of this derogatory label warrants a whole other article. What I’m interested in, though, is where this trend came from and why every second Instagram and TikTok influencer now seems to have these two bleached bits.

Who started it and what’s the appeal?

Thankfully, it appears a name like slut strands won’t fly in 2020. According to Google and various hairdressers I’ve consulted, there are a variety of different names for these strands, but money pieces, block panels and high contrast streaks are the ones that came up most frequently.

While this trend might seem very 2020, like most things, it goes back quite a bit further. Just how far back? Try 1935, when the titular character of the film The Bride of Frankenstein sported a voluminous beehive with bleach blonde panels on the sides.

Post-1935, the bleached bits look has consistently been adopted by a selection of notably cool women. “The high contrast streak of pale blonde has been seen on some pretty feisty women over the years – Ginger Spice, Daphne Guinness, Rogue in X-Men ( I actually love this look on Anna Paquin), even Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Mrs Robinson in The Graduate,” Candice Harber, the co-owner of Melbourne’s Human Salon, tells me. 

Candice believes the high contrast streak is often adopted by proud brunettes who want to make it known that they could be blonde if they really wanted to. So perhaps it’s a sassy statement? Well, Gloria Steinem, arguably the most iconic feminist of all time, has always had high contrast highlights around her face, and she’s undoubtedly fond of a sassy statement.

There’s also the low maintenance element of this trend that many people find appealing –  a whole head of bleach requires a whole lotta upkeep, but two streaks, not so much. This was part of the attraction for Australian musician Kira Puru, who recently adopted the high contrast streaks. “I’ve been blonde several times but my hair doesn’t always love going blonde, so this is the best of both worlds,” she says. 

Melbourne hairdresser Madison Finn agrees. “It’s a no-commitment, cheaper option for getting that bleached look without all the fullhead bleach dramas. Everyone wants to jump on this trend… why not, it’s so fun and simple! I definitely have at least one client a week that asks for it or a fashion colour toner to give them that same defined line in their already bleached hair. Having strands brighter, or more colourful in the front emphasises the face and can be softer on the skin,” she tells me.

 

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you can tell that Libra season is approaching cuz I just start acting like this 💅🏼

A post shared by 🧿 𝙆 𝙄 𝙍 𝘼 𝙋 𝙐 𝙍 𝙐 🧿 (@kirapuru) on

Helen Demos, the co-owner of Human Salon, says they have also seen a surge in women eager to try this trend, and, like Madison, she puts it down to the minimal commitment it requires. “We have had a popular time of clients wanting the front area in block panels. Some wanted the very strong striking chunks and others a softer face frame. I think it has been a great way to introduce colour and a bold look without committing to a full head of bleach, it’s low maintenance and still looks good with regrowth,” she says. 

The current iteration of the trend is clearly a little more modern than Frankenstein’s bride and seems to be rooted in our ongoing obsession with all things ’90s and early 2000s. “It has definitely been taken from the nineties and given a modern twist. A lot of supermodels back then had lightened bits through the front, and everyone loved having the two long front strands out of your ponytail,” Madison tells me.

Why is it so big right now and where to from here?

When it comes to the recent explosion of this trend, particularly amongst influencers, there is one person every hairdresser I spoke to brought up: Dua Lipa. Edwards and Co‘s founder, director and colourist, Jaye Edwards, refers to the trend as “the Dua Lipa inspired E-girl highlighting technique”, while Candice believes the pop star is responsible for making this look “popular again for the younger pop princess enthusiasts.”

Dua started sporting the two bleached strands at the start of the promotion cycle for her latest album Future Nostalgia earlier this year, an album that’s heavy on ’70s, ’80s and ’90s references, and her aesthetic has followed suit. With almost 60 million followers, her ’90s meets ’80s look has reverberated around the globe and has singlehandedly sparked a full-scale resurgence of the two bleached bits, the low fuss nature of the trend encouraging many of us to give it a crack. “The internet is always pushing things to the next level because so many people can add their own interpretation on what they think each trend is so easily,” Madison tells me.

Once influencers and regular people alike began adopting the trend and taking it to TikTok, the two bleached bits were cemented as the most inescapable hair trend of 2020. In the same way TikTok can propel songs to the top of the charts – even songs from years ago that barely made an impact when first released – the video-sharing platform is a breeding ground for trends, with Kira admitting it’s the reason she adopted the look for herself. “Yeah, look I have been on TikTok too much and just got on the home-job bandwagon,” she says matter-of-factly. 

 

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Softened out @phoebes_angels bleach on scalp with foils and added these colour bands 😍🦦🦦

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“The home-job bandwagon” is another key component of this trend’s popularity – being bored at home during the pandemic has practically become synonymous with hair DIY. This is something Kira feels strongly about, telling me “2020 is very depressing, especially Melbourne and I just feel like I’m after any small thrill at the moment, so if its chemicals burning my scalp to have a slightly different hairstyle, I’ll do it!” 

But if we’ve seemingly reached peak blonde bleached bits, then where to next? “I think the essence of the look is still on trend but moving into new areas. We are seeing more of the whole top layer being lightened (again Dua Lipa) sometimes just the regrowth as seen on Billie Eilish and now introducing panels underneath depending on the shape of the haircut,” Helen tells me.

Likewise, Madison also thinks that people are only going to get more experimental with their hair in the coming months. “I can see it already shifting a touch with people getting more daring, doing two and three chunky bleach stripes throughout their part… I’m all for this – easy, impactful colour is number one on my list and is always a head turner!” It looks like the joint forces of isolation, TikTok and Dua have me convinced – I’m adding some bleach to my virtual shopping cart.

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