All quarantine, I’ve been playing a fun game called, “Do I Want Bangs, or Is Nicole Kidman Gaslighting Me?” The swoopy, straight-from-the-roller disco 1970s curtain fringe is certainly having a moment on screens (see: The Flight Attendant).
Microbangs that leave half the forehead exposed work to evoke a certain period (Beth Harmon in The Queen’s Gambit) or attitude (every girl on my Instagram feed who pulls off the tough style, despite it all—I see you and respect you).
But what about classic, straight-across bangs? Chalk it up to the fact that I came of age at the height of Anne Hathaway’s career: I have always been a sucker for the piecey, eyebrow-grazing variety of fringe. On the day Joe Biden officially won the presidential election, I lost an (extremely civil) debate with my stylist and co-founder of NYC’s Maverick Salon, Liz Wright.
When I came in asking for the bangs, she talked me out of the look. We eventually settled on a face-framing curtain bang. I love it—when I am home and do not need to wear a mask. But whenever I go out and therefore cover half my face, I pin back my bangs, so I don’t look like two eyes peeking out between a piece of fabric and layers of hair.
“So much of the face is being covered by a mask right now and there is not much access to other people’s emotions; we’ve lost our ability to read people’s faces,” Wright later said over the phone. “To close off more of the face with bangs makes it even harder to read emotions. So bangs are great for people who want to offer the aura of mystery and intrigue! They hide as much of the face as possible.”
Wright has “talked people out of the style here and there,” though she’s definitely not anti-bang all the way. “If people work from home and are on Zoom calls all day where they can keep their masks off, then I’ll take that into consideration,” Wright said.
“For people who feel closed off and hidden by a mask, that heavy, one-length, long fringe will make them feel like they’re hiding even more,” Wright added. “If someone comes in asking for that, I’ll say, ‘Let’s resist it until after the pandemic ends.’”
For what it’s worth, Devin Toth, a stylist at Salon SCK on Fifth Avenue, told me that, “If you have a short face shape, then bangs aren’t flattering with or without a mask.” But if your face is longer than it is wide, Toth recommends a fringe—even with a mask. He says it can inject personality even when paired with a dreary N65.
“When you’re wearing a mask it is difficult to express your style, but so many ‘70s bangs or blunt baby bangs add a bit of flare,” Toth said. “That’s the reason why big earrings, statement tops and colorful hair are coming back—all these are different forms of self-expression at a time when we all look like mannequins.”
When I called Toth for comment, he was just about to give one of his clients (a “cool jewelry designer”) straight bangs and a bob. But Toth added that most of his customers “are going a little shorter” with their fringe these days.
“Not full-blown baby bangs, but a little shorter than normal,” Toth said. “They do this because they don’t know if they’ll have a cold in two weeks and can’t come in for a trim, or if there will be another lockdown. Overall, people are less afraid of going too short than they were before the pandemic.”
Ann-Marie Alcántara, 29, is a reporter who lives in Brooklyn and a longtime straight-across bang defender. “I’ve had bangs for over a decade now, and I’m not letting them go,” she said. “I personally don’t really enjoy my forehead, so the chance to hide it is why I got them in the first place. And I think especially now, since I’m at home and don’t wear much makeup, bangs are something a little extra for my face during video calls.”
Alcántara has a tip, courtesy of her hairstylist, for those cutting their own bangs while in quarantine. “First, use hair-cutting scissors, not household ones,” she said. “Then, take the top layer of your bangs and pin those back. First cut the bottom layer of your bangs, then cut the top. That’s what helps keep them from getting heavy and greasy.”
Megan O’Cain, 23, is a New York designer and the owner of some very lush, Bardot-inspired bangs. “I’m more into my curtain bangs than I ever have been before,” she said. “It’s like an extra accessory, even when the mask covers so much of my face. I’m still showing my personality, but you can see my forehead a bit. It’s a little less severe than the straight-across ones.”
Quinn Keaney, an editor at Pandora and self-described “bang enthusiast,” has let her crimson fringe grow out during the pandemic. “But honestly, I love when I have bangs, big sunglasses, and my mask on so that like .001% of my face is visible,” she said in a DM. “I can’t wait until it’s cold enough to add a hat to the equation and fully embrace my new, undercover lifestyle.”