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The Trials Of Super-Long Hair

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Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh
Apart from a short period when I first moved to London the best part of a decade ago, and decided I had the bone structure to pull off a Jean Seberg (I didn’t), I’ve pretty much had longish hair my whole life. But recently I have felt compelled to go that little bit further, taking my hairstyle from Duchess of Cambridge to full on Disney princess.

I don’t know exactly why I felt the need to go the extra length. It might have had something to do with Laura Bailey’s Instagram which showcases her beautiful waist-length tresses, often dressed up with plaits and bows. Or perhaps it was Joanna Newsom’s reemergence after five years away, reminding me of the golden waterfall that falls down her back as she sits elegantly at her harp. Maybe it was London fashion designers Ashley Williams and Shrimps’ Hannah Weiland, whose endless locks are as playful as their collections. And fashion’s favourite actress - and Miu Miu poster girl - Stacy Martin must have pissed off her hair stylist by cancelling on them. In short, long hair was everywhere in 2015.

Sure, super-long hair can be a nuisance (by the way, I classify long hair as really long when it falls to your elbows.) Washing it requires such a time commitment that greasy locks can often be preferable and Batiste will become your best friend; on a windy day it will stick to your lipstick and render you blind; and anyone you share a bed with will inevitably lie on it resulting in some rather painful yanking (not to mention the dreaded knots that can occur after a particularly, well, active night.)

These minor annoyances aside, there is one intrinsic problem with having long hair: to get it to a certain length you have to shun the scissors. And if you do that you kind of have to forgo health; length and health are mutually exclusive when it comes to follicles. Long hair can look carefree but it can also look stringy and limp; you’ll spend every Tube ride surveying your split ends until you realise you are drawing appalled looks.

But not cutting your hair for over 12 months is freeing. There is something inherently feminine and youthful to having such long hair. I was always ID-ed and received compliments about it every day. Friends called it mermaid hair, while a pal’s three-year-old insisted on calling me Rapunzel for the duration of a weekend break in Cornwall. I liked being compared to these mythical creatures; my hair had become my USP. For someone who dresses quite classically, it gave me a bohemian edge.

And there are things you can do to try to keep long hair in a decent condition. Avoid heat appliances at all costs, including hairdryers, tongs, and straighteners. And while no pill will magically give you long hair you can encourage growth by having a healthy, vitamin-rich diet and – boring – getting plenty of sleep. Moroccan oil is great for dry ends, and always, always use conditioner, however boring and time-consuming it is. Skip shampooing the ends too, just concentrate on the scalp. When brushing wet hair, you should start from the bottom and work your way up to avoid breakage and STOP wrapping your hair in a towel after a shower; it wrecks long hair. Most painful of all, but great for strong tresses, is to blast it with cold water after washing. Experts tell you that regular trims are key to luscious locks but, in my experience, you'll never get the desired length.

As for me, I finally was tempted back into the hairdresser’s chair when a friend commented that I was beginning to look a bit “Axl Rose”. I pointed out that his was never that long, but she insisted that she was referring to its dry condition. I booked an appointment the very next day and squirmed each time she hacked at my ends. It can’t grow back fast enough.
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