Tuesday, February 1, 2011

#8 Their Hair

So far, every Dane I've seen seems to be in the throes of a passionate love affair... with their hair. Hair salons are like the Starbucks of Copenhagen - they're everywhere in such ridiculous abundance you wonder how they're not running each other out of business. Even more so since they are pretty much all independent stores and not some corporate conglomerate that can afford such profit margin nonsense. 

Hair salons in Copenhagen versus Starbucks in NYC
The other day I was looking around online to try to find a place to take my toddler son for a haircut. I was astounded to find places charging upwards of $60 for a children's haircut! I am tempted to take him just to see what justifies charging such exorbitant rates - does he get a hot towel and a shave? A mani-pedi? It's so bad a local international school even warns expat parents to get their kids' hair cut in their home countries rather than shell out for a cut in Copenhagen.

With this kind of luxuriating over one's hair ingrained from a young age, it's no wonder Danes of both genders gratuitously partake of hair products and services. A 2007 study of the European cosmetics industry, which included hair care products, found Denmark tied with Sweden for the highest EU consumption levels, outspending even U.S. shopaholics in currency-adjusted comparison.

These people aren't messing around!

Maybe I wouldn't find this fixation so odd except that, unlike Americans with their pursuit of natural, non-grey perfection, Danes seem bent on purposely standing out in a crowd. I imagine many conversations taking place in locals salons where the customer says, "I'd like an avant-garde, asymetrical cut and the most glaringly unnatural color you have please." No need to wonder whether a woman's hair color belies her age when you're transfixed and distracted by her neon orange mane. In a country where it seems practically taboo to wear a winter coat in anything other than black, gray or navy, is hair some kind of personal rebellion or form of Danish self-expression?

Not a natural color in the bunch.
Spiky mohawks, painstakingly pin-curled waves, crimped hair, highlights, lowlights, half-shaven heads, blunt bangs, long bangs, side buns, top buns, French braids, and yes, even a mullet or two. This blog on Copenhagen street styles shows just how out of my Euro-hip league I am. It makes me wonder if I should I start worrying about being deported for my lame, no-effort ponytail and boring brown hair?

* Note: This phenomenon was particularly difficult to document given my unwilliness to test the operating theory that people of most countries don't appreciate strangers photographing them and my greater goal of trying to make friends here in Denmark, not creeping people out or getting arrested.