The Return of the Retro Perm


Michelle Ho, Staff Writer

Hairstyles are a defining aspect of personal expression and identity, and the students at Arcadia High School (AHS) are no exception. One noticeable trend among the male students at AHS is their distinct curly hair style, known as perms, or permanent waves.  The rise and return of perms have made their mark on the world, inspiring dozens of people to get their own perm. The hairstyle has been popular with men and women, but recently, male perms have been gaining in popularity. The trend is, in theory, extremely popular, but what do AHS students think?

In the 19th century, German inventor and hair entrepreneur Charles Nessler invented the permanent wave machine. The device was quite elaborate, with spiral heating rods, weights, and chemical compounds being utilized to create the final result of curly hair. However, the style did not immediately become mainstream, as it was considered too expensive and hazardous by many hairstylists. But as the machine was updated and improved, so did the reputation of perms. While perms were not accepted by the public in the beginning, the hairstyle boomed in popularity from time to time. Most notably, perms gained traction during the 70’s and 80’s, when many celebrities wore their hair in tight coils or in large, voluminous curls.

Perms come in various types, with each producing a unique look. Among others, the most popular are body perms, spot perms, pin curl perms, textured perms, and more. Some perms can focus on adding volume and texture to a specific part of the hair, such as the roots. Others create different shapes with the hair, coiling it tightly or curving it gracefully. The variety allows for diversity in hairstyles, ranging from softer, wavy hair to tighter curls.  For example, a spiral perm creates tight, corkscrew-shaped curls by coiling the hair.

“I got a spiral perm to add volume to my hair,” said sophomore Steven Xu. “I think perms are pretty cool, and it’s a way to change up your hairstyle.”

While perms are called “permanent”, the chemical treatment typically only lasts three to six months, depending on the length of hair and how you maintain it. Those who are looking to get a perm should know that it lasts for quite a while, and thus a rather large commitment to make.

“A friend of mine from the tennis team inspired me to get a perm,” said junior Matthew Ho. “I wanted to make my hair less straight and more wavy, basically add more volume.”

When asked why he wanted to change from straight to wavy hair, Ho replied, “I just wanted to change it up and try something new. To be honest, perms can be hit or miss; it either fits or doesn’t fit. It really depends on the person.”

For freshman Howard Sun, getting a perm was easier to maintain than his previous hairstyle. Sun said he got his perm at “the end of first semester, because [he] didn’t want to wake up at 6 a.m. every morning to do it.”

Although the style is easier to maintain, Sun has decided not to continue perming his hair because “it [starts] to look dead after two days.” The results of a perm are created via chemical treatments, which can often leave your hair brittle and dry after repetitive styling.

Overall, it seems that retro fashion has made a comeback into modern style. Many people find perms to be a fun and unique way to switch up their style, and the hairstyle is relatively easy to maintain.  Those who are looking to break out of their comfort zone and try something new may find that a perm is just the change they need. The future is bright for perms, and it’s sure to last for a while longer as one of the most popular male hairstyles of this year.


Photo Courtesy of UNSPLASH.COM