As we all know, everything is big in America. Sandwiches are the size of kitchen sinks, office buildings rise miles into the sky, and dubious detention camps take up huge tracts of land on islands that don’t even belong to them.
But if there’s one thing that stands out in the United States for its all round size – something that really exemplifies everything that the word ‘big’ stands for – it’s got to be hair.
It’s amazing how different hair can be from one country to another. Admittedly New York is probably the one city in the world that can claim to be even more of a melting pot than London. A study in 2005 showed that 36% of the population of the city is foreign-born, with 170 languages spoken. That’s a pretty diverse place, given that I would struggle to name more than twenty languages (and yes, by “twenty languages”, I actually mean ten).
But even with such eclecticism, it’s hard to explain why hair achieves such, erm, heady heights as it does in this country. Never in the field of human coiffure has so much been permed by so many, as Churchill might have put it. Although to be honest, he couldn’t exactly be considered a hair expert, it has to be said.
It is actually illegal in this city to get onto a subway train that does not contain one woman who has spent thirty minutes backcombing her hair that morning. Similarly, an old wives tale claims that if the number of perms in any given square mile in the whole of Manhattan drops below 300, the city will be engulfed by water and sink back from whence it came.
On the subway home tonight, I sat opposite a woman who managed to pull off an incredible backcombing/perm combo. She could only have been 23, wore heavy make-up, and seemed more than happy with her look. I had to rub my eyes and look at the calendar on my iPhone just to check that it wasn’t actually 1987.
It’s difficult to imagine, but I can only assume that this city is the final place on Earth that still regards Cher as a fashion icon.