England’s victory against Germany suggested that football could be coming home. The last time that happened was in 1996, so it seems appropriate that some of the hairstyles sported by the players come from that era.
Phil Foden was named the “Stockport Gazza” for his silvery-blond cut and now Jack Grealish, England’s No 7, is bringing back a long-forgotten style. Middle-parted curtains were big in the late 90s, atop the heads of David Beckham, Damon Albarn, Jared Leto and teenage boys in schools across the UK.
“Greasy and crispy was the look,” says Teo van den Broeke, the style and grooming director at British GQ. “But I, for one, don’t believe hair should have the consistency of a well-fried chip-shop chip, do you?” Although the likes of Hugh Grant, with his luscious, Four Weddings-era curtains, also brought a bit of glamour to the look.
In 2021, the style seems to have evolved. Both Grealish and Timothée Chalamet, as well as the Korean boyband BTS, show that it’s being worn a bit more thoughtfully. Even the version worn by the actor Froy Gutierrez in Amazon’s forthcoming Cruel Summer, set in the 90s, has more zhoosh than memory would allow. Grealish wears his with big banker energy: it’s full bodied and looks lion mane-esque (he even wears it with a Beckham-ish headband). Last week he revealed his surprisingly involved routine: Argan oil, Hairbond wax and Got2B hairspray on still-damp-from-the-shower hair. Not exactly wash and go.
“Some volume is always a good thing with curtains,” says Van den Broeke, “as you don’t want to end up looking like Professor Snape.” According to the hair historian Rachael Gibson, the style originated in the 1880s when a short and blunt version of the cut was popular in bohemian aesthete circles on the heads of Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley.
The reappearance of hair curtains might also be due to the liberation that men experienced in their grooming habits during lockdown, with many men, including celebrities like David Lynch and Jake Gyllenhaal, growing out their hair. “Curtains have come back for the simple reason that we were all forced to grow our hair longer over lockdown,” says Van den Broeke. “Suddenly men who’d worked hard to part their hair to the side – or, indeed, keep it short – realised they actually were blessed with natural centre partings.”
Grealish’s adoption of the style is likely to be as influential as his 90s counterparts. “Footballers have always been trendsetters,” says Gibson, “so I wouldn’t be surprised if Jack picks up where David Beckham left off and inspires a new generation to grow their hair long and give curtains a go.”
According to a spokesperson for Pall Mall barbers in King’s Cross in London, which is offering the cut, no one has as yet requested the look.