Beehive Hairstyle Inventor Honored


Photos: Getty Images

Beyoncé's modern take on the iconic hairstyle and Brigitte Bardot sporting a beehive in 1960.

More than 50 years after it first sprang onto fashion pages, the jury is still way out on the beehive—the back-combed hair dome that defines the signature appeal of the best and worst of our pop icons.

The hairstyle’s enduring popularity certainly has fostered entertaining extremes; we’ve mimicked the timeless (think Holly Golightly, Dusty Springfield, Christina Hendricks) and mocked the tacky (naturally, we’re wincing at you, Snooki and Amy Winehouse).

Of course, when Chicago-based hairstylist Margaret Vinci Heldt invented the look back in 1960, she was simply aiming for innovation, not sensation. After establishing herself as one of the more creative hair thinkers of her time, she caught the eye of Modern Beauty Salon magazine, which proposed a lofty challenge: Invent a new hairstyle—one that will define the next decade.

In creating the beehive, Heldt managed to overshoot her goal a bit, influencing over a half-century of hair aesthetics. With Mad Men’s knack for reviving all things Camelot-era chic—and fashion’s current proclivity to do the same—the moment seems right to officially denote the significance of Heldt’s hair-raising feat.

As local trade organization Cosmetologists Chicago announces the launch of a special scholarship in her honor, Heldt, now 92, spoke to the Daily Mail, revealing what compelled her to create her legendary hairdo.

To revolutionize the way women wore their hair, Heldt says she turned to millinery for inspiration: One of her favorite hats—a black velvet fez-style cap with two bee decorations—got the wheels turning.

“I liked that hat because when I took it off, my hairstyle stayed in place,” Heldt explains.

To recreate that shape on human hair, she fearlessly experimented on her clientele, incorporating new back-combing techniques. A few generous whiffs of Aquanet later, the beehive was officially born.

Progressive women immediately gravitated to the hairdo, which managed to look both futuristic yet classic and boasted the ability stay in place for a week or more. But even Heldt’s wizardry had earthly limits.

She still sternly instructs ladies to keep their heads on straight—literally. “I don’t care what your husband does from the neck down, but I don’t want him to touch you from the neck up,” Heldt advises.

Somehow we can’t help but wonder how many times Brigitte Bardot neglected that protocol—and still managed to look flawless.