Soda Can Hair Rollers


On left: a still from Lady Gaga’s 2010 “Telephone” video; middle: a still from Ashanti’s 2008 “Good Good” video; on right: a still from Maluca’s 2009 “El Tigeraso” video

I didn’t have any sisters growing up, but when I was a kid, I vaguely recall hearing that teenage girls were purportedly using tin cans of various sizes—(coffee cans, grapefruit juice cans, soup cans)—as hair rollers. This off-label use for used food containers was apparently never well-documented with photos. In those days, the running cultural joke was how terrible women looked whilst beautifying themselves. (See the Heloise column at the end of this post.) I’m guessing that most teenage girls in the 1960s did not want their pictures taken while their hair was up in cans.

Three recent music videos, however, hark back to these economical, improvised hair-rollers, but with a significant cultural difference. What was once just an ad hoc technique for achieving a desired hair style—has now become a style in its own right. The idea of someone embracing the “hair-up-in-rollers” look—(a look that some would regard as collateral damage, at best)—owes quite a bit to abstract expressionism. Just as the abstract expressionist painters of the 1950s rejected the artifice of representational painting in favor of “showing the process”—(brush strokes, drips, etc.)—Lady Gaga, Ashanti, and Maluca are, in a sense, just showing the process of their respective beauty regimens.

There’s a strong undercurrent of Pop Art here, as well, given that these three performers are electing to wear branded consumer packaging as hair accessories. Lady Gaga looks a little wan in her Diet Coke rollers, which reportedly were like the ones her mother used to wear. Ashanti looks a bit prouder in her set of green (beer?) can rollers. Maluca, on the other hand, is positively fierce in her golden* soda-can headdress. She alone wears hair rollers (of various sorts) throughout the entire video. Ashanti’s and Lady Gaga’s videos both feature lots of consumer packaged goods, and both coincidentally feature Wonder Bread.

The conceptual underpinnings of some new postmodern consumer glamour? Whereas tin-can hair-rollers may have been used in the 1960’s it was generally some flowers that you were supposed to be sure to wear in your hair. 50 years later, it’s the cans.

More celebrity soda-can rollers, after the fold…

Top row, left: Tyra Banks (via Modepilot)
; on right: another fierce still from Maluca’s video; 2nd row, left: Lady Gaga at Sydney Airport (via: Moe Jackson); on right: photo of Ashley Olsen from Marie Claire by Ruven Afanador; bottom row, left: photo from 2009 West Hollywood Pride Parade (via: LoudGuitars’ Flickr Photostream); on right: a mockingly-humorous vintage photo from Incurlers’ Flickr Photostream


Sarasota Herald-Tribune – July 7, 1971

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Footnoted Digression (on product placement):

*About her soda-can rollers, Maluca has reportedly tweeted: “Video etiquette 101: spray sponsor product in gold so UR video wont look like a commercial (wink)”… in one frame of her video, however, I was able to discern enough type show-through to see that it was “Pepsi Caffeine Free” she was wearing—cans which are mostly gold to begin with. Of course, if she’s spray-painted out the logo, then perhaps “sponsor” was not really what she meant to say there. Accidental sponsor, maybe.

In the same way that some (but not all) of the product-placements in Lady Gaga’s video were unpaid. Adage reports: “despite the cornucopia of products, only a handful were paid placements… several of the brands were Gaga's ideas and did not pay to be included.”

Not everyone wearing soda-can curlers is coming to it with the same product-placement and/or brand-community agenda as Lady Gaga or, say, the Budweiser Beer queen above. Some, like Ashanti, Maluca, and Ashley Olsen (above) go out of their way to eliminate or obscure the branding.

Or is that just a function of how thick one’s hair is?

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