The Most Dangerous Middle School Trend You Probably Forgot About
Throughout history, there has been a plethora of dangerous fashion and beauty trends that have made a mark on our lives. You may not recall each one you've encountered, but I'm here to remind you of a dangerous middle school trend you probably forgot about. Sure, there are some historical, arguably health-endangering, looks that likely spring to mind here, such as wearing a traditional corset, or the spine-tingling act of foot binding. Pain, whether physical or emotional, has been viewed by many over the years as an unwelcome yet necessary side effect of beauty.
In more recent years, Western society has seen a myriad of damaging beauty trends. Not long ago, everyone was told to achieve a thigh gap before summer. There have also surfaced a disturbingly large amount of bizarre "challenges," such as the Paper Waist Challenge that encourages folks to measure up a standard sheet of printing paper against their stomachs in the hopes of becoming invisible behind said sheet. And one of the most memorable of these fads has to be the Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge, which had people puffing up their pouts in rather painful looking ways.
However, when thinking back to the days of middle school in the '90s and earlier 2000s, there is one dangerous beauty trend that sticks out head and shoulders above all the others: straightening our hair with clothing irons.
Back in the day, the struggle to get super straight hair was real. Hair straighteners obviously existed, but they were big, chunky contraptions that didn't quite give us the desired, poker-sleekness we so often sought. Plus, they were pretty pricey for a middle schooler, so you likely had to wait until your birthday to get ahold of one of these state-of-the-art tools.
Even celebs who usually flaunted curly manes were showing off their alternative, sleek locks (shout-out to Julia Roberts), and we went wild for this seemingly grownup aesthetic. After a trip to the hairdresser — where so many top-notch tools resided — we were left with silky smooth tresses that we'd try to keep perfectly straight for days. Sometimes, we'd even rock greasy roots in order to keep our strands straighter for longer.
Vintage – Conair – Turn Styles – Straightener & Crimper Iron in One – 1997 CS6, $17.95, ebay.com
The early '00s saw the explosion of the emo subculture as well, which took hair straightening to a whole new level. Emo gals and guys alike rocked their hair ruler-straight, including bangs swept to one side so they could just about see where they were going.
To emos, having straight hair was as essential as wearing black eyeliner or listening to My Chemical Romance. But if you were an emo in middle school and you didn't have the dollars to buy your own hair straightener, you probably felt compelled to take things into your own hands.
Aside from borrowing your BFF's straightener whenever you went around to their house, there was only one option you could afford to try: a clothes iron. These were easily accessible and your parents probably had one in the house already.
According to Bustle writer Caitlin Morrison, who discussed hair straightening methods through the ages, millennials weren't the first generation to use clothing irons to straighten their hair. In collaboration with L'Oréal Ultimate Straight, Morrison reported, "When the straight hair trend made a comeback in the ‘50s and ‘60s, ladies took to multitasking, using the very same iron they used for their clothes on their own hair. ... The procedure was of course harmful to the hair and scalp — because you know, clothing irons are made for clothing — but oddly effective."
But however effective this method was, the dangers far outweighed the lure of achieving a straight mane. Let's face it: Holding a heavy, steaming iron inches away from your visage was never going to be a good idea.
Model Chrissy Teigen also reminisced with women's site BYRDIE about literally ironing her hair. Teigen asked the publication, "Remember that? When you would physically lay down and iron it with a giant iron — it worked so well, too. It’s not that it didn’t look good or didn’t work, but that’s just insane. It’s horrible for your hair."
Queen Beyoncé similarly told Allure that back in the day, Destiny's Child members straightened their hair with a clothes iron. "The girls from Destiny's Child, we would put our hair on the ironing board, and iron it, which is so crazy," she said.
I totally agree with you there, Bey. But when it comes to hair-ironing horror stories, the most nightmarish tale arguably belongs to Pretty Little Liars' Shay Mitchell.
Mitchell told PeopleStyle about the time she and her best friend attempted to straighten her hair with a clothes iron when she was about 12 years old. Mitchell said, "I was like, ‘Wow, let’s really get it straight,’ but I didn’t have all the fancy straightening irons that I have now, so I went and used a good ol’ clothing iron. I told her to press harder because she wasn’t getting it straight enough. Suddenly there was this horrible smell. It was my burnt hair that was half on the iron in a knot! I was traumatized. After that, I’m crazy about what I do to my hair."
If we can learn anything from our middle school selves and these celebs, it's not to fall victim to trends that might put us in danger. So the next time you think about following a ridiculous "challenge" or beauty routine, look at the situation with older and wiser eyes, remember your tween self and the time you used to literally iron your hair, and count yourself lucky that you didn't burn your locks off, or worse. ~Shudder.~