Raccoon Eye and Conehead Coif: Adventures in ’60s Style

raccoon eye conehead coif

A friend and I have an ongoing e-mail correspondence entitled “For When We Have Money and Men,” in which we pine after wildly expensive cheeses and ludicrously priced lingerie. (Yes, the two items are mutually exclusive.) But my aspirational catalog just got longer: I’d like someone on hand at all times to apply my cat eye and backcomb my hair, please. 

I’ve had ’60s mod—the sleek but voluminous hair and fluid, upended eyeliner—on my mind for some time. How appropriate then, that when I’ve been trying to avoid Raccoon Eye and Conehead Coif by my own hand, Elle’s Women in Music May issue celebrates Adele’s and Gwen Stefani’s modern takes on the teased crown and precise cat eye.

Jane Eyre’s Mia Wasikowska covers April’s Blackbook with Bardot peepers (plus some glam jewels Twiggy would have favored), and that go-to retro arbiter, Mad Men, always inspires swingin’ acolytes of sky-high hair.

At best, I’ve been able to stop twitching just enough to get me the “Cleopatra-After-the-Fraternity-Party” look I never wanted. Elizabeth Taylor none of us are, but the posthumous tributes to her immaculate style and that memorable role reignited my failed ambitions in makeup application. And I’d like to banish deflated pageant hair once and for all.

This past weekend I enlisted more skilled individuals to impart their aesthetic wisdom.

The M.A.C. counter at Henri Bendel seemed like a good place to start. I didn’t catch the makeup artist’s name, so far was I into mentally accessorizing the upcoming week’s outfits with an eye patch, but he very kindly explained the possible tools.

Both gel and liquid liner have the same effect, last the same amount of time, but those of us with less-than-steady coordination and optic phobias might try a liquid pen. (Gel liner with a small brush has been my usual method so this new apparatus promised magic.)

“Start in the middle of the eye and move to the outer edge. Look! You’re halfway done,” he said, coaxing me through the familiar motions. “Add as much as you like toward the inner part. And if you want to thicken it up, go again. Now we’ll create the cat eye by making a slow swipe upwards from the outer corner—yep, like that, make it in line with the lower rim of your eye.”

He darted away to get some makeup remover. Traumatic flashbacks to not coloring in the lines surfaced, but he was just as encouraging as a nursery school teacher: “It’s really hard. It took me a while too.”

Did I mention he was holding the mirror for me? And that these are the steps—verbatim—I’ve always done? Where was my life-changing advice? Lightbulb!

“I guess, what you’re saying is, I just need to practice, right?” I asked. He grimly nodded. Mercifully, my sight remains intact.

Due for a much-needed hair trim (sorry, Miss Elizabeth) the next day, I headed to the training Aveda Institute. Melanie, the stylist I was assigned, dried my hair quickly and amplified its natural limpness (note: add unlimited blowouts to FWWHMAM list) while I glazed over my past attempts at a mod ’do.

“So I’ve tried to do this before, but the volume doesn’t last. Or it’s, um, angular,” I told her.

I didn’t detail the usual byproduct of light hair spray, a dollar-store comb, and confused teasing, and I didn’t have time to elaborate.

Bottle in one hand, strips of my hair in another, Melanie started at the periphery of my crown, doused it in hair spray, and quickly and enthusiastically moved a small comb back and forth. She seemed able, but I was unconvinced: This is exactly what I tried before, again and again.

However, with more spray anchoring the newly teased body together and a comb that didn’t snap on contact, the end result was actually attractive and still resembled hair. So if you, like me, have fine strands, all it takes is some vigorous teasing—keep going!—and enough spray to suffocate a small flock of pigeons. There is hope!

I finished up my weekend trying to replicate the cat eye and a stellar backcombed ’do without money or men, just some already-owned gel liner, an unbroken comb, and a lot—A LOT—of hairspray. Manchego and garters would have enlivened the efforts, but lesson learned: There is no special trick, only dedication and deep breaths.

Practice makes perfect, or at least an improvement. There’s no time like the present to incorporate some ’60s mod into your routine.

Photo: Another trial run