Patricia Nicol, author of Hair, shares her selections from the top books.

  • Patricia Nicol says she has lost the desire to go to the hairdresser. 
  • The Other Black Girl explores modern American hairstyles. 
  • Marie de France undergoes hairbinding at a nunnery in Matrix

The habit of visiting the hairdresser seems to be gone. I loved those long hours of pampering, banal chat and chat. ‘What we going to do, today, then?’ ‘Oooh, pretty much exactly the same as the last time . . .’

Maybe, it is the horror of the question, ‘Been anywhere nice, lately?’ that puts me off. Of course, I haven’t! Covid, a blooming, endless Covid. However, it is a good idea to tidy and brighten up just before Christmas.

A barnet is so often a person’s defining feature: just think of Boris’s mop-top or Margaret Thatcher’s Elnett-sprayed helmet.

Some hold oddly robust opinions about others’ hair-dos. My mother is snippy about women of a certain age having long tresses, or men’s hair curling over the collar. The hairdressing hiatus of lockdown did not offer fringe benefits, she said.

Marie de France undergoes hairbinding at a nunnery in Matrix (pictured)

Modern American attitudes to hair are explored in The Other Black Girl (pictured)

Patricia Nichol picks out a selection of the best books on hair – including Matrix by Lauren Groff (pictured left) and The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris (pictured right)

We learn to admire hairstyles of literary characters. In children’s literature, Pippi Longstocking, carrot-topped Anne of Green Gables and, of course, Little Women’s magnificent Jo March who lops off her locks to raise funds for her mother to visit her poorly father. ‘Your hair! Your one beauty,’ wails her sister Beth. Jo doesn’t give her much thought. ‘It will do my brains good to have that mop taken off.’

The satirical The Other Black Girl, by Zakiya Dila Harris explores modern American attitudes towards women and hair. Nella delights when the New York-based publishing house she works at employs another young female black graduate. But soon, with good reason, Nella’s enthusiasm curls up and dies.

Matrix, by Lauren Groff. Marie de France is sent to a nunnery where she has to undergo humiliating hair-binding and scrubbing to prove that her freedoms were restricted.

Undine Spragg, the anti-heroine of Edith Wharton’s The Custom Of The Country, leads a wholly different life; one dedicated to a pursuit of pleasure amid others’ admiration. Undine is named for the hair-crimper her grandfather created. Undine arrives in New York determined and ready to win it.

No matter what your hair state, these books will make you look great.