Posted by: haircutsrevisited | June 14, 2009

Napier – The Art Deco Festival

Napier – The Art Deco Festival
By Tammy

Foreword: This one is inspired by a trip I took to Napier New Zealand. I was there for the festival and I did dress up flapper for the weekend as everyone does. This barbershop does exist but I didn’t go in there for a haircut, my hair was too short already.

We packed up our rental car for the next leg of our journey. My boyfriend Jason and I were on a 3-week tour of New Zealand and we just spent the last few days touring Wellington. There was an Art Deco festival this coming weekend in Napier that my boyfriend was interested in going to and I thought it would be a good idea as well. We packed up the car and checked out of our hotel room and started to make our journey north to Hawkes Bay and the town of Napier.

I didn’t know anything about Napier so I started to read up on it in my traveler’s guide. The town was formed in the 1850’s however it is most noted for its Art Deco style of architecture. The guide said that there was a large earthquake that hit the town in 1931 followed by a massive fire that destroyed the entire town center. The New Zealand government rebuilt the town in the years following as an infrastructure project to provide jobs during the Great Depression. As the style of architecture of the time was Art Deco the town was re-built in that style. This has made Napier unique with its various building styles from the early 1930’s and the city has preserved those buildings to this day.

Every year the town has an Art Deco festival to celebrate the rebuilding. Thousands of people from all over converge onto Napier for the festival bringing antique cars and dressing up in outfits from the 1920’s and 30’s. Live jazz music is performed at various venues around the town as people celebrate the culture from that period.

“Oh look here, it says that people dress up in period outfits for this festival.” I told Jason. “I would love to dress up as well.”

“That would be cool.” He said to me. “I love that era as it must have been a wild time. Art Deco is my favorite style of design so I am really looking forward to this festival”

“I am too.” I told him.

As we continued on I read more about Napier and Hawkes Bay before dozing off in the car. It took a few hours but we finally arrived at Napier. We arrived the day before the festival so we drove into the city center and parked. The town was amazing. It was exactly as the guide said. Everywhere you looked it felt like you were thrown back in time. At first you thought you were on a film set or something but the more you looked around the more you realized that this town was very real.

We checked into our hotel in the city centre  We stayed at the Masonic Hotel, which was also an art deco building. We dropped our bags off in our room and went out to explore the town. We walked to the beach and toured the band shell as people were starting to set up for the festival. There were a few antique cars that had already arrived and some people were starting to walk around dressed in period outfits. I saw a woman walk pass me dressed up in a flapper dress with a hat and a feather in it. I thought she looked amazing in her outfit.

We walked back into town and Jason was tired and wanted to go back to the room for a nap. I wasn’t tired as I slept in the car so I wanted to explore this town a little more.

“Why don’t you go back and take a nap,” I told him. “I’ll go take a look at the shops.” He agreed and went back to the room while I went off into town.

I didn’t have anything to wear for the weekend as we mostly just packed hiking clothes for this trip. I thought about buying a dress to wear for the festival so I wouldn’t look like a tourist. I looked into the shop windows as I walked through town and eventually I came across a vintage clothing store. I went inside to have a look. I noticed a rack of old period clothing and went straight for it.

“Can I help you?”  a sales woman asked as she approached me.

“How much for these outfits?” I asked her. “Oh those ones are not for sale as they are for display however we do carry some vintage dresses, if that is what you were looking for.”

“Sure,” I said.

“What sort of outfit did you have in mind?” She asked me.

“I was thinking of a flapper dress.” I told her.

“Oh, I may have some flapper dresses left in the back, however those items are selling out fast because of the festival this weekend. I’ll take a look for you.”

“Thank-you.” I told her and she went off to the back for a few moments.

I looked around the shop a little more and noticed a display case with vintage pearls and an ivory cigarette holder. I thought it would be fun to accessorize as well.

“I found one item left if you wish to try it on,” she said as she returned holding a dress. “It’s more of an afternoon dress then evening wear however it would be very comfortable in the afternoon sun this weekend.

”Sure.” I said

“There is a change room in the back where we can go and try it on.” She said and I followed her to the back of the store.

She handed me the dress and I went into the change room. It was a light blue floral print dress that had white straps and a white belt. It was a simple dress but very fitting of the period. I slipped out of my jeans and tank top and slipped the dress on. It felt amazing on me. It was loose-fitting and hung to just below my knees. I stepped out of the change room and took a look at myself in the mirror. I fell in love with it right away.

“Well that looks very nice on you.” The sales lady said.

“I love it,” I said looking at my reflection. “I think it needs some shoes and accessories though.

“Of-course,” she said. “It will take more than just a dress to complete the look. What size shoe do you wear?”

“I’m a size 7.” I told her.

She went to the back for a few minutes and returned with a box.

“These shoes are styled from that era as well,” She said. “They are white so they should go very well with the dress.”

She opened the box and there was a pair of white leather high heel shoes. I took a seat, slipped off my runners and tried them on. They slipped on easily and I stood up. They felt very comfortable. I took a few steps and watched in the mirror. I loved the shoes on me as well. The white shoes did go very well with the blue dress.

“Might I suggest a white hat or a headband to go with the outfit as well?” She mentioned as I was looking in the mirror.

“Sure,” I said and off she went and returned with a white-lace headband that ties around the back. She came around behind me and held it up to my forehead for me to see.

“These headbands were quite popular in those days.” She said as she was tying the headband at the back under my ponytail. “It is meant to go with a much shorter hairstyle though but try this anyways and see what you think.”

I slipped my hair out of its ponytail to see what it would look like. I let my hair slide down over my left shoulder. My hair was very long and it seemed to overpower the outfit. My hair reaches all the way down to my mid back now. The headband was great and matched the dress perfectly but my long hair didn’t work with the outfit. It was way too long for the style of that era.

“I guess my hair is too long for this look isn’t it?” I said to the sales lady.

“You know it was very common in those days for women to go to the barbers and have their hair bobbed.” The sales lady mentioned as she started to gather up my long hair behind me. She twisted it up to try to show what a bob would look like on me.

“We have a few places in town that could do this sort of style for you, if you’re interested that is.”

I stood there for a moment thinking about it. I had never done anything like that before in my life. I thought it would be a lot of fun. Why not as I am on vacation and you only live once.

“You know I think I might try that.” I told her.

“Good,” she said with a smile. “It would very much complete the look for you.”

She started let my hair fall back down again.

“Was there anything else I could help you with today?” She asked.

“Oh – yes, I saw some pearls and a cigarette holder in a display case in the front.”

“Those items are for display as well and not for sale but we do carry some replica items you can take with you. Anything else?” she said.

“I think that is all,” I said. “Can I wear the dress out of the store? I don’t feel like getting back into my jeans again.

“Of course.” She said. “I’ll just gather your items from the change room and we’ll put them in a bag for you. We’ll meet you at the front and put together your bill.”

I went up to the front and the sales lady handed me a white shopping bag with my stuff in it.

“I put the pearls and cigarette holder in the bag for you as well.” She said as she put together my bill. “That will be $321.70.”

I handed over my visa card and paid the bill.

“Thank-you and enjoy the festival this weekend.” She said.

“Thank-you so much.” I told her with a big smile.

I walked out of the store and back down the street. It felt amazing walking around in my new flapper dress and my heels. I loved the way the dress bounced as I walked exposing my knees slightly as it moved. I walked through the main area of town now looking for a place to get my haircut. I passed by a few salons and looked in the windows. Some were modern and some were a bit dated. None of them looked like what I was looking for though. I continued onto the next block over until I came across a barbershop. I was curious seeing it as I remembered what the sales lady said about women getting their hair bobbed at the barbers back then.

I peaked inside the doorway, as it was opened to take a better look. It was a very authentic looking barbershop with two old barber chairs. It had a white tiled floor and a long wooden bench for customers to wait. There was an Asian barberette sitting on the bench waiting for her next customer. She looked in her thirties and had nice long black hair over her white barbers coat.

“Can I help you?” she said looking up at me standing just outside the door.

“I uh – I was thinking about getting a haircut.” I said as I stepped closer.

“Please, come in,” she said as she stood up and walked over to the barber chair. “Sit.” She said and swung the chair to face me.

I paused for a moment, as I felt nervous.

“Please, take a seat miss.” She said one more time patting the back of the chair and I found myself slowly entering the shop.

I put my bag down on the floor and took a seat in the barber chair. She swung me to face the mirror. I looked at myself in my new dress and my headband was still on. I slid the headband out of my hair and put it in my lap.

“What kind of haircut you looking for?” she asked with her Asian accent.

“I was thinking about a bob, you know, for the festival.” I told her nervously.

“Oh like one of these.” She said as she pointed to an old advertisement on the back wall showing various bobbed haircuts from the 20’s.

“Yes.” I said with a smile, “That was the sort of thing I was thinking.”

“You are here for the festival this weekend?” she asked.

“Yes, My boyfriend and I are visiting here from California.” I said.

“Oh, OK.” She replied. “I will do a nice shingle-bob for you then, look good for the festival.”

“OK.” I said with a smile and she went to work.

She reached for a tissue and a white pinstriped cape. She flung the cape over me and wrapped the tissue snug around my neck and fastened the cape to it. She took a large paddle brush and brushed my hair out so it lay over my shoulders in the front and down the back of the chair behind me. She put the hairbrush down and grabbed a giant pair of scissors. She came over to my right side and slid the scissors into my hair right at my jaw-line. I sat there nervous as I watched them close on my hair. My long hair slid down my shoulder and into my lap as it was cut. She moved quickly behind me continuing to cut the back and I felt the weight release as my hair fell to the floor behind me. She swiftly moved around to my left side taking the rest of my hair off at the jaw-line and I watched as it slipped down my shoulder and into my lap.

She put the scissors down and took a spray bottle and dampened my hair. She came back with a comb and a smaller pair of scissors this time. She combed my hair out and cut the length some more. She cut it straight across my right cheek and to just the bottom of my right earlobe. She came around my left side combing it out and cutting across my left cheek and to the bottom of my left earlobe as well.

She tilted my head straight down into my chest. I felt as she combed the back out and could hear the scissors cutting across my back. She kept combing and cutting back there and I could feel it as she neatened up the line across the back.

She put the scissors down and grabbed a pair of clippers. She put a new head on them and snapped them on. The humming sound filled the room. She tilted my head forward again and I felt as they pressed on my neck and moved up into my hairline. She kept doing this motion across the back of my neck and it felt amazing.

She turned the clippers off and put them back down. She grabbed a towel and put it over my shoulder. She pushed a button on a machine on the counter and it made a noise and white foam came out of it. She came back behind me tilting my head forward again. I felt as she applied the foam to my neck and it felt very warm. She reached for a straight razor and I got nervous as I realized what she was about to do. I felt as she slid the razor down my neck and wiped it on the towel. She repeated this all the way across the back of my neck and wiped my neck off after with the towel when she was done.

I tilted my head up again as I saw she through the towel into a receptacle and put the razor back down on the counter. She grabbed the comb and scissors and came around my front right side and started combing my hair forward over my face. I felt the scissors slide across my forehead and immediately tensed up as I realized she was cutting bangs on me. The scissors closed and moved across my forehead continuing all the way across. When they finished I looked up in the mirror and saw my new bangs cut just above my eyebrows straight across my forehead. My eyes popped at the sight of them.

She put the scissors back down and grabbed a hairbrush and hairdryer and came back to dry my hair off. I started to take in my new haircut now. It didn’t look like me at all.

She finished drying my hair and went over everything one last time perfecting the haircut with the comb and scissors, combing it out and cutting the ends so it sat perfectly blunt around my head. When she finally finished she took a dusting brush and cleaned my neck and face off sliding the cape off of me.

She hung the cape up and returned with a hand mirror to show me the back. I was stunned at the image of it. It was cut perfectly blunt, level with the bottom of my ears all the way around my head. The back was tapered very short at the bottom and my hairline had been shaved into a slight v-shape. I was shocked by it actually. I reached my hand up to feel it and it felt so soft and sleek.

“I love it,” I finally told her after feeling it.

She put the hand mirror back and I took one more look at myself in the mirror. I felt like I was really starting to look the part now with my new dress and my new haircut.

“Oh one more thing,” I said. “Can you put my headband back on for me?” I asked as I handed it to her.

“Oh, yes.” She said. She neatly placed it across my forehead and tied it at the back for me at my nape.

“Thank-you so much.” I told her looking at it in the mirror. I got up out of the chair, “How much do I owe you?” I asked.

“$18 for the haircut.” She said.

I gave her a twenty and told her to keep it.

I grabbed my bag and left the shop. I walked back towards the main part of town again. As the day went on more people were coming out dressed in period outfits as well. There was a jazz band playing on a street corner and you could feel the town starting to come alive for the weekend.

I got quite a few nods from people as I walked past them. I loved the attention I was getting. Now it was time to surprise Jason with it. I found a smoke shop and bought a pack of cigarettes. I didn’t know what to buy, as I haven’t smoked for years now. I found some long slim ones that I thought would look sexy.

I went back to the hotel and back to the room quietly sneaking in as Jason slept. I took a seat in one of the leather armchairs in our room. I took out a cigarette and placed it in the cigarette holder. I lit my cigarette taking in my first drag after so many years and held it without coughing. I sat back in the chair and crossed my legs and relaxed. You could hear the music from the jazz band outside coming into the room, this added to the moment as well.

“Wake-up Jason,” I said in a soft voice and Jason slowly woke up and turned towards me…

He paused for a moment and shook his head. “Amber!” he said as he came to. “Is that you?

“Of course it’s me silly, who else were you expecting?” I said taking another drag.

He was lying there and gave me a confused look, like he thought he was still dreaming. He got up slowly and walked over and reached to feel my hair.

“Oh my god,” he said as he felt it. “I thought it was a wig.”

“A wig! Now a wig would not be authentic would it?” I said and took a drag of my cigarette.

His face lit up now and he fell back onto the bed. I could tell he was dumbstruck by all of this. I stood up to model my outfit for him. I walked to the end of the room and turned around and walked back again and stood right in front of him. I took another drag.

“Do you like it?” I asked him.

“Yes.” He said very nervously with a little smile.

“Well Jason, you have an authentic Art Deco room for an entire weekend in an Art Deco town, and now you’ve got your flapper girl to go along with it. You better like it”

“I love it,” he said and got up and gave me a great big hug. He squeezed me tight and kissed me.


Thanks for reading



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