My Worst Look Part Two

Paul Nicholas perms, sweaty polo necks, the wardrobe of a nun and the face of a Smurf. The SHB team confess to yet more style sins.

Sali Hughes, Co-founder

hughes worst look

Yes that is a mullet, thank you for noticing. I’d like to claim it was born from indifference, a youthful insouciance and lack of appreciation for the art of hair and makeup, but I’d be lying. It was as calculated as a serial killer’s road trip, only with more dire consequences. I had seen Cardiff hairstylists The Brothers Constantinou on telly. They were winners of multiple British hairdresser of The Year awards and, as a terrific beauty snob even at 11 years old, I couldn’t wait to grow out my Rick Parfitt from Quo perm and save enough pocket money to visit their salon a few miles from my home. “I want this”, I said with no uncertainty, as I shoved under the stylist’s nose a Boots No17 advert I’d torn from Just Seventeen especially. The redheaded model wore a messy bob, casually layered and root lifted to all hell. I’d taken care of my frosty highlights with an 80p sachet of copper Shaders & Toners, I now just needed to replicate the artfully uneven cut. “Fine”, she said, popping it swiftly down on the melamine top, spilling my Maxpax hot chocolate, barely glancing in its direction. You know when you order dinner and there’s something about the waiter’s general demeanour that tells you you’re definitely not getting what you’ve asked for? Reader, the feeling was strong. And never again shall I ignore it, because some 45 minutes later, my “award winning stylist” had not only cut my hair into a “Billy Ray Cyrus opens a hog-racing derby”, but she was actually curling the too short layers with tight barrel-tongs. I looked like one of those lab monkeys in electrodes. Everything was suddenly very bad indeed. Monday morning at school loomed like an execution. My massive earlobes – already the bane of my playground existence – were now exposed, and I was never to live it down. It took me two long years to grow out the layers, much longer to regain my trust in the hairdressing profession. The scars of my consequent earlobe reduction surgery, some 12 years later, may long since have faded, but the psychic scars of this haircut remain.


Nat Saunders, “In The Bathroom With…” Director

nat s

Hair is dead stuff that grows out of our heads and is sometimes curly, sometimes not. Mine was ginger when I was small, then it went brown, then it went through a ton of bad styles as I struggled to come to terms with what I am – a perplexed human. One time I dyed it blonde, only to unwittingly rediscover my childhood ginger (cheap dye). Another time, a friend who worked at a salon dyed it blue, but it rained on the way home and all the dye turned my face blue (she was a trainee). But most regrettable was my late teens/early twenties, which coincided with what music historians call “grunge”. I played guitar and my hair copied the hair of men in cool American bands with names like Screaming Trees, Mudhoney and The Jesus Lizard. But I was English so I just looked like I was copying the bloke out of The Wonder Stuff. When I had an early mid-life crisis upon turning 30, I tried growing it again, but luckily friends and my wife stepped in to tell me what a blithering idiot I was. These days I like a short back and sides.


Paul Simper, Writer



This is the look that failed to win me the heart of Caroline Mortlock. In fact, this is the look that moved Caroline Mortlock to say: ‘You’re not exactly Paul Newman, are you?’ And as we can see, she was exactly right. Caroline, with her brown, tousled hair was the Jacqueline Bisset of Burbage. At least in my eyes. Clearly she deserved better.
Now the limply patted down blonde hair, with the ill-defined parting, screams to me ‘Gavin Sullivan off EastEnders.’ That nasty piece of work, played by Grandma’s Party’s Paul Nicholas. The one with the damp seagull draped across his head. Back in 1975 it simply spelled failure. There was no way this was strong enough to merit a snog. Caroline Mortlock was 18 months my senior. Whilst my hair and my attire promised nothing more thrilling than a knickerbocker glory in Winchester town centre (if my mum drove), she knew boys with ‘taches and their own cars who could whisk her off to Swindon to see AA double bills like That’ll Be The Day and Stardust with an equally hirsute David Essex, smoking and booze included.

The zip-up top with the flattened collar and t-shirt is particularly limp. But I was now two years past my go-to look of Roger Moore’s Live And Let Die black polo neck and it was mid-summer. I was floundering. Still at least it was good enough for a passport photo. No wonder I rarely made it past the Isle of Wight.


Lucy Mangan, Writer & Co-founder

My worst look? Oh, my darlings, would that I were able to lay claim to anything as specific, as demonstrative of taste (good or bad), courage or independent thought as “a look”. I would gladly pick out a Worst for you.

But here’s how it is, was and – were it not for a fortuitous lunch with Hughes when she first became the Guardian’s beauty columnist five years ago – doubtless ever more would have been; for the first sixteen years of my life I had short hair because my mother deemed it not thick enough to look right long and dressed like…well, like absolutely nothing. There is literally nothing I can say about how I looked. I was just…in clothes. Clothes that fitted. Clothes that would last. I grew up in a family that admitted of no other sartorial considerations than that you be clean and well-covered. I was clean. I was well-covered. There were novitiate nuns in more daring outfits than me.

As I got older there was a general consensus – in which I wholeheartedly shared – that there was no point trying to dress my unpromising five foot two inch frame (which went from skinny to dumpy over the years without any mid-period of attractiveness or nubility, so thanks again for that, genetics) to advantage.

My family also believes that make-up is essentially a mortal sin. Our basic premise is that you get what you’re given in this life and you leave it at that. It’s a philosophy best encapsulated by the ancient northern proverb “If we had some ham we could have ham and eggs, but we’ve no eggs” and it explains why I came so late to beauty products that Hughes is currently working on a Ladybird edition of Pretty Honest for me because I still don’t understand what bronzer is for.

I am currently fighting to overcome this mental legacy. But I am also typing this unshowered in a onesie. I’ll let you know if the situation improves.

You want a pic to go with this piece? Fuck off.



Part One of My Worst Look is here

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  • lovestruck

    this is brilliant :) i still keep flicking through them to decide which is my fave. smashing!

  • Bekahbea

    Excellent stuff. I’m going to start a petition to get a Mangan photo, though. Does anyone have a phone number for her mum?

  • Ganoc

    Lucy Mangan is such a beautiful woman her self-deprecating section upsets me.

  • Eliza Ekstein

    I Love Lucy Mangan. This is not some silly teenage school girl crush, but actual, proper, grown up ‘you should be my friend’ love.

  • Vix

    Is the Ladybird edition of Pretty Honest available for pre-order?

  • Joe Normal

    Oh my. Nat Saunders, my 18 yr old self would have cried herself to sleep at your beauty, stuttered in your presence, and loved whatever music you did, just to get noticed.

  • Rooty Tooty

    I keep coming back to look at Sali’s mullet. I had that feeling SO many times at the hairdressers. Never quite got a mullet though. Poodle perm, bowlhead yes.

  • NancyGateaux

    ‘As calculated as a serial killer’s road trip’. Hahahaha.
    I had curly hair that no-one realised was curly, so was cut by the lady that came to our house into a ‘square bob’, which was as attractive as it sounds.

  • alizou

    I thought I was the only girl who, on presenting a picture of a wavy bob (pic torn from Looks!) had her hair shorn into a mullet that would have had Pat Sharp envious. And yes, it took me 3 years to grow out. I remember sobbing and running home from the hairdresser down all the back alleys. I did learn from the experience, though. No more tearing pictures and expecting miracles from the local salon. Thank you Sally for sharing so I know I wasn’t alone in my misery.

  • Sera

    How I remember the Brothers Constantinou! I never had my hair cut there – childhood cuts were most often limited to a neighbour’s kitchen, although the result was never that terrifically different. Never went the full mullet though!

  • Annie

    I also took in a picture of Enya’s lovely layered bob and ended up with a mullet I utterly hated. How do these things happen? How does a bob look like a mullet??

  • elisabetta

    Y’all are hilarious! Love, love, love the site and everything y’all post. And Sali — you were darling looking in that picture.

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