It's three a.m. and I'm glued to Tumblr. I'm not a teen, so this is unusual. It's Sunday night, and my non-teenage job requires me to have an active brain in only six hours, but I can't look away from the constantly refreshing scroll—all pictures of Danielle Haim flanked by her sisters Este and Alana. They stare back at me placidly, like they've accessed my soul. Still images, Haim GIFs, I'm in jail.
I'm in Haim jail.
I reach my breaking point when I realize the same photo—one in which eldest sister Danielle is wearing an immaculate bone-colored Stella McCartney pantsuit—has shown up on my timeline at least 70, if not 100, times. Enough for tonight. I close my laptop and go to sleep.
That Tumblr night was the night of this year's Grammys, and I don't know what came over me: an obsession that grew out of how beautifully and sharply the sisters were dressed, my inherent need to fill Sunday night ennui with anything at all. But all I wanted was to be the naturalized fourth Haim sister.
I'm a good candidate. I have a middle part. I also have long straight hair with layered angles around my face. When I dyed my hair blonde in summer 2014, it grew below my shoulders and to my nipples (cheeky), and I started to hear that I looked like a Haim.
Sure, I could see the family resemblance, too. But what the Haim sisters have in shine, texture, moisture, and glamour, my hair has knots, dry fluff, and limp strings that dislodge full chunks with the slightest comb-through. I have the same cut and length as the three Haims, but in an alternate universe where laziness, lack of care, and split ends prevail.
I am not yet a Haim. But maybe I could, if I truly tried, become one. When I asked a female friend how to replicate the shine and beauty of this teenage Kennedy, she responded, "Oh, that's rich girl hair. You're born with it." Fuck. What was I supposed to do? Without putting forth effort, money, time, energy, or even interest in my hair on a daily or weekly basis, I am not even Haim enough to make it as an impersonator in the dive bars of Asbury Park, N.J.
But maybe it didn't have to be this way. What would happen if I spent one full month trying to right my hair wrongs (endless, unwieldy), seek professional help (a stylist, though shoutout to my therapist for believing in me every day), and attempt to morph my otherwise fluffy, difficult-to-manage hair into the hair of these three sisters Haim? Would such a transformation even be possible? I wanted to become Dayna "The Other One" Haim. I'd do whatever it took.
For the very public record, here is what my hair looked like in December of last year. As beauty standards invented by the patriarchy have infected me into feeling, I have always been frustrated with the flat-meets-fluffy-meets-coarse texture that drapes all around my face. I don't use any products in it because I am cheap and lazy, and after I got it dyed last year, I noticed the color became flatter and duller. I didn't even care. Oh well.
My routine is to wash my hair with whatever Pantene Pro-V shampoo and conditioner is on sale at CVS, blow-dry it on the highest power setting on a travel blowdryer with a round brush that I don't clean (to be honest, I have no idea where it even came from). I don't blow-dry the back of my hair because I can't reach it, so my aesthetic is, really, que sera sera. This whole process, which takes usually 10 minutes, happens once every three days, tops. Most other days I put it up and forget about it.
Voilà: Hair that I hate and desperately want to "improve." What was I looking to make happen in my journey? Hair that was brighter, softer, had a sharper sheen, that was silky and fluid as hell. I determined I'd need to do the following things: change my shampoo, learn how to style my hair, buy lots of sample-sized fancy products, and perform basic upkeep and maintenance to my locks every single day until I died. Game on. (Haim . . . on.)
In this experiment, I vowed to not let go of my morals (spending very little money on hair products that didn't ever seem to do anything anyway). I assumed that if I simply changed up my shampoo and conditioner, that would be half the battle—perhaps even the whole war. When I did research on Haim's hair routine, the Times said the three use Davines shampoo. I looked up "Davines" and saw it cost at least $20 for 8oz of shampoo, so I decided to find the closest CVS and buy the most expensive shampoo there.
But then I realized that CVS also sells shampoo in Haim's price range, I went down by a few tens of dollar bills, instead opting for the second best thing after "expensive": organic. Organic shampoo is good for you, I've heard, so I bought Organix Quenched Sea Mineral Shampoo and Conditioner. They were both in a pleasing teal bottle and Haim lives near the ocean in Los Angeles. Synchronicity.
I used the stuff for a week, without changing anything else about my hair routine. The new shampoo immediately turned out softer hair with fewer knots. A slightly lighter color, closer to what it looked like when I first had it dyed. A very nice smell that was gone before noon. Overall, better hair that still neither looked nor felt anything like Haim's, but was just cleaner. This, believe it or not, was a huge improvement. I was feeling positive. What could happen next?
My hair was almost certainly guaranteed to look the same if I continued to blow it dry with a spiky round brush for five minutes in front of my mirror, so I figured the next step in "becoming a Haim sister" would be to spend money on a styling product.
I went to a CVS I'd never been to before, near Lincoln Center—exciting. There I bought a travel-size bottle of Fekkai Brilliant Glossing Creme that cost me eight goddamn bucks. I didn't even really know what it was supposed to do, but it looked fancy and was a really pretty lemony color. On the product's description online, it says that the glossing creme would enable "dull frizzy hair" to be "nurtured to shine and smoothness." Sure, pal, sure. I'll believe it when I see it!
I added this product when my hair was damp (after washing my hair with the new shampoo and condish, with which I had become so happy with I could die), and I used a slightly thinner, less spiky round brush to blowdry my hair, and the photo below is what I was given. The Fekkai outta here! My hair looked bad. Flat and fluffy at the same time, which is still an unreal mystery that will never be solved in my lifetime. But—it smelled great. After I took this grim Photobooth selfie, I actually said out loud, "At least I smell good." Dismal.
Dejected, I accepted that the next step in this process was one I had only ever used the Internet for: I vowed to seek professional help.
Outside of getting my hair cut once every six months, I never get my hair styled at salons. I didn't exactly know what went down at a blow-dry bar, but I knew that they existed. "I know," I thought. "I'll go get a 'blowout.' I've heard those are big now."
The lovely and incredibly welcoming staff of Drybar, a national metropolitan business whose model is sincerely just to wash and dry people's hair (filed to: GREAT IDEAS THAT I WISH I'D THOUGHT OF), said that they would willingly hook me up with a blow-dry and some tips. I explained explicitly over email to Drybar's marketing manager Markie that I wanted to look as close to a member of the band Haim as possible.
He emailed me back, suggesting excitedly, that I try a "Dirty Martini." How'd this guy know how much I love martinis? I wondered. Suspicious. I set up an appointment and headed over to the Meatpacking District one sunny day in February to discover, much to my delight, that the second great idea connected to the Drybar business model is that everything—and I mean everything—is designed around the theme of drinking. Just like a bar! But... a dry one! I thought to make a joke to the receptionist about Drybar being a good name for a speakeasy, but I kept my mouth shut.
I met a stylist named Alex whose hair was very shiny and straight, but much shorter than mine, which made me wonder if I should leave this enterprise behind and go get a short haircut instead. But then I remembered Haim. I didn't want to let them down.
Alex washed my hair and asked me about what kind of style I was going for. "Haim," I said. Ever the sport, she indulged my almost maniacal insistence that I look like three women I've never met and don't resemble, and gave me a copy of Drybar's matte-print "lookbook." I paged through it blithely, trying to suggest to Alex with my body language that I was very familiar with hair styling, and that I did not need to look at this practical magazine dedicated to all the ways my hair could never look—but I would read it anyway because, you know, it was a way to pass the time.
She put a flurry of products in my hair, which I wrote down in my phone over the course of the appointment: a heat protector, a texturizing spritzer, a volumizing mousse, an amplifier, and a quick demonstration of a dry shampoo. The actual hairstyle was accomplished by the use of a hairdryer, two curling irons, some clips, and a one-and-a-half inch round brush. When the second sized curling iron got busted out, I began to despair for my "low-key" lifestyle.
Alex sectioned out my hair for a thorough blow-dry. This required making quadrants, then curling them in toward my scalp and out as they fell around my face. I'd been sitting and watching myself get worked on by Alex for barely five minutes when disappointment hit. I couldn't even reach the back of my head, let alone take on the Herculean task of smoothing it out as Alex had. I also noticed Alex had a nozzle on her blowdryer. Did I need one of these? "It doesn't hurt, but no! I don't use one," she said. I exhaled. Thank god. I could do this, I thought. All it takes is a little gusto and a curling iron (I made a note to purchase one) and a lot of time that I don't really have.
My Drybar experience, in total, took around 75 minutes, and I jokingly told Alex that "It takes a lot of time to look this effortless!" She nodded, laughing at my plebeian baseness, after which I asked her two essential questions:
"How often do I have to do this to my hair?"
"Oh, probably no more than once every few days. If you sleep at night with your hair in a loose bun, the style will hold."
Hmm. I was hoping she'd say once a month, tops.
"And if my hair gets greasy in between?" I asked. "My middle part is a breeding ground for oil."
"Dry shampoo!" she replied, enthusiastically demonstrating how the rice-based powder absorbed her skin's oils. It smelled amazing, so I bought it, and it seemed easy enough to use. I would need it if I planned on keeping this "styling" thing to a once-a-month event, against Alex's recommendations.
I said goodbye to Alex (we hugged!!! I loved her!!), and met up with a friend for brunch. I forced her to Instagram a photo of me, demanding the caption be that she was out sipping Bloody Marys with Este Haim.
In the interim period between my hair daydream with Drybar and later on, when I decided to finally purchase a curling iron of mine own, I went home to New Jersey, where hot curlers never go out of style.
I followed my normal routine one morning: wash with "not-that-expensive" shampoo and conditioner, use the Fekkai bullshit product that doesn't work, run a blowdryer over my hair, and then sit around thoughtfully wondering what to do next. Since I was in Jersey, I had my mom put eight massive hot rollers in my hair, a mother-daughter bonding ritual I'd manage to bypass, and they loosely hung around my scalp. I waited until they cooled before pulling them out. Simple task for a simple idiot.
The result? Haim's Italian aunt before a party at the Governor's Club in Seaside, New Jersey.
I abandoned the hot curlers idea for the time being. Not exactly the look I was going for.
Just . . . kidding.
Or . . . am I?
I still hadn't purchased a curling iron, because I really couldn't believe I actually needed one. Please forgive me my disgusting stubbornness. The Haim sisters' hair always looks like they just emerged from a gentle ocean, not as if they've walked out of a two-hour styling appointment. Why are celebrities so lucky! I raged. In an attempt to prove that effortless "beach hair" or "bed head" was possible, I did the unthinkable.
I bought another product.
I don't fucking know, man! At my Drybar appointment, sweet Alex had used four products on my hair, which seemed exorbitant and insane, while in the meantime I was only using one that didn't even work. I did some more Haim research and discovered an interview where Este enthusiastically said she used Moroccan Oil to keep her hair looking "lustrous," so I ordered some on Amazon. The new routine?
- Wash hair
- Add Fekkai product that didn't work
- Rub ends of hair with Moroccan Oil
- Sit and wait, pray for "beach hair"
The result was further proof that praying has never worked for shit. Sure, my hair was looser and more "free" than it had been when I was utilizing the travel blow-dryer, but what was this garbaggio? The Moroccan Oil I quite liked, in that it really made my super dry and brittle hair feel silky for about three hours. My hair felt healthier, looked shinier, was staying smoother for longer, and gave me faith that my experiment was not entirely for nothing. I was using organic shampoo! That was a big step in the organic direction!
But otherwise, I looked like one of those Westminster show dogs. You know which kind I'm talking about.
I resolved to make it to the closest CVS that week and buy a stupid curling iron. As Steve Brule would say, it was for my health.
Much like my overall failure in taking care of my hair for my near 30 years on this planet, I cannot say that I am especially good at "lifehacks." I can't Etsy anything for shit, nor do I think of any way to make my life easier until my shoe is already broken, my nails are already chipped, or my lettuce leaves have become rotten. My life has rarely, if ever been hacked.
That is—until the day that I caved and bought a curling iron.
"Hold on there," I'm sure you're saying. "Curling irons are not in any way more simple than just doing your hair the way you were doing it prior to this increasingly long story you spent a month writing. How is buying a curling iron a lifehack?" Well, skeptic, you are not only rude but you are dumb as hell.
The $20 curling iron that I bought at a Rite Aid on 2nd Avenue (all apologies go to CVS for this egregious disrespect) was the kind with a clamp. Do you know what happens when you wrap your hair around a hot iron and then let the clamp close down on the hairs' edge? It makes heinous crimp patterns at the ends of your hair, completely reducing the curling experience to an ugly futility. Did I know this prior to buying my $20 curling iron from Rite Aid on 2nd Avenue (once again, my apologies to CVS)? Of course not.
But what did I do when I discovered this to be true? I went online and looked up some "lifehacks."
What I discovered, after I had not had the discerning taste to buy anything more expensive than a $20 curling iron from CVS, is that curling wands are the new thing. There is no clamp on a curling wand, thus making the curl much smoother and more natural, with no ugly crimps to be found. What did the lifehacks tell me? With a screwdriver and a little elbow grease, I could remove said clamp and with that I would have a curling wand for the price of a curling iron, which is the same as having a sashimi platter for the price of a California roll.
I followed my prior routine to the T, but this time I stopped to add in one final product before reaching the curling stage: a little hairspray. It really doesn't matter what kind you use, but mine is the a travel size of TRESemme's Aerosol Hair Spray, TRES Two Extra Hold. I spritzed and spritzed, then attempted the same swift curling motion Alex had performed on my hair only a few weeks before, and when I felt satisfied—two broad curls in the front and one on the right side—I spritzed a few more splashes of hairspray.
Then I declared, "I am Haim."
I am Haim. FINALLY, I can say that I am Haim.
I decided to do this to my hair once a week, if possible, and use my special boozy Detox dry shampoo in between styles. Every time I use a curling iron now, I feel as though I am getting better at it. After a month of experiments, patience, trial, and error, I had healthier, shinier, and more Haim-like hair than ever before.
Would I vow to keep up the procedures once I ran out of my travel-size products? Unclear. Were one or two days a week of looking like the backup bassist in a Haim cover band worth the extra ten or fifteen minutes of maintenance added onto my routine? They sure were. Was I able to buck the standard that only rich girls can be born with smooth, lustrous, and well-managed coifs? Kind of, but not really! Some days, sure.
God bless Haim, and may you achieve your dreams, just as I did.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top photo by Getty.