Alt-icon Jenny Lewis is back! A perfect opportunity, then, to look into how the length and cut of the singer-songwriter’s bangs (the infinitely cooler American word for a fringe, guys) corresponds with where she’s at musically – honest.
Fluffy child-actor bangs
Before she was an Americana pop sensation, Lewis was grafting in a host of decidedly 80s movies, adverts and TV shows as a child star. The kind of roles we’re talking here include small spots in The Golden Girls and a Toys R Us advert, as well as playing Lucille Ball’s granddaughter in Life With Lucy. It was in 1989 movie Troop Beverly Hills, though, that Jenny’s bangs were given their first decent amount of airtime. Rocking a fluffy tween fringe, Jenny revisited the look in 2015 in the self-directed video for the chugging She’s Not Me. Mocking her child-actor past, she bought the look out of storage for one last job alongside celeb pals Fred Armisen, Zosia Mamet and SNL’s Vanessa Bayer. Props to the only child star we know to turn out so well adjusted.
“I wear a ponytail like a waterfall,” Jenny Lewis would sing on 2008’s See Fernando, professing commitment not just to her constantly evolving hairstyle but also a keen love of the great outdoors (probably). It was in the early days of her first band, indie darlings Rilo Kiley, that Lewis was fondest of this particular hairdo and with hindsight it isn’t hard to see why. Back then, Lewis had to share frontperson duties with Blake Sennett and the ponytail manoeuvre was her way of blending better into the background of nondescript band blokes. Thank goodness she didn’t stick with it for too long.
The blunt, thick Rilo Kiley years
When it was deemed Lewis was deffo the best thing about the band, the berets were quickly put to bed. For the following decade-ish Lewis’s bangs were front and centre: a crimson curtain of hair that covered 90% of her forehead, save for a small but important crack at the side. With this more-bangs-for-your-buck look, she pretty much invented Zooey Deschanel and kooky twentysomethings in pastel tights, secondhand sunglasses, cutesy tea dresses and cardigans. This was a look that said: “Oh my hair? I literally don’t do anything to it yet somehow it always looks incredible”, and also, “Don’t speak to me unless you wanna talk about the Velvet Underground and home-baked banana bread.”
For her first post-Rilo Kiley record, that 10% sidegap was swiftly shut down. There were to be no cracks in solo Jenny Lewis. No chinks in her rockin’ armour. These were serious lady bangs. Bangs not to be messed with. Bangs that you couldn’t ignore. An absolutely flawless fringe. With Ryan Adams handling production on 2014’s album Voyager, we got an appropriately 1970s head of heavy hair that matched Jenny’s new go-to outfits: a devastating range of flares and fringed suit jackets that were somewhere in the middle of David Bowie and Gram Parsons, as befitting her glam alt-country sound.
Wife of a tele-evangelist
Jenny’s latest look harks back to the greats of 1960s soul, pop and country and is a style I have attempted, but ended up Elnett-ing myself into partial delirium. As Dolly Parton once said: “The higher the hair, the closer to God”, in which case Lewis must be getting on for a sainthood. Like Bobbie Gentry before her, she’s prepping for the release of her fourth solo album, On the Line, by teasing the bejaysus out of her locks, resulting in a big-at-back-but-suspiciously-short-at-front lewk. A vintage power ’hive, the bangs here might not be the showiest part of the ’do but they are important, helping to create a solid, almost helmet-like mound of hair that circles her head and tells us to expect sounds as old-school as her fashion statements.
Jenny Lewis’s On the Line is out on Friday