31/10/2016
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I was a teenage wig keeper... Scottish Sixties nostalgia

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Margaret Mather recalls a fabulous job which could only have existed in the Swinging Sixties...

Only in the Sixties could you hold down a position with the title of Keeper of the Wigs. I had a handful of diverse jobs during my teenage years but none as strange as recording information about wigs hired from my place of employment.

It was in 1966 aged fifteen that I worked as a receptionist at Holmes hairdressers in West Blackhall Street, Greenock. The Beatles were big news and it wasn’t only boys that wanted their hair styled the same as their idols, lots of girls wanted the mop top style to.

They’d come into the shop and ask for a John, Paul, George or Ringo haircut. However most parents wouldn’t allow it, as they thought the Beatles were long haired louts. It was more than your life was worth to disobey your parents and many a heart-broken girl left the shop with a bob instead.

Acrylic wigs became the solution to the problem and were advertised for sale in newspapers and magazines. They were expensive but available in any style, colour or length and fully washable. It was then that my boss, a canny Scot, had a brainwave.

He bought 200 wigs of varying colours and styles with the intention of hiring them out to the general public. He ordered a custom-made cabinet with shelves and numbered pigeon holes from a local carpenter. A ledger was supplied to log information such as wig number, length of hire, name and address of the customer and the cost. I thought it a great idea and was delighted when offered a promotion from receptionist to the impressive position of wig keeper.

I loved my job and it wasn’t long before I asked if I could borrow a wig. They said I could and in return expected me to tell people about the wig hire. I readily agreed. Mr Holmes, my employer and head hairdresser, pinned, styled, backcombed and sprayed the wig in place. It was waist length and blonde with a full fringe which covered my own chin-length auburn bob. I looked like Marianne Faithful and wanted to burst into ‘As tears go by’ at every opportunity. I looked and felt fabulous and wearing my baby blue mini dress with matching hair band, knee-high white plastic boots and Mary Quant earrings, I strutted my way to the yacht club disco in Gourock.

I had no shortage of dance partners that night but one handsome lad asked me up for a slow dance then started to run his fingers through my hair. I shoved his hand away and asked him several times not to do that. I was scared the wig would fall off and show my pinned up hair underneath. He took no notice and I had no other option but to murmur softly in his ear, “Please don’t do that – I have a scalp irritation.”  

The effect was immediate; he snatched his hand away as if electric currents had shot up his arm and ran from the dance floor leaving me standing alone. In hindsight I guess I could have phrased it better, poor chap must have thought I had nits. Whenever I saw him again he would nod, smile but always stayed a safe distance from me.

I had great fun working in the wig department and went on to borrow many different styles, each one adding a certain intrigue and colour to my life.

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