Fifty years ago today, Capitol Records released what they thought would be a relative flop of a record from their prodigal fun-in-the-sun band, The Beach Boys. Debuting just before Memorial Day weekend in 1966, Pet Sounds opened with a sunny music box harp-like melody that buoyantly swayed back and forth like a boat on glassy waters—only to be swiftly interrupted with the crash of a drum. Record executives couldn’t hear the promise of the sound that went beyond an easy portrait of an innocent day at the beach, but critics (and fans like Paul McCartney) immediately did: That seismic percussive thunder gave an instantaneous air of cool to the music, paving the way for what would become one of the most influential albums of the century.
Tapping into a changing youth culture that was more interested in turning up, tuning in, and dropping out than the thrill of turning the ignition on their daddy’s T-Bird, the Brian Wilson–led musical group solidified the decade’s obsession with California surf culture—and that’s not all. Look closely at their cadre of bombshell front row groupies and you may well spot the genesis of still another cultural phenomenon: the rise of everyday beach hair.
Salt-sprayed, braided, or sun-streaked within an inch of its life, sea-swept hair telegraphs the carefree romance of oceanside adventures. There was Brigitte Bardot’s rumpled blonde mane, immortalized on-screen in Two Weeks in September and captured in Búzios with real-life Brazilian boyfriend Bob Zagury in the mid-’60s. And who could forget the startling visual impact of Marisa Berenson’s famous head flip, shot by one-time-boyfriend Arnaud de Rosnay, in the September 1, 1970 issue of Vogue?
Bo Derek’s braided cornrows in the 1979 beach flick 10 became infinitely more famous than the film itself, while Pamela Anderson’s platinum, busty beauty in Baywatch transformed her into an iconic symbol of ’90s sexuality. In more recent years, it’s the stars of the cult summer surf movie Blue Crush and scenes of Blake Lively hanging ten on the California coast that have captured our imagination. In honor of one of the most forward-thinking summer albums ever penned, a look at the women who made tousled beach hair your summer dream.
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