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A Gold Medal Winning Hairstyle: The Dorothy Hamill

Fads | July 26, 2018

Figure Skater Dorothy Hamill of the United States competes in a figure skating competition circa 1981. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

As a 1976 Olympic gold medal and world champion figure skater, Dorothy Hamill earned her way into the hearts of Americans and was even dubbed “America’s sweetheart.” Hamill certainly has a proven resume to back up her medals and titles, but also earned a prominent place in pop culture by inspiring a hairstyle fad…the ‘Dorothy’. 

Dorothy Hamill Always Wore Her Hair Short

Dorothy Hamill wore her hair short her whole life. She said that she once grew her hair longer and liked how it looked, but she didn’t like the upkeep of it. She is more of a ‘wash and wear’ girl. It is easy to see why. Hamill began skating at age 8 and soon progressed to taking private lessons. Ice time was at a premium, so she had to get to the rink by 4:30 in the morning to get in her practice time before school. A schedule like that doesn’t leave much room for fussing and primping with a high-maintenance hairstyle. 

Hamill Wanted a Style that Kept the Hair Out of Her Face

Figure skating takes precision and skill and Hamill quickly discovered that longer hair would get into her face and eyes when she spun around, distracting her and breaking her concentration. She opted to wear her thick hair in a bowl cut style simply because it kept the hair from getting in her eyes. 

(YouTube)

The Dorothy was Created the Night Before She Left for the Olympics

Dorothy Hamill was selected for the U.S. Figure Skating team and was preparing to represent her country in the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. She had read about famed Japanese hairstylist, Yusuke Suga, and hoped he would cut her hair before she was thrust upon the Olympic stage. Hamill’s father wrote a letter to Suga asking if he would consider styling Dorothy’s hair for the Olympics. He agreed. The night before Hamill was scheduled to leave for Europe, she met Suga at his salon, which he kept open late just for her, and allowed him to work his magic on her hair. 

Yusuke Suga Created the Iconic Hamill Wedge

Yusuke Suga fashioned Hamill’s naturally thick, straight hair into a wedge cut. He made use of the bounce in her hair to cut it into a style that would move and flow with her as she skated. The wedge design created a flattering silhouette for Hamill as she skated her routines. Hamill later said, “I had no idea that this wedge would become so famous. I just thought if I had to have short hair, I might as well have something fashionable.”

(Pinterest)

Everyone Wanted the Gold Medal Hairstyle

The 1976 Winter Olympics were golden for Hamill. She won both the short and the long programs and clinched the gold medal. Dorothy Hamill became an instant household name and the public adored her signature hairstyle. Girls and women across the country flocked to styling salons asking to get their own hair cut into a ‘Dorothy’ or a ‘Hamill Wedge’. Even if they weren’t copying Hamill’s exact hairstyle, they were asking for something similar. The ‘short and sassy’ hair trend had begun, thanks to Yusuke Suga and Dorothy Hamill. 

Hamill Endorsed Hair Care Products

So much focus was placed on Dorothy Hamill’s hair that the skater was asked to endorse hair care products. For a girl who always hated the way her hair looked, it was an ironic turn of events. She was the spokesperson for White Rain hair products. 

(American Program Bureau)

The ‘Dorothy’ Lives On

The ‘Dorothy’ was so much a part of seventies pop culture that is was included in a 2002 exhibit about the evolution of hair styles, called HAIRevolution. Today, Hamill has moved away from her seventies wedge but still keeps her hair styles short and sassy. 

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Karen Harris

Writer

Karen left the world of academic, quitting her job as a college professor to write full-time. She spends her days with her firefighter husband and four daughters on a hobby farm with an assortment of animals, including a goat named Atticus, a turkey named Gravy, and a chicken named Chickaletta.