IDAHO FALLS – Suzie Barrera blows through a medium-size, pink bottle of Suave hair spray in 2 1/2 weeks if she raises her hair daily, backcombing for 10 minutes before smoothing her mane to a rounded mound crowning her 4-foot-11 frame.
“I guess I feel a little bit better about myself, a little more confident that I don’t look like a mop head,” Barrera said of her hair.
The look gets Barrera noticed wherever she goes, at the grocery store, church and her jobs at Gold’s Gym and as a deputy civil clerk at the Bonneville County Courthouse.
“Everyone’s always making fun of my hair and saying, ‘Do you have your Bumpit in today?’ ” she said. “Every day something is said about my hair.”
The fascination Barrera’s hair attracts is easy to understand after a glance at local hairdos. When it comes to coiffures, bigger is better in Idaho Falls, from stacked short cuts to bumps in the back of longer hairstyles.
While searching big hair online reveals Bumpits, teasing tutorials and a Las Vegas wig styling company catering to cross-dressers, big hair in Idaho Falls means volume. The style is characterized by a pouf on the top of the head achieved by painstaking ratting and teasing.
“You’ve got to have the bump. I personally think it’s attractive,” said Carolyn Olsen, a Vogue Beauty College student who has lived in Idaho Falls for 20 years. “It’s just pretty. A woman’s hair is a crown of glory.”
The origin of the trend is difficult to pinpoint. Some say it is a sign of ’80s fashion revival, while others credit the style to Idaho’s southern neighbor.
“I think it’s more of a Utah thing,” said Barrera, who recalls her Brigham Young University-Idaho classmates dubbing the style “Utah hair.”
Liquid Hair Salon hairstylist Amber Trumble studied in Salt Lake City, “home of the big hair.”
“(Big hair has) definitely been here for a while,” Trumble said. “Idaho takes a little bit of time to get through the trends.”
Brian Young, an Idaho Falls hairstylist and salon owner, said he never encountered the local trend in his training or time with celebrity hairstylists in California, where the hair bump was more of a joke.
“You’re not going to find it in any fashion magazine,” Young said. “(Big hair styles are) just kind of things that have taken hold in rural America.”
Sierra Burns, a senior at Skyline High School and also a Vogue student, prefers the volume of teasing her hair, though she said combing it out is not fun. Like Barrera, she believes amplified hair instills confidence.
“Flat hair is definitely not in,” Burns said. “People come in here (and) their hair is just flat and you give it the volume and you can see (their) confidence.”
While big hair’s prevalence perplexes some and inspires others to reach greater hair heights, the deeply rooted local style is tough to shake.
“I can’t honestly say why it’s popular. When I go to church, you notice it works through the families (mother to daughter),” Young said. “It’s extremely difficult to move on from a style that you feel good about.”