“Basically, I am a walking fringe”

Disaster dye jobs, DIY haircuts and finally getting it right – Claudia Winkleman on her famous fringe   .

I feel like I probably came out of the womb with a full fringe – I can’t remember not having one. When I was little, my mum liked me to look quite old-fashioned: I had sensible shoes, I wore dungarees or, if we went somewhere fancy, I wore a dress. But I seem to remember always having a fringe. There was a short period when I didn’t have it and felt strange – naked even. Like a camel without its hump.

I was brought up by a staunch feminist who wouldn’t let me have any mirrors in the house, so hair wasn’t really a thing when I was younger; in fact, my appearance wasn’t really a thing. What we looked like was number 502 on the list of stuff to worry about. (I’ve got barely any mirrors now. One for teeth brushing – that’s it.)

Claudia aged four

Most of my teen years were spent in faded, embroidered denim, lots of bangles, lip liner and white eyeliner on the inside of my eye. Disgusting, but I was delighted. And I remember my mum wafting around, smelling of glamour (which was hairspray and perfume), but I wasn’t really aware of beauty products then. I did, however, find Sun-In very exciting. There was no way my mum was ever going to let me have highlights, so I bought a bottle for £3.99, unscrewed the nozzle and poured it on – I didn’t even bother with the spray. Of course it made my hair look insanely orange – that was alarming. I also wanted curly hair for a while, but I asked my mum for a perm and she just laughed her head off.

I found the colour black at university. I’d flirted with others, but once I found grungy black, suddenly everything made sense. I remember swishing around in long black duster coats that often jammed in my bike, ripped jeans and black T-shirts. My style hasn’t changed much since then; I’ve had the odd experimental moment (I had a neon phase for a while – I blame Fame for that), but I like a uniform. If you came to my house and opened my cupboard, you’d only find black jeans (Topshop), black T-shirts (Topshop and Zara) and a selection of shoes. That’s it.

You don’t even want to see what’s underneath my fringe. Live crickets, I imagine

My “signature” hairstyle came later, in my thirties. I remember wanting a side parting for a while – I was going for a long, swishy, highlighted, LA hair look, which is absolutely fine on a supermodel, but really difficult to keep, especially because I’m short and pale. I was 34, I’d had a kid, I was leaking, so I thought, “Shall we try a fringe again?” and once I’d had the blunt fringe cut, I just knew. I loved it immediately. It was like when you meet a boy and fall in love and you think, “Oh, I’m done now.” Or you find your lipstick colour and you don’t need to look any more. Or you find your perfect little holiday place in Wales (which I also found near the same time) and think, “Oh, no need to look anywhere else. I’m done. Bingo.”

My fringe is total armour. My first boss used to say to me, “You’re quite weird – you look like you don’t really want to be on television, because your whole face is covered. You’re bright orange, you’ve got white lipstick and I can’t see your eyes.” I was like, “Awesome.” It’s also a total cheat. You don’t have to have beautifully applied mascara or be wearing the latest top from H&M – everything else can go to hell, quite frankly. Because you’ve got such a heavy fringe, you already look like you’ve made an enormous effort.

I never blow-dry my hair – I’m too lazy. I shampoo it, condition it, comb it through, put it in a towel and forget about it, and it sort of finds its own way. I don’t like to look too “done”. It’s the un-coolest thing in the world. If there’s a perfectionist at one end of the scale, I’m on the other end. But I do believe in the power of a good haircut. Only wear high street, don’t worry about expensive designer clothes, but have a great haircut. It will make you feel amazing.

Claudia aged seven

Having said that, I did trim my fringe myself once – it was terrible. I’m going to use the word “zig-zag”. It was half term, it was raining and I decided to do me and the kids. We looked like our hair had been hacked at. I’ve also had a Larry Hagman fringe before. It was about an inch long and on a right angle. I looked demented.

I find it odd but terrific that people like my fringe. When I first started doing telly, I thought I’d get loads of letters from hot fishermen who wanted to make me a chicken stew. Maybe they’re artists on Sundays. Or they teach groups of small children how to do craft. I don’t. Ninety-nine per cent of all my letters are about my hair. Mainly my fringe. Basically, I am a walking fringe. Somebody even made a Twitter account for it once.

I think Laura Bailey has the best hair in the world. Dusty, great blonde hair down to her waist – like a sheet of hotness. But I’m deeply happy with mine. And very grateful – you don’t even want to see what’s underneath it. Live crickets, I imagine. And I love getting older, because the older I get, the more ridiculous my fringe will be. In my fantasy, one day it will come down to my chin. And when anyone asks me questions, I will have to just part my hair like a curtain. It will have its own tassel draw or maybe strings that I can pull. I’d never change it. I can’t imagine life with a visible forehead.

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