At Orlando hair show, curly and wavy models were everywhere.

Curls are back!

So exclaimed a flyer from the hair company Tressa at Premiere Orlando 2004, the annual end-of-summer hair and beauty trade show that forecasts fall trends and announces seasonal product launches. The Tressa flyer advertised the company's new perm system, designed to let stylists create curls, apply color and shampoo it all out in the same visit.
The ad might have been one of the most obvious signs at the show that curly hair was truly making a comeback -- after all, how long has it been since companies touted products that ADD curl instead of take it away?

Tressa wasn't alone, however. Across the 1-million-plus square feet of space at Orlando's Orange County Convention Center, numerous companies were promoting new products designed to enhance curls and waves or even create them where they didn't exist.
Curly and wavy models were everywhere, and even straight-haired models were given curls for their stage debuts. Major hair care empires handed out brochures about their new lines, featuring designs that strayed from straightness.

'Curl is definitely back,' said Richard Gundry, director of education and business development for ABBA. 'We're seeing the desire for more waves and movement. Flat-ironed hair has no movement.'

Gundry, the owner of Flare The Salon in Clearwater, Florida, said he rarely uses his straightening and flat irons these days, as customers are no longer requesting a poker-straight look.

ABBA will also launch a curly hair line later this fall. Called 'True Curls,' Gundry said the line will have very little, if any, silicones or sulfates and use plant-derived preservatives. The launch will take place in San Diego in October. Basic products will include a shampoo, conditioner and curl activator.

Sister company Modern Organic Products was also touting its relatively new line for curls, known as C-system. With its distinct bright orange packaging, signifying the usage of Vitamin C extracts, C-system includes a curl enhancing cream and a texture lotion for hold.

As with the return of any past trend, there's usually a modern update. The curls seen at Premiere Orlando differed greatly from the big fluffy styles of the 1980s and instead were sleeker versions that emphasized shine and softness, rather than poof.

Matrix, for example, continued to promote its 'Twist on Classics' approach to styling, which featured coifs for straight and curly hair. The key to the Twist styles, however, was an emphasis on creating softness and movement. No stick-straight flat ironed styles nor gelled-up curly looks were to be found.

'Unlike the solid shapes of yesterday, the contemporary classic has no hard lines or interruptions. Cut and color are fluid and connected,' the brochure said.
When doing perms, Gundry said his processes are much different than in the past. 'I might use about 13 perm rods,' he said. 'It's all about the quality and the placement of the rods versus the quantity.'

One of the more interesting booths featured a product from a company known more for its nail care line. One Minute Manicure promoted its new hair system, called One Minute Scrunch and Curl. The product consists of a kit designed to create or define curls with a forming cream, a scrunching glove and a styling comb.

'I have no curl and never thought I could have curly hair,' said Shauna Scott, a company representative. 'You can take any type of hair and create curl from it. And natural curlies love it. It defines curls and gets rid of frizz.'

Another positive was the emphasis on enhancing the curls of women of color. Black, Hispanic and Asian curlies graced the stages of Redken, Matrix, L'Oreal and Wella, among others, showing off their natural waves and coils. Gundry of ABBA also said the needs of multicultural hair were taken into account when developing the new True Curls line.

It remains to be seen whether the looks on stage at Premiere Orlando will eventually trickle down to middle America, but many of the world's top hair companies are putting their money on a curly resurgence.