Looking for Elnett
A glamorous French writer once asked me to bring her a tube of Crest from New York. "C'est ma Madeleine" she explained. That all-American toothpaste took her back to Manhattan, in the 80s, when you could still bump into Warhol at his favorite venue, the supermarket. Buying her toothpaste proved to be impossible. There was no basic Crest.
So it shouldn't have come as a surprise that Elnett no longer offers the classic hairspray.
There are at least 11 varieties of L'Oréal's best selling product: Lumiere, "You're Worth It" 2012 Limited Edition, Supreme Hold, Flexible Hold, Very Volume Extra Strength, Extra Strength, Extra Strength Hairspray for Coloured Hair, Diamond Hold and Shine, Normal Strength, Very Volume Supreme Hold, Extra Strength Hairspray for Dry or Damaged Hair.
Let me explain. My grandmother only used one hairspray, Elnett. The classic hairspray, as classic and reliable as Nivea's blue tin. I would be lying if I claimed to remember her reaching for the golden can to apply that finishing touch. I don't. There's nothing emotional in my relationship with the brand. However much marketing loves "emotion", I just trust that it delivers.
Every so often I go into the wild and buy an alchemical potion from a niche brand promising longer, fuller, red hair and big boobs, only to find the same person staring back at me from the mirror. The inevitable conclusion is that I should have got Elnett. I know it will hold my hair at a precise state of mess, just as it kept in place my grandmother's impeccable curls. And the package has a presence, better still, it has an effect, like listening to AlunaGeorge before going out.
But the golden can is no more. It comes with a color tag in the shape of a ring, like those pharmaceutical products for the heavily medicated. It's still Elnett, but not quite and even if the formula is the same across the range, that sense of safety or comfort is lost. This kind of meddling doesn't erode my trust entirely, but it does kill the Proustian or Warholian factor.