Texas has been known since at least the 1970s and 1980s as a place of “big hair.” The Texas version of a “McMansion” is the “big hair house.”
McMansion is a slang architectural term which first came into use in the United States during the 1980s as a pejorative description. It describes a particular style of housing that—as its name suggests—is both large like a mansion and as generic and culturally ubiquitous as McDonald’s fast food restaurants.
In addition to ubiquity, almost every reason to poke fun at McDonald’s has been applied metaphorically to “McMansions”. These criticisms include the deviation from traditional local or regional architectural style; a gaudy, sterile, mass-produced appearance; and perceived negative effects on nature and neighborhoods.
The spread of the “McMansion”
As developments of large houses have spread, a number of similar, related terms have been coined, including “Beltway Baronial,” “Starter Castle,” “Monster Homes” (Canada),“Tract Mansions,” “Mini-Taj Mahals,” “Garage Mahals,” “Big Foot,” “Big Hair House” (Texas), “Texas Tuscan,” “Jumbo Abode,” “Gable-opolis” and “faux chateau.” The term “parachute home” refers to the perceived disregard for regional and immediate site considerations (as if the home had just been dropped from the sky). Closely related, but significantly different in both physical characteristics and social associations, are the “Persian palaces” of Los Angeles.
big hair house (BIG.hayr hows) n. A house that has a garish style and that is overly large compared to its lot size and to the surrounding houses.
Yet the newest residential rage in Dallas is the antithesis of the traditional neighborhood: the gated community. Depending on your income and level of anxiety, these private enclaves may contain golf courses, health clubs and equestrian centers, surrounded by big hair houses of indecipherable pedigree and protected round the clock by cameras and private police.
—David Dillon, “Where we live: Dallas’ neighborhoods,” The Dallas Morning News, May 2, 1999
When you ask [Dolly Parton] why she appeals to such a wide audience, you can tell she’s given it a lot of thought by the way she unhesitatingly launches into a list of the reasons. Children like her, she believes, because, ‘I look like a fairy tale, I look like Cinderella. As a little kid I was always fascinated with people that wore jewelry, long fingernails, big hair, “cause in a little kid’s mind that’s the way you’re supposed to look, that’s glamorous, that’s a movie star.”
—Susan Wood, “Singer, Songwriter, Superstar, and still the nicest person in show business,” The Washington Post, August 13, 1978
Today’s phrase (spied, with thanks, by subscriber Ginna Kingsley) is a mostly Texan phenomenon, although I’ve spotted it in papers that originate outside of the Lone Star State. The earliest citation I could find was from the August 13, 1995 edition of The Dallas Morning News that referred to an architectural style called the “North Dallas Big Hair House.”
Texas, of course, is the home of all things big, including big hair. The latter refers to a bouffant hairstyle, especially one in which long hair has been sprayed, permed, or teased to make it stand away from the head and give it volume. It was once seen as an emblem of rich, powerful, or glamorous women, but is now mocked as being garish and very “1980s.”
Dallas Morning News
`BIG HAIR’ HOUSES
Suburban landscape could use face-lift
Author: William McKenzie
Publish Date: September 12, 1995
“Tomorrowland” is what author Joel Garreau terms the suburban developments growing up around the edge of many American cities, creating a new driving force in American commerce and politics. Texas cities like Dallas and Houston have their share of “tomorrowlands.”
New homes and big malls in places like Coppell and Lewisville, outside of Dallas, and Round Rock, near Austin, spread across land that farmers and ranchers dominated not so long ago.
Google Groups: alt.architecture.alternative
Subject: Pet Peeve: Houses with “Big Hair”
OK, this is perhaps a tad off-topic, but I have to vent. All these new city-type houses encroaching in our area have “big hair”—you know—those great big, tall roof structures that are nothing but air underneath? I have nothing against a half story tucked under the eaves—these can be quite charming spaces—I used to think as a child that a bedroom in an attic with sloped ceilings and knee walls would be a wonderfully romantic space. But the big hair houses seem to be designed for one thing: conspicuous consumption. They seem to say “I’m rich, look how much wood I can afford to waste!”
15 February 1999, U.S. News & World Report, “This Old Dream House,” pg. 58:
Other people are starting to go against the grain. Architect Ron Wommack, based in Dallas, yearns for “smaller and simpler,” a reaction against “big hair” houses—local parlance for behemoths in a mishmash of styles. “There’s a difference between just building,” says Wommack, “and building poetry.”
The End of the American Mansion?
Frank Jossi 05.20.99 3:00 AM
They have trampled across the subdivisions of America, garish and poorly proportioned, possessing the charm of a Ford Navigator and the aesthetics of a Big Gulp cup.
Critics call them McMansions, Texans call them “big hair houses,” and their residents will tell you that they cannot understand how the rest of the world gets by on a castle with fewer than 4,000 or 5,000 square feet.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to a Smart Vocabulary
by Paul McFedries
Such a house is more often than not a starter castle, “a large house built on a relatively small property.’ A similar species is the big hair house, “a house that has a garish style and that is overly large compared to its lot size and to the surrounding houses.”
Big hair refers to a bouffant hairstyle, especially one in which long hair has been sprayed, permed, or teased to make it stand away from the head and give it volume. It was once seen as an emblem of rich, powerful, or glamorous women, but is now mocked as being garish and very “1980s.”
1 November 2001, Builder, pg. 81:
Once the domain of the big hair” house, the Lone Star state is about to revert to its architectural roots-if these two builders have anything to say about it.
by Carolyn Weber
ROB SELL AND MICHAEL DIKE ARE messing with Texas. Emphasizing diverse, character-rich, neo-classical designs, the partners of Village Homes in Fort Worth are out to change the face of production housing in their market.
The pair’s design philosophy is a far cry from what they encountered when working for a large-volume production builder in Austin, Texas. The “big hair” house and the “Dallas Palace,” with requisite brick facades and soaring two-story foyers, dominated the product line. “We were building the typical two-story, arched entry, front-loaded garage product,” says Dike.