It's hard to remember life before the rise of the professional blowout-a cultural beauty phenomenon dedicated to banishing bad hair days with the whir of a tiny wind machine and a steady stream of heat. Emerging as a thriving subindustry over the past decade, the 30-minute salon service saved time; it steeled nerves; it stretched the days between shampoos; it even inspired a legion of little factories (otherwise known as blowout bars) devoted to fine-tuning every step of the process. Along the way, it experienced relatively little competition-until recently. Chalk it up to the influence of Game of Thrones or the effect of Jennifer Lawrence's signature unraveling Hunger Games hairstyle: From a quick look around, the braid is making a bid for dominance as the new beauty universal.
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Perhaps it all goes back to a few years ago, when designer Alexander Wang sent models down his spring 2010 runway with the kind of sporty,