For hours, the evening lurched in fits and starts because of technical snafus and delays, so by the time the final Weave Master honors were announced, it had begun to flirt ominously with midnight.

But there were few (audible) complaints among the nearly 2,000 people who'd flocked to the Washington Convention Center on Sunday for the 10th annual Golden Scissors Awards. Anyone familiar with that peculiar institution known as the black beauty shop, where there are always four or five heads in front of you in various stages of the process, knows better: Complaining will only make things worse.

"No need to make tea or kiss arse, flatter or make conversation," British writer Zadie Smith memorably recounted about a similar scene an ocean away. "For these were not customers they were dealing with but desperate wretched patients."

So they waited.

In time the crowd came to witness the genius that demands such deference: Heads of hair transformed into opulent floral bouquets. A procession of wreaths strutting down the runway with milky brown faces at their centers. Strands of hair pressed, greased, sprayed into shiny helmets with a military spit-shine.

This is the 10th time Glynn Jackson -- fashion commentator, glamorous weddings coordinator, plus-size model searcher -- has pulled off the Oscar-style show in which hairstylists from throughout the country compete head-to-head for prizes.

On the over-the-top meter, the 2002 Golden Scissors show was, as usual, off the scale. But this year's event was about more than just titillating the audience with hairstyles that taunt gravity. This anniversary afforded Jackson and the rest of the hairstyling community an opportunity to stop, sit back and take stock of what they've accomplished over the past several years -- and give themselves a little credit. Like the surprise lifetime achievement award to Sister 2 Sister publisher Jamie Foster Brown. "You got me this time," she said of the award and plaque, as well as a video in which everyone from Kelly Price to Russell Simmons to E. Lynn Harris to Naughty by Nature saluted the diva and her Washington-based entertainment magazine.

"You know, people don't get me, I get them!"

Jackson also reflected about his own role over the past decade. "Ten fabulous years of hair," said Jackson, who for most of the evening wore a shiny gold pleated Leroi Cary sweater with an Elizabethan collar, and a black skully on his head.

"It is a testimonial to what African Americans can do. Sit back and unwind, baby, this is going to be a hair ride!"

Some of the snarling models were impossibly thin, but many more were wondrously average, with thigh dimples and pouches in abundance.

Sharonda Harris strutted across the stage with a purple wig stitched into a crown of braids, which held a bowl of water. Then came the pie{grv}ce de re{acute}sistance, the hairstyle that would ultimately take the top "Hairella" prize among Washington beauty students: hair stitched into two four-foot-long butterfly wings, which Teayana Battle fluttered with two strings for effect as she sashayed down the runway.

The event wasn't just about hair. It was also a talent show, dance competition, music video, fashion show, black history lesson, carnival and bodybuilding competition.

Several buff male models came out, ostensibly to model their haircuts, though several were quite bald. Wearing lots of body oil and glitter, and white sarongs over tighty-whitey underwear, they swaggered to the edge of the runway, scowled at the judges and flashing cameras. "Whatcha got! Whatcha got!" a few ladies in the audience demanded. "Take it off!"

In another scene, Chris Stone represented Bubbles Hair Salon by dressing as a Minotaur, with frayed wings and thigh-high horsehair boots shaped like hoofs.

There was even something for those who aren't down with all that processing, straightening and altering. "We are beautiful, naturally," commented one woman, as a dreadlocked drummer banged on a conga and two African scarf dancers did pirouettes. "Sisters, wouldn't you like to go natural? And for the young people in the audience, you can be a thug and be natural. . . . Show your pride."

But the night's sentiment was probably best summed up by Gerard Dure, stylist to Tyra Banks, Chaka Khan and Toni Braxton, among others. He -- and an enormous, unruly Afro -- made a cameo appearance in black leather and fur.

"This is about the appreciation of art," said Dure, whom Jackson crowned for the evening as "the Big Daddy of Hair."

"That is what hair is. A luxury and an art."

Teayana Battle, left, won the top "Hairella" prize among local beauty students at the Golden Scissors Awards. Sharonda Harris models the style that won Benita Clark the professional prize.Chris Stone, costumed as a Minotaur, adds to the evening's over-the-top proceedings. At right, judges focus on a towering bouquet of hair atop an equally dazzling outfit.