Thursday 27 August 2020

The Industry of Hair Parlors



While spending this summer combing through the photograph collection at the Museum looking for the best and worst hairstyles; it occurred to me that there were more than a few industries involved behind the scenes of the historical hairstyle trends I found. Upon further research, one business attracted my attention; the hair salons in that time period.

When women’s hair trends began to boom, barbers (who had only ever served men) had to quickly learn how to cut women’s hair to the latest styles. As more complex styles arose, more and more they had to rely on barbers to duplicate these up-dos. Women’s hair became the new business possibility and offered significant amounts of clientele requiring regular trips to the salons. By the early 1920’s, women-only salons were booming and became an industry of their own. When reading through a 1910 edition of the Ladies Home Journal, I came across an article titled “Why I Stopped Being a Beauty Specialist”. This article was somewhat of an “exposé” on the true running of a beauty parlor in that time period and to say it was an entertaining read is an understatement


Beginning as an apprentice in this beauty parlor, the author is shocked to find out the parlor customs are more targeted to making money and high turnover than providing proper beauty care – quite shocking! A perfect example of this was suggesting that a customer could use a hair ‘brightening’ (as suggesting a bleach would result in a firm decline) due to the customers hair lacking luster and looking slightly ‘muddy’. After much insisting, the hairdresser winks and disappears and is soon replaced by a bleaching specialist! This bleaching treatment would cost anywhere from five to fifteen dollars “according to Madam’s gullibility”.

It was a pleasure spending my summer researching this interesting trends and tips regarding hairstyle and fashion, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

                                                                    - Gwenn