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The Way We Were

An ad in the January 1928 issue of The American Hairdresser from Emil J. Padar Co., Chicago, IL, featured a green porcelain barber chair. The company had recently installed six of these new-age beauties in Marshall Field & Company. "The trend of the times is color—color in clothes, decoration, bathrooms and autos," read the ad copy. Maybe they were onto something. In fact, a few of our advertisers began using color in their ads for the first time that year.



During that decade, women were willing to try just about anything to get their hair to curl. We ran ads for Fanette Waving Lotion, which enabled stylists to do "finger or swirl waves." Wave Easy Water Wave Fluid left hair clean, not sticky or greasy. Oh, and it was green. Meanwhile, the W.G. Shelton Co. claimed to "lead the world in quality and results," boasting that its "Shelton waves are natural waves." Frigidine took out ads for a new development in permanent waving called the cool method with "nonmetallic insulated heaters."

 A green porcelain barber chair from Emil J. Padar Co., Chicago, IL
A green porcelain barber chair from Emil J. Padar Co., Chicago, IL

Meanwhile, Keen Steamroll Waving Machines ran an ad that read like a cautionary tale. The headline, "Le Morte d'Alyce," was translated for readers as "The Death of Alice." In the story, Alice opens a salon that she "dolled up with Louis Fortieth furniture." We're assuming the copywriter meant to say "Louis Fourteenth," but he's not around anymore so we can't ask him what he meant. But, we digress. Alice's mistake was installing inferior equipment, especially waving machines, because she assumed that "they're all alike." (The company was quick to point out that while both Cadillacs and Chevrolets will take you where you want to go, there's a big difference in the ride.) Ultimately, Alice's business goes belly-up. The moral of the story, of course, is that if she'd only invested in a Keen Steamroll Waving Machine, she might have been rolling in the dough instead of out of work.

The Frigidine cool method of permanent waving featured nonmetallic insulated heaters.
The Frigidine cool method of permanent waving featured nonmetallic insulated heaters.

Naturally, companies outdid themselves trying to invent a better mousetrap. The Edmond Process Automatic Hair Winder, which combed, stretched, wound and tied the hair, promised "19 curls in 17 minutes."



Also in the magazine were step-by-steps of finger-waving techniques. Stylists were taught that dressing the hair meant making sure the wave lasted. The idea, we told our readers, was to cut and shape the hair to "bring out the best features and counteract defects."



As hairdressers, we were enamored of all things French even then. In one issue, the legendary Antoine de Paris created a series of six new styles just for us. We also reported that, in Paris, shoulder-length bobs were the smartest.



Toward the end of the decade, we began advertising exercise machines within our pages. There were also ads for something called the Thermo-Pac, which when tied around the neck, provided "a valuable adjunct in the treatment of double chins."

America's sweetheart, actress Mary Pickford, sports a trendy new bob. INSET: Displaying the golden curls she chose to lop off.
America's sweetheart, actress Mary Pickford, sports a trendy new bob. INSET: Displaying the golden curls she chose to lop off.

There were haircolor advertisers in the book, including L'Oréal, which marketed Henne. An ad for Paragon Permanent Hair Color claimed that its product had that "indefinable something which Paragon chemists have successfully accomplished by tireless experiments and testing on human models." Well, at least they didn't test on animals.

While we ran countless ads for hairpieces in our magazine during the first decade of the century, by the end of the Roaring 20s, most women were bobbing their hair, making hairpieces practically obsolete. One company, Western Hair Goods, attempted to weather the storm, insisting in its ads that "even through the period of bobbed hair, we have always carried a complete line of hair goods, including those for all styles of long hair arrangement."

No doubt about it, the bob was as big a trend in the 1920s as it was in the 1960s when Vidal Sassoon reinvented it. In fact, in April 1928 we ran a story about actress Mary Pickford. The headline screamed, "Mary Pickford Bobs Her Hair!" Underneath her new look was a photo of America's sweetheart holding the "lovely, golden curls" she had just shorn. We'll never know if the star was remorseful about her decision, but there's one thing you can say about hair: It grows back.

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American Salon Staff

American Salon Staff