You may not realize it, but hair is political. From the liberated women of the 1920s chopping their hair short, to the 80s punks rocking their mohawks, hair trends often reflect political statements (intentional and unintentionally). The long and flowing hair of the 60s was a direct response to women becoming more active in the workplace and no longer being willing to put so much time into their hair. The dip dye from more recent years reflects a need for women to spend longer time between hair appointments due to a reduction in luxury spending.
I'd like to make a case for us to celebrate the blow dry, the 1960s hair revolution that freed women from the tyranny of sleepless nights and hours at the salon, and has been making a come back in recent years with the birth of the blow dry bar.
Hairdryers were originally invented back in 1890 by Alexander Godefroy in France, but the first ones suitable for home use weren't available until the twenties. There were tragically many cases of electrocution and death. No wonder they didn't catch on!
There seem to be two people credited with inventing the blow out as we know it today; Rose Cannon in London, and Patrick Alès in France). Alès even sold his patent to L'Oreal and was the first hairdresser to use plants to create safer and more gentle hair products with his brand Phyto, a brand still successful today.
Cannon, who owned a London salon with her husband in the 60s, talks about walking past a barber's shop, where hairdryers were regularly used to dry men's hair, and she had the light bulb moment of using the dryer on women's hair too. She then happened to use her new blow wave method on the then editor of Vogue, Lady Clare Rendlesham, which led to it being written about in that evening's newspaper. Cannon was proud of freeing women from their hair routines, despite her husband being annoyed at having just had 20 (now redundant) hood dryers delivered to the salon. No longer did women need to spend hours at the hairdressers setting their hair; and the softer and looser style was also representative of the changing roles of women too. Women were increasingly going out to work, and creating lives of their own, away from the kitchen and drudgery of housework.
Similarly to the 1920s, when women cutting their hair short, caused outrage, women embracing 60s hairstyles were also making their own political statement, intentionally or not. Both the '20s and '60s were monumental moments in time for the feminist movement, and women had freedoms they'd never enjoyed before. It was no coincidence that as the mind-set of women were changing, their beauty and hair regimes changed alongside them.
The recent surge in blow-dry bars to our modern high streets hints that we may well be returning to the old-age habit of having our hair styled regularly between cuts. Just like our grandmothers who often visited the salon weekly (many continuing for their whole lives!). Nicky Clark even goes so far to say that there are no iconic haircuts anymore, just blow dries. Perhaps the modern resurgence in regular styling appointments stands for its own small political statement too, just as they did in the 60s. As we edge away from the recession, are we more willing and able to show the world that we can indulge in our hair again? Just as during wartime, women embraced red lips and victory rolls, perhaps modern women are swishing their curly blow dries at the current economy, showing it that we mean business.