Salon Glam | Hair History | Makeovers | Styles Gallery | Press Room | Store | Links | Contact | Home


Petaluma Argus-Courier Newspaper
June 28, 2000

By Katie Watts, Argus-Courier Staff
Hairdresser Kathie Rothkop creates a new fantasy hairdo with butterflies on model Pamela Joyce.
Photo by: Leena Hintsanen, Argus-Courier staff
Local hairdresser creates fanciful hair fashions based on her studies of historic coiffures.

Petaluma hair designer Kathie Rothkop has been working with people's hair for 30 years. But she didn't know anything, until recently, about the history of her profession. What she learned was a real hair-raiser.

Hairdressing did not emerge as a profession until the reign of Louis XVI of France and the influence on hair fashions by his mistress, Madame de Pompadour, who was fond of dressing her hair in unusual ways.

"Up until this time," Rothkop continued, "there were wig makers but no hairdressers.Women starting hiring artists to come and make these creations, which is where the word hairdresser came from - they dressed the hair with ornamentation." By 1767, Rothkop said, there were 1,200 hairdressers working in Paris; a few years earlier there had been none.

Author Connie Willis explains in Bellwether, her book about fads, that the diorama wig craze was inspired by Pompadour. Hair was draped over a frame stuffed with cotton wool or straw and cemented with a paste that hardened, then the hair was powdered and decorated. Hairdos had waterfalls, cupids and scenes from novels. Naval battles, complete with ships and smoke, perched on top of women's heads and one widow, overcome with mourning for her dead husband, had his tombstone erected in her hair."The sky was the limit," Rothkop said with a grin.

Madame de Pompadour is most famous today, however, for lending her name to a hairstyle that still exists - the pompadour. In it, Rothkop explained, the hair was frizzed, i.e. backcombed high at the forehead, then brought back into a bun. It may have been high fashion, Rothkop said, but "these hairdos caused tons of problems. The women developed backaches from the weight - remember they were already corseted - and since they didn't have mousse and gels, they used pomades."

She wrinkled up her nose as she passed on a recipe for taming hair, 18th century style: "Take some beef marrow and remove all the bits of skin and bone. Put it in a pot with some hazelnut oil and stir well with the end of a rolling pin. Add more oil from time to time until it is thoroughly liquified. Add a little essence of lemon." "Bear grease," she added with a grimace, "can be substituted for the beef marrow."

In addition, "When they had these made, they weren't going to take them down. It indicated wealth. The bigger your hair, the more money you had.
"So they'd keep the hairstyles for a week, and the pomades would go rancid. You know the term, 'Your hair's a rat's nest?' Well, it was literally true," she shuddered. Women couldn't sit comfortably in carriages, she said, and they had to take the headboards off their beds and move the beds out from the wall. Worst of all was the danger of fire - the greasy hair was highly flammable and candles were everywhere.

Rothkop's research has stimulated her to recreate, in a modern way, the fabulous hairdos of the French court. "Let's do something fun with hairdressing," she thought and created fairy-tale coiffures for each of the four seasons. She calls them fantasy hairdos. I'm not doing it for anyone," she said, "just the creative adventure and the fun." She would like to enter her fantasies in the North American Hairstyling Awards which she explained are like Oscars for hairdressers.

The work is labor intensive and expensive, she said. "It takes about two hours to do a hairstyle like this," plus shopping for the materials. But, the four models she created the fantasy hairstyles on adored the double-takes they got. "People were honking, waving, laughing - they said they'd never had so much attention." She added that a fantasy hairstyle would be beautiful for a wedding.

Rothkop has lived in Santa Rosa for 12 years, and up until fairly recently worked in Marin. She wasn't sure about making the move to Petaluma - she works with Robert Ravnikar at Trico Salon at 400 Fourth Street - "but my Marin clients are coming here, they're making monthly excursions to Petaluma and enjoying a day of shopping, lunch and exploring."

What is it that attracts Rothkop to this profession? "I've always had this thing for dressing hair," she said. "When I was in high school my parents were in the restaurant business and I was the up-do person; I did the cocktail waitresses' hair."

One of the things she enjoys about hairstyling is that it's never the same
. "Hairdressing follows fashion, and fashion follows history." "The greatest example is in the 1900s. Women wore high-necked blouses, long sleeves, cinched waists and long skirts. Their hair was up in a Gibson Girl poofy knot and everything was very proper and Victorian, you never let your hair down. "Well, the 1920s came along - there were speakeasies, women got the right to vote, and what did they do but cut their skirts off and bob their hair."

As history guides the years, and the hairstyles ahead, Rothkop will be watching and studying. She points out that, "When people meet you, they don't look at your feet, they look at your head. Hair is the most important accessory you wear. There's a famous saying, 'A woman's hair is her crowning glory,' so wear your crown in style."

Three of hairstylist' Kathie Rothkop's fantasy hairdos: left to right, Winter, Autumn, and Spring.
Photos by Robert Harvey

Bridal Styles Made Simple

Copyright © 2014 Salon Glam. All Rights Reserved.
All photos and artwork featured on this site remain the property of their respective owners.
They may not be used in printed materials, web sites, presentations, or any other manner without prior written permission.

Salon Glam | Hair History | Makeovers | Styles Gallery | Press Room | Store | Links | Contact | Home