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California Stylist & Salon Magazine
April 2001

By Kathie Rothkop
The term "hairdresser" has been a common title for cosmetologists for years. Just where and when did this term originate? After researching the history of hairstyling, I found so many interesting facts and trivia, that it was a real hair raiser!
Hairdressing did not emerge as a profession until the reign of Louis XV of France and the influence on hair fashions by his mistress, Madame de Pompadour. Wig makers were prominent before this time but no hairdressers. Elaborate theme parties were thrown by socialities of the French Court. Women started hiring artists to create hairstyles depicting the theme of these parties. The hair was draped over a frame stuffed with cotton, wool, or straw and cemented with a paste that hardened. The hair was then powdered and decorated.

Hairdos had live birds in cages, waterfalls, cupids, and naval battles, complete with ships and smoke. One widow, overcome with mourning, had her husband's tombstone erected in her hair. This time in history is where the term "hairdresser" was born. They dressed the hair with ornamentation. By 1767 there were 1200 hairdressers working in Paris; a few years earlier there had been none.

Marie Antoinette was very prominent in setting fashion standards in the late 1700s. Until her reign, the mistresses of the kings were generally the trend setters. It was proclaimed that she had over 400 wigs and wore more than 100 hairstyles in one year. The ironic thing is: in the end, she didn't have a head to put them on!
There were many problems during this time. Women developed backaches from the weight of these monstrosities. They traveled for miles by carriage to these parties, bent over in the coach because their hair would not travel upright. The combination of being corseted and wearing bustiers added to the discomfort!

The pomades to hold these styles together were made of beef lard and bear grease. Because these women paid a high dollar amount for the hairdos, they kept them for a week or two. The hair became rancid and would often attract vermin while the mistress slept. That is where the term, her hair is a "rats nest" originated. French perfumes became renowned to cover the smell of the rotting pomades. A common recipe for a styling pomade was: 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 can be a substitute for bone marrow.

Hairdressers performed their services at the clients' home. Because of this they were not only sought after for their artistic talent, but also for the gossip that they acccumulated from these women of society. Hairdressers were the Barbara Walters, National Enquirer, and Entertainment Tonight of the French Court (some things never change)!

The images that I have created are a modern day tribute to the women of the 18th century who wore these colossal hairdos and most of all to the hairdressers who created them. A woman's hair is still her most important accessory, whether it is the year 1700 or 2001! Wear your hair with style!

Bridal Styles Made Simple

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