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HAIR HISTORY - The Origin Of The Word Hairdresser

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 socialites 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.

Problems were many 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.


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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 liquefied. Add a little essence of lemon. Bear grease can be a substitute for bone marrow.

Hairdressers performed their services at the client's home. Because of this they were not only sought after for their artistic talent, but also for their knowledge of what the other women were wearing. Hairdressers were the Barbara Walters, National Enquirer, and Entertainment Tonight of the French Court (some things never change)!

The photos shown in the Styles Gallery are my modern day tribute to Madame de Pompadour and all the talented "hairdressers" that created such a wonderful profession for me and thousands of others to revel in!

Bridal Styles Made Simple

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