Beauty Magic in the 1950s

15 May

This video is so rich with things to talk about! So worth watching! The narrator’s comments… wow!

In light of our readings on beauty shops and hair, the following are questions I have from watching this video (which I came across while looking for a clip from the movie).

First, let’s examine the naming. Are the spaces constructed differently based on the naming? In the video the narrator says that beauty “magic” happens in the salon. When one thinks of a shop, it implies serious work with the hands (like a mechanic’s shop or a sculptor’s shop). How is that juxtaposed to the image given of the salon in the video?

How do you think Calendario or Willett would see this video?

If there is a difference between the beauty shop and the beauty salon, then I can confidently say that I’ve been in both on more than one occasion. The video is very far removed from the experienced I’ve had. I’m wondering if this is because of time or if it’s merely what’s portrayed to accentuate this informational video. Also, how has the beauty shop/salon changed from a place of only beauty work to a place of community?

Also the big question: What do you notice about the beauty practices of the time? Do you see any other connections to what we’ve read thus far in the class?


Posted by on May 15, 2013 in Uncategorized


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3 responses to “Beauty Magic in the 1950s

  1. reedh2013

    May 18, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    This really is rich with things to discuss. One connection to the class reading that struck me was the depiction of the man as the stylist and artist. Julie A. Willet describes how white, male hairdressers “were cast as artists and entrepreneurs–beautifiers and businessmen–dominated the occupations professional image”. (Permanent Waves, 13) While this video emphasizes the expertise possessed by beauticians in general, it clearly depicts the man as the artist and authority on women’s beauty. I also found the narrator’s wording interesting when he describes how more men are choosing “the beautification of womankind” as a career. Does this somewhat grandiose description serve to legitimize the career for men?

  2. lasondrakern

    May 19, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    Yes, by having the man as the artist, it seems to suggest that not only is he legitimized as a stylist, but beauty culture itself is being legitimized as respectable field.

  3. victoriadan

    May 23, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    This clip reminds me of how lots of famous master artists used to hire assistants to help complete their works. Some of these assistants were highly specialized, for example, in painting backgrounds or cloth. I can understand how a similar system would develop in hair salons, but the explicit male/female dichotomy makes this power structure less palatable.

    In terms of the similarities and differences between the salon practices in this 1950s video and today, I’d say they don’t appear very different. In fact, the lexicon used to describe beauty seems pretty much the same. Words and phrases like “transformed from commonplace to outstanding,” “natural beauty is developed and accentuated,” and “individualistic” are echoed by cosmetics and hair care product taglines that still sell well today. However, I think that a lot of the practices that were the domain of the beauty salon have been drawn (back?) into the home. These include facials, manicures and pedicures, and to some extent hair styling.

    The video does not really emphasize a sense of community, at least within a white female beauty salon. When the narrator speaks of “beauty secrets,” he seems to be saying more about unspoken techniques than the sharing of beauty practices between stylists and salon patrons. Maybe this is one of the differences between a beauty salon and a beauty shop, if there is such a difference, where the former monopolizes beauty practices/knowledge and the former democratizes it? Just an idea.


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