Reflections of Ponoka: The ever-changing history of hair from here and there

From as far back as time began, people throughout the world have been fussing about their hair, constantly trying out the various wild, ...

The first electric perms were introduced in the 1930s

The first electric perms were introduced in the 1930s

From as far back as time began, people throughout the world have been fussing about their hair, constantly trying out the various wild, wonderful, and often weird fashions, styles, flairs, and fads that changed with each era in which we have lived. Everyone along the way have suffered through “bad hair days” but as my dear mother always stressed, “Don’t fret, because no matter how bad it looks now, it will always grow back to the way it was!”

The humble beginnings of our present wacky world of hairstyles and fashion likely began way back in early Egyptian times, where noblemen and women clipped their hair to beat the heat, but had to put on long black wigs for ceremonial occasions. They also believed that heavy eye makeup would scare off the evil spirits, and they introduced a long line of cosmetics and oily substances that were widely used for both beautification and medical purposes. Dyed hair (mostly bright red sprinkled with gold dust) was claimed to have started in the first public hairdressers and barber shops somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 B.C. African woman held their hair cones and ponytails together with bone needles, the Chinese painted their fingernails with beeswax to show their social position, blond hair was considered to be a sign of beauty and high class, wealthy men wore wigs, and on and on into the fashion revolution.

Ponoka’s first barber was a Mr. Jennings, who announced in the first issue of the Ponoka Herald on Aug. 27, 1900 that he was pleased to open his Barber’s Salon and was looking forward to serving customers as a “master in the art of hair cutting and close shaves”. Many other shops would appear in our community over the years, several in the billiard hall or newsstands, where customers could have a game, snack, or read the paper while waiting to get clipped. A wide variety of beauty parlours really came into being in the Roaring Twenties, which was of course known as the ‘flapper era’, when the ladies would shorten their dresses and bob their hair. It was around this time that “perms” came into being, which was a major operation, and cost as much as $15 a session. Marcelling or making waves in hair was performed at that time by a hot iron, and featured those big ugly curlers. Business became very brisk, and on some occasions the beauty salon and barbershop would combine to offer an ever-growing list of fashion-fancy services for both men and women, and that same friendly tradition carries on to the present day.

When we were kids, depending of course when we were born, our early haircuts were all performed at home, in the kitchen, short and sweet, with no questions asked. As we grew older we got to make a trip to town to the barber for a 50-cent trim, and maybe even got a treat after if we behaved in the pumped up chair. My favourites as a kid were brush and crew cuts, because you never had to comb them, washed up real easy, and always looked neat.

Fashion changes through the decades

The Roaring 20s

• Shortened, bobbed, or shingled hairstyles were the rage as everyone tried to look like the film stars.

• Fashion conscious men wore their hair parted in the middle, and slicked back with Brilliantine, which was likely the early beginnings of the famous Brylcreem. Others adopted the Cab Calloway ‘conk’ completely straight and stiff hair look.

Back to the Forties

• Longer, more feminine hairstyles, were extremely popular, as the ladies just had to have those Betty Davis curls, Betty Grable topknots with ringlets, Rita Hayworth waves, and Veronica Lake’s sexy lock hanging over one eye.

• The men stayed with the short and slick hairstyles, along with skinny neatly trimmed moustaches made famous by heartthrob Errol Flynn. This was also the era where the instant “sun-kissed look” was available in a bottle.

The Fabulous Fifties

• The “new ideals of beauty” saw the women going wild with all sorts of makeup, including heavy doses and colors of mascara, eyeliner, and lipsticks. Their hairstyles would suffer great abuse at this time, absorbing gallons of sprays, teasing, and stylings to achieve the perfect and stay-put curls, waves and bouffant.

• Hip men were wearing their hair in a D.A. (short for duck’s ass) style, which was slicked down with grease and complimented with long sideburns (like Elvis) or a high-crowned and poufy pompadour.

Soaring into the Sixties

• The ladies were entering into the workforce and the more practical short or long straight hairstyles were in, instead of spending hours of primping and pampering in the salons. This was complemented by pale lips and hardly any makeup.

• The fabulous Beatles created frenzy in men’s hairstyles, with moptops the craze, while the influence of the hippy movement advocated the natural wild look and colors for both sexes.

Here come the Seventies

• The oncoming social revolution reflected on standards of beauty. Men and women of all ethnicities wore their hair long, natural, and free, taking example of Farrah Fawcett’s sensational free-falling curls, bronzed skin, and glossy lips.

• Men followed the Afros and feathered hairstyles of their teen idols, while the punk movement created the provocative look of spiked hair-dos in many colors, as well as tattoos, piercings, and spectacular makeup.

Through the ’80s and into the ’90s

• Welcome to the “age of excess” that featured bigger and better hairstyles, flagrant makeup and neon totally messed up hair, which was also punk-influenced by braids, spikes, colors, and anything needed to follow the stars.

• In the 1990s the grunge movement featured matted and shaggy unstyled hairstyles with more piercing, while others followed basketball superstar Michael Jordon and shaved it all off.

And now as we zoom into the 21st century it is safe to say anything goes as far as hair, styles, and looks are concerned, and the way the modern world of technology has taken over, if we don’t like how it looks today, you can always get an appointment and change it all tomorrow. Whatever the case, let’s all strive to keep it all happy and healthy, because it has to last us forever.

By Mike Rainone – For the News