Thursday, March 3, 2011

Encyclopedia of Hair / Beauty Book Review

The Encyclopedia of Hair by Victoria Sherrow looks at the history of hair styling though the ages, revealing certain common threads as well as many differences among cultures around the world. Ideas are explored about what constitutes attractive, stylish or appropriate hair have varied from place to place and from one historical era to the next. From the Stone Age to the Information Age__ this well researched book cover’s every aspect of beauty culture with a quick index guide to related topics from A to Z, making it easy to find what you’re most interested in learning.

The Evolution of Hairstyles and Trends through the 21st century was one of the most enlightening looks at how hair style trends have evolved over time. Victoria points out that in modern times, as in the past hair came to symbolize a certain freedom, and choosing one’s style embodied feelings of individualism and personal identity and a deeper appreciation of diversity in hairstyles and beauty ideals. In an Information Age world with mass communications, people’s attitudes about hair and hairstyling are influenced by advertising and the visual and performing arts. Hairstyling decisions often are influenced by the hair care industry and celebrities. Billions of people today now have access to the same images and commercial messages. As long as humans care about their appearance, they will continue to use their hair as one visible way to express themselves and communicate a verity of social messages.

Since the early 20th century, mass media have played an expanding role in shaping attitudes about beauty and appearance. It also saw numerous innovations in hair care products, which has become a booming industry, along with the rapid growth of beauty and hair salons for both men and women. The book explores the history of leading beauty company’s and celebrity hair stylists that have influence beauty culture through the ages. 

Advances in the science and technology gave hairdressers more sophisticated tools, styling techniques and hair colorants. By the 1950’s hair color products had become more natural looking and easier to use, and the stigma against using hair color was diminishing. To introduce its Miss Clairol home hair color kit, Clairol launched a highly successful print and television ad campaign with memorable slogans (does she or doesn’t she __ only your hairdresser knows for sure). To challenge Clairol, L’Oreal a French company launch an ad campaign with celebrity endorsements and a higher price point designed to give its brand a prestige appeal with a memorable tag line (because I’m worth it). With-in ten years the number of women in America coloring their hair went from 7% to over 50 percent and by the turn of the century three out of five women now color their hair.

It was interesting to learn that the first celebrity hairdresser was Polish born (Antek Cierplikowski / 1885-1975) known as “Monsieur Antoine of Paris”. Like Vidal Sassoon, Antoine is credited for starting the fashion for short hair. During the 1920’s, he created the shingle, which was cropped even shorter than most bobs and softly waved. Antoine himself was known as an eccentric (self promoter) who dyed his hair and that of his French Poodle matching shades of lilac. By the 1930’s Antoine was the world’s best known hairdresser. The Antoine Salon at Saks Fifth Avenue department store which he opened in 1925 became America’s most fashionable salon and spawned new generations of famous hairdressers. One of Antoine’s protégés was Alexander of Paris who became another international hairdressing star. His amazing career is covered along with dozens of today’s famous hair stylist’s and hair care innovations in Victoria Sherrow’s page turning review of the history of beauty culture.

Throughout history hairdressers
have designed and manufactured tools expressly for hairstyling. The hot styling iron, a device designed to curl, wave and crimp hair dates back thousands of years. At the turn of the 20th century a French hairdresser and one time horse groomed Marcel Grateau (1852-1936) designed and sold a curling iron heated over a gas burner and styling technique used to create deep, smooth natural looking waves in the hair aptly named the “Marcel Wave”. Because the waving effect added a soft / feminine touch to the popular short bobbed and boyish hairstyles of the 1920-30’s his timing could not have been better. Marcel traveled the world teaching his technique and went on to manufacture an electric version a fore runner of today’s temperature controlled styling iron making heat styling safer and easier to use at home.

The Encyclopedia of Hair is written for those who wish to learn more about the social history and customs of different cultures, as well as the changing attitudes toward hair styling through the ages. The encyclopedia of hair covers every aspect of beauty culture and should be included in all beauty school courses. The more you understand the past the clearer vision you will have of the future.

The Encyclopedia of Hair is well worth the price. Available through Amazon for $79.00


  1. Due to unhealthy food and dirty water the problem of hair thinning has been increased in a short span in the younger people too having the ages from twenty to twenty five which also arises as a source of embarrassment in such young people who got this problem.

  2. Thanks for this nice book review. I enjoyed it. I read book reviews on different sites, I find your review very genuine and orignal.