The Beauty Industry: Gender, Culture, Pleasure

By Paula Black | Go to book overview

Chapter 2

Inventing beauty

The history of the beauty salon

The beauty industry is not a historically recent phenomenon. Throughout history, women and men have used creams, lotions and preparations to alter their bodies in order to conform to the aesthetic standards of their day and their social position. However, the contemporary beauty industry, and the beauty salon upon which I shall focus, has its roots in the mid-nineteenth century from which time we can trace advertising aimed at women. We can also see the development of businesses based upon the marketing of beauty products, and the treatment of clients. Following this period there is also a clear development of a formalised training process which begins to treat the beauty worker as a professional with recourse to formal qualifications and a code of professional standards and ethics. Despite these developments, the beauty and cosmetics industry did not become a fully recognisable, commercialised, mass industry until the 1920s and 1930s. Perhaps only after the Second World War does the industry with which we are familiar today actually consolidate itself.

In the past few years The 1900 House has been screened on British TV. In this programme a white middle-class family were returned to live in a house from the period of 1900. All fixtures, fittings, furnishings and facilities in the house were from this period. The family was allowed access only to products which would have been available to middle-class British families of the day. What was so striking was the way in which life for the woman was virtually unbearable in terms of the difficulties of her domestic

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The Beauty Industry: Gender, Culture, Pleasure
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Chapter 1 - 'Ordinary People Come Through Here' 1
  • Chapter 2 - Inventing Beauty 20
  • Chapter 3 - Just Because It Feels Good Doesn't Make It Right 40
  • Chapter 4 - The Hidden Labour of Beauty 101
  • Chapter 5 - Look Good, Feel Better 141
  • Chapter 6 - 'You Feel Better When You Leave' 179
  • Bibliography 191
  • Index 200
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