Click on photos to enlarge.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Hair Art

Marie Antoinette--hair by Leonard, ca. 1790
His name was Champagne. He lived during the 17th century, migrating from southern France to Paris. He's remembered in history as being the first hair artist remembered in history. No one remembers when he was born but the women of Paris certainly remembered when he died--1658. His Paris salon popularized the rise (literally) of the fanciful hairstyles we've all come to know and love from paintings of the French court, though Champagne was so popular he often styled the female royalty from as far away as Poland. What about the men? Well, it seems that if they cared about their hair at all, they relied upon the services of their valet or covered it up with fanciful wigs. The best that can be said for male hair art down through history is that it's boring (at least as compared to that of the feminine gender).

A persistent problem
Champagne was one of a kind. Legros de Rumigny was not. He was first of his kind--the first recognized professional hairdresser. He also served the French court, carrying on the "high and mighty" hairstyles of Monsieur Champagne. His main client was the King's mistress, Madame Pompadour (who contributed her name to a men's hairstyle ala Ronald Reagan). De Rumigny even wrote a book on the subject, containing 38 of his greatest creations. Ironically, he met his end by being crushed to death by a frenzied mob celebrating the marriage of Marie Antoinette to Louis XVI. The queen was not one of his clients, but that of his more flamboyant competitor, Leonard, whose hairy confections sometimes rose to a height of five feet.

Marcel Grateau demonstrates his wave and his invention.
Egyptian coif
Though women have been using heat in curling their hair for centuries, dating back as far as the biblical Pharaoh's daughter, another Frenchman, Marcel Grateau, is remembered in history as the inventor of the modern curling iron, sometime during the late 1800s. I used the term "modern" in a figurative sense because there was little modern about heating the rounded rod over a gas burner to create his "Marcel wave." Too cool, and the wave didn't set. Too hot, and it burned the hair. It was only with the advent of the electric models in the 1920s that his curling gadget with adjustable heat controls could in any way be considered modern. He gave birth to the Marcel Wave and made millions from his invention.

For some, like Ella Fitzgerald, curling
was less important then straightening.
In the 20th century, motion pictures not only dictated hair styles (both men's and women's) but also made hair stylists as rich and famous as Marcel Grateau. Among them was Sydney Guilaroff, Alexandre de Paris, Raymond Bessone, Vidal Sassoon, and Gene Shacove, while in this century the names Christiaan Houtenbos, John Sahag, Chris McMillan, and Oribe rise above the rest. Though certainly creative and in some cases startling in their design, few could match the elaborate "heights" reached by the 18th century French hair artists. Part of the reason may be they don't make doorways as tall as they used to.

Of course, today, men's hair art could hardly be considered boring.

No comments:

Post a Comment