Hair Styles,

Who invented the hair dryer?

There was a time when washing your hair was seen as a perfectly acceptable excuse to decline an invitation out.
It wasn’t so much the washing that was taking up your time, but the drying.

Naturally, the French, with their impeccable sense of style, were the first to come up with a solution.

In 1888 hair dresser Alexandre Godefroy proposed covering the damp head with a cap that was linked by a tube to the hot air outlet of a gas stove.

It wasn’t exactly portable, but it did dry the hair, even if it needed a valve to let out the steam as the hair dried or else your head would get gently cooked.

It was a major step forward from previous hair-drying contraptions, which amounted to little more than earthenware jars filled with hot water that were placed on the head.

Mr Godefroy’s invention set into motion a number of variations around the world and by the 1920s there were electrical, handheld dryers which incorporated a heating element and a fan.

Made from metal, they tended to be immensely heavy, and their often wonky electrical connections and use in bathrooms sparked a number of deaths.

But the ability to dry one’s hair at home inspired new, simpler hairstyles, such as the bob, where the hairdryer gave a smooth sheen that had previously been only attainable in a salon.

It sparked a new focus on hair hygiene, with people washing their hair more regularly, which led to a boon for shampoo manufacturers.

Hair dryers were also seen as good for killing headlice.

The new invention was popularised thanks to the growing reach of women’s magazines and an army of door-to-door salesmen.

By the 1950s, thanks to new lightweight plastics, it was a rare household that didn’t possess one.

Hair salons still relied on the helmet-type dryer, usually set in a row so that customers could browse magazines or shout to each other above the noise of the fan while their perms were baked to perfection.

The late 1960s liberated hair styles, and the sense of natural bounce was aided by smaller, cheaper hairdryers that were designed to fit in a handbag, usually in a jaunty youthful colour.

Actress Farah Fawcett and even Princess Diana did much to promote the natural flick, which of course was anything but.

Essentially, the dryer is little changed from those early models of a hundred years ago, even though companies continue to strive for the perfect hairdryer, promising better technology to give precise temperature and fan settings so hair doesn’t scorch.

Faster, more efficient and certainly less lethal, there’s now no excuse to refuse an invitation as you tend to your crowning glory.