Curlers and those Bonnet Style Hair Dryers
I grew up with two teenaged sisters back in the late 50’s, early 60’s. This was the era of Sandra Dee, Annette Funicello, when homecoming was a rock and roll happening, and
the prom was a major fashion event.
Hair was a fashion all by itself, with a women’s bouffant a genuine experience. These were the days of puffed up hair, small little curls for accent around the
base and the obligatory curled bangs.
Now, in mothers' and grandmothers' day, curled hair was all the rage, and that style was set
by what were then called rollers. Huge wide tubes of natural or synthetic bristles that literally rolled the hair into balls around them.
You were then expected to recline underneath a giant metal or plastic helmet hair
dryer as the air circulated around. Best done in a beauty salon but there were many forms of those giant bulky commercial style helmet dryers that were made for home use.
By the late 50’s, curled hair was used more as an accent than an actual style
extravaganza as the younger generation broke away from the fashions of their parents.
Suddenly with teen aged girls using less curls for their own hair styles those huge bulky shop-like hair dryers were becoming a thing of the
past replaced by the more compact and easier to maneuver bonnet type hair dryers.
Now my sisters were absolutely at the top of the fashion craze in those early days. The days directly between heavily curled
hair and hair straightening in the mid 60’s usually done at college with an
iron both mechanical and with that same kind of will to do it. So the curlers they used also needed to be smaller and more
compact and companies began to respond in kind.
Back in the day the premier hair care name that everyone recognized was called ‘Toni’ which produced products like bobby pins, hair gels, shampoo, and of course, the famous Toni curlers. These were the little colored plastic compact
wonders that gave any hairstyle the accent curls that were essential for the style that was so in vogue!
In this same genre other brands like Tip Top curlers which sold for a whopping 29 cents a
package were also compact, easy to manage, and came in a pack of 5. This allowed the user to do the basics and have 2 curlers for each
side and 1 for the bangs.
Although the newer and easier to use curlers were the ‘in’ thing, it was the hair dryers which were the true champions of those newfangled hairdos. Sure, you could set your hair and wait a few hours for it to dry while watching a lot of TV, chatting about boys on the phone, or even having a slumber party with a host of
girls doing up hairstyles all through the night.
But this was the era of the jet setters ready for anything and always on the go-go-go. Social events were everywhere, from school functions, to beach parties, to sleep overs, and even going out on dates with your
boyfriend or the whole click. That meant that there was no time to lose, just set your hair, get out the hair dryer, put on the bonnet, and you were done in time for the next movie matinee.
My sisters had a pink hair dryer, exactly like the pink General Electric in the
photo. It had three heat setting, cool-warm-hot, and unlike the hand held blow dryers of today, it held your style exactly the way you wanted it, and surrounded it with easy flowing heated air. Compared to todays modern hand held blast furnaces, that pump out 1200 to 1500 watts of blistering heat, these dryers typically ran in the 300 to 400 watt range. Your hair may have taken a bit longer to dry, but that gentler heat also caused less hair damage like brittleness and split ends.
Although the one we owned had 3 heat settings, much like the pink one seen here, there were variable temperature types that could be adjusted for the exact perfect temp. There were also the simple compact ones, usually in a carryall case, that merely had a cold and hot heat setting. Nothing fancy, just performance and portability that got the job done. (All three types are shown in the picture. The Presto carryall, a G.E. pink colored dryer, and the Dominion variable heat setting style, which is closest to the camera)
Those bygone days of the bonnet style hair dryers and curlers are long gone, surely, never to be seen again. But whatever else you can say about that generation and the styles that were all the rage, curlers and those bonnet style hair dryers, were the unsung heroes for creative hair fashion of that day.
Dale Yelich has been a creative freelance writer for over 25 years. Among all of his other writing projects, he is currently authoring a maintenance column for the LaCrosse, Wisconsin, Tribune, and you may read those articles at this link.
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‘Toni’, which produced products like bobby pins, hair gels, shampoo, and of course, the famous Toni curlers.
Pink General Electric
The newer and easier to use curlers
were the ‘in’ thing,