What’s going on in beauty this week, from head to toe and everything in between.
Vidal Sassoon, 1928–2012
“If you don’t look good, we don’t look good”: Legendary hairstylist Vidal Sassoon died on Wednesday of natural causes. Famous for pioneering the “wash and wear” look of the London mod scene, Sassoon’s style allowed women to look fashionable but not spend as much time on their hair as the hot-rollers-and-hairspray look of years past. By using his keen eye and industry clout to quietly emphasize that hair needn’t detract from women’s lives—and by developing a line of low-cost hair care products—Sassoon, in his way, played a role in helping women navigate shifting social roles of the ’60s and ’70s. (Also, the best haircut of my life was given to me by a student at the Vidal Sassoon school in London, so there’s a personal debt here too.) In honoring him, Bim Adewunmi discusses the politics of hair—contextualized not only by Sassoon’s death but by his life, which was explicitly political—at The Guardian.
Spring in your step: It’s stinky shoe season!
…And Everything In Between:
Bioré?: Top 10 global beauty brands, ranked by “projected revenues, customer loyalty and willingness to pay a price premium, royalty rates and current market value.” The biggest surprise for me: Bioré at #9?
Margaritaville: Now Warren Buffet’s getting in
Say goodbye to Cincinnati: The head of Procter & Gamble’s beauty business is retiring, and the whole operation is packing up and hiking over to Singapore. I mean, they’re not actually hiking! They will probably fly, or take a boat. In any case, they will be leaving Cincinnati.
Celtic pride: A thoughtful three-part investigation into what the secularization of Ireland has meant for Irish girls and women. I sometimes make the American mistake of thinking of the British Isles as one unit, not recognizing that the history of Irish-English relations—particularly in regards to religion—means that the morality play that is women’s bodies may well have a different tenor when applied to Irish women.
“Lots of water”: Zimbabwean beauty queen Vanessa Sibanda is denying reports that she uses skin lightening cream, claiming that foreign travel that took her out of the sun—and, of course, healthy eating and “lots of water”—have made her more pale. I have no idea what the truth is, but the debate reminds me of starlets who claim they don’t diet; they just have a “really fast metabolism,” which then becomes such an embedded truth of Hollywood that it’s seen as subversive when a performer acknowledges that you’re “hungry all the time.”
“Models vs. Militants”: Fascinating juxtaposition of India’s beauty pageants with radical Hindu camps where girls are armed in case of “enemy” attack (“enemies” being people from other religions) and encouraged to marry as teens. It’s particularly interesting if you’ve been following discourse on modesty fashion blogging in the west, highlighting that it’s a privilege to be able to think of modesty as a choice.
1932 Carnival Queen, Her Majesty Queen Emma
Carnivale: An early version of Filipino beauty pageants: Carnival Queens.
Past the headband: The question of Hillary Clinton’s fashion and beauty choices has been hashed over since I was in high school (and chickadees, that’s been a while), and by all rights I should well be exhausted by it by now. But now that she’s supposedly in the twilight years of her political career, can we glean something from her little-makeup-loose-hair appearance last week? Suzi Parker frames the question in a way that manages not to piss me off. (Thanks to Caitlin for the link.)
Comedienne: Anna Breslaw on female comics: “The only funny women who are free to cross over to mainstream audiences are the ones who are free from the beauty hang-ups that limit their jokes to female audiences.”
Pore-zapping ray gun, for real: On a different sort of female comics, the first “beauty-inspired” comic book hero will come to life soon, courtesy a diabolical collaboration between Marvel and Benefit Cosmetics. She’s called SpyGal, she’s “wise-cracking, pore-zapping,” and her superpower is copywriting shit even the crankiest beauty bloggers couldn’t possibly make up.
Topsy turban: How the 1920s turban trend began. Surprise! Cultural appropriation.
Old Ironsides: Oliver Cromwell would give your Lush collection a run for the money, a recent chemical test of some of his belongings indicates. But today it’s actually Scottish men who are making up the UK’s biggest increase in men’s salon services. In the name o’ the wee man, what’s going on up north?
“Man boobs”: Performance artist Matt Cornell has a riveting piece about growing up with “man boobs”: “The only breasts The Huffington Post approves of are those of thin, white female celebrities.”
Lost: Ragen Chastain raises a reasonable question on something inherently unreasonable: Why the fresh hell is Michelle Obama appearing on The Biggest Loser, which does things like put participants n 1,000-calorie-a-day diets, dehydrated them to the point of urinating blood, and having them work out eight hours a day?
Native couture: Beyond Buckskin gives a much-needed antidote to all that Urban Outfitters Navajo nonsense with her striking new boutique, which showcases the work of Native designers. (I wear next to no jewelry and own exactly two pairs of earrings, but I still couldn’t resist this gorgeous pair.) There’s some recognizably traditional stuff in there, but what’s most exciting here is seeing the ways that Native designers are showing that Indians are living, breathing people with fashion-forward vision, not stuck in the past with a tear trailing down one cheek. (Speaking of successful blending of Native traditions with modenity, Adrienne at Native Appropriations points us toward this new Nelly video that features hoop dancing. For more on the background of hoop dancing, go here.)
Cutie pie: At 40-plus, Barbara Greenberg is damn well tired of being called “cute.”
“What’s your poison?”: Imp Kerr’s experimental style both intrigues and lingers, and this entry touching on the gaze, sex work, and feminine performance is a good place to start.
Ruff!: Oh dear lord, I haven’t heard of this whole young-women-turning-themselves-into-dolls-and-puppies thing, but once you have, you can’t go back. Truly am feeling a little ambivalent about posting this link because it’s so upsetting, but maybe someone will have a take on this that isn’t just depressing? Maybe? As The Gloss put it, no matter how many times some woman tries to do this, it still freaks us out.
Tattoo you: Speaking of being freaked out, permanent makeup usually does that for me, but I hadn’t considered its therapeutic benefits for people with a cleft palate.
Collision course: Lisa Hickey doesn’t purport to have answers, but she’s asking the difficult questions. How can we responsibly talk about sensitive topics—race and female beauty among them—in ways that honor their import while still asking the genuine questions we might have, some of which might verge on insensitive?
Erotique: Very excited to see where Ms. Behaved’s series on the female gaze goes.
Toeing the line: I am a sucker for junior high slumber party stories, which means I am a sucker for Kate’s toe hair story, and the fact that there’s an instructive moment in there on how we learn bodily shame is almost beside the point.
Bikini babe: If you’re a regular reader here, you’re already probably pretty skeptical of the idea of “bikini season,” but Caitlin lays out the problems with it so dead-on and succinctly that it’s making me even madder. (I’m not a bikini wearer anymore, mostly because, yep, I don’t like how I look in them. That said, I felt so bottoms-tuggy, breast-adjusty, and generally self-conscious when I did wear bikinis that the loss isn’t great, and it also led me to discover the tankini, i.e. the best swimsuit.)