History | Weird | Vintage

Photos Of Early Hair Dryers Prove The Beauty Salon Has Changed A Lot Over 100 Years

The quest for beauty drives us to do some really crazy things.

Alexander Godefrey's clients must have been a little worried when the French hairstylist asked them to put their heads into a sack attached to a chimney. It didn't look like it at the time, but Godefrey had just invented the first hair dryer, way back in the 1890s.

A primitive hair dryer.Wikimedia

The inventor was trying to save time while preparing the elaborate hairstyles his clients loved, but his design had a few kinks. He had to add a steam valve to keep the machine from roasting the women's heads.

Many early hair dryers were just vacuum cleaners.Emil Strassberg
Keystone-France

Other inventors improved on Godefrey's rough design, eventually making over-sized vacuum cleaners that sprayed air on your head.

Movie stars sporting short, clean hair created a demand for hair dryers.Women in Film Pioneers Project / Gajitz

But in the 1920s, the first handheld hair dryers hit the market, and revolutionized the beauty industry. Yes, they were solid metal and weighed a hefty two pounds, but perfect, clean hair was worth developing tennis elbow.

An electric perm machine.Glamour Daze

But the beauty salons weren't done improving on the hair dryer.

After the invention of the hand dryer, hair heating technology stopped developing so quickly.

Time Life Pictures

The next big leap forward came in the 1950s, when helmet-style dryers first hit the beauty salon. While these machines were impressive, they put out a puny 300 watts of heat (compared to 2,000 from modern machines).

Hive Miner

That meant it took a long time for hair to dry, which made the salon a favorite place for women to catch up and socialize. It also helped that popular "sculpted" hairstyles required weekly re-touches.

The Hair Hall of Fame

The next best thing to a hair salon was a "bonnet" dryer. Basically a home version of the beauty parlor machine, ads boasted these were “so fast that it actually dries hair in an average of 22 minutes.”

The Hive Miner

When plastic hair dryers were introduced in the 1960s, they quickly became a hit. With new electric motors inside the dryer, they quickly became affordable and more powerful than sit-down machines.

Southern Living

Thank goodness we don't need to use those old-fashioned machines any more. Although, it looks like these women were having a lot of fun.

Could you imagine using these giant machines?