This morning, as I was trying to tame my mass of unruly hair into some sort of suitable non-cave-womanesque style, I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t submitted my random object article for the staff magazine and began frantically trying to think of something so I could avoid the wrath of Editor Gowland. Dishwasher? Done. Teabag? Done. Revolving doors? Done. Velcro? Done. Fridge? Boring. Hairdryer? Bingo!
I dropped my hot-air-blowing machine on the spot, where it was instantly mauled by the dog, who has developed an alarming and overwhelming hatred for it, and dashed over to my highly complex and in-depth database of random facts and began my research.
Hairdryers have been around for well over a hundred years. Back in the late 19th century, the few lucky posh ladies who owned a vacuum cleaner would attach a hose to the back of it and use the expelled air to dry their hair, enabling them to do two tedious chores simultaneously.
It was in the 1890s that a French hairdresser called Alexandre Godefoy took some time out from stuffing his face with croissants and Orangina to invent a proper hairdryer, a dangerous-looking contraption powered by a diesel engine that engulfed anyone who sat underneath it and looked more like a medieval torture device than a beauty aid.
In the 1920s, the first hand held hairdryers appeared, having been crafted in Germany from a scaled-down version of a vacuum cleaner motor. Vorsprung durch technik and all that. However, as they were made out of steel, only those frauleins in training for the olympic shotput team could actually use them.
In 1930, some bright spark invented a gas powered helmet hair dryer – a dome shaped hood under which someone with a death wish could sit. Apart from the obvious threat of explosion, many an unsuspecting client went home with damaged, overheated hair and were often partially poisoned by toxic fumes. These were soon replaced by much safer electric versions which were the main way of drying hair throughout the 1950s. Hand held hairdryers didn’t really catch on until the late 1950s, by which time they’d become much smaller and quieter and had the added bonus that you didn’t need six friendly people to help you hold it.
A hairdryer is a pretty simple invention and works by blowing air over the hair to speed up the evaporation process. Air is sucked into the hairdryer and then through heated wire coils and out onto your glossy locks or, in my case, a wild and unruly mane of wire.
Bionic (h)air tidbits
- Many hairdryers boast that they are ionic, meaning that they reduce the amount of frizz and static by producing ions while you style.
- Ever heard an English person refer to their hair as Barnet? This is the shortened version of the cockney rhyming slang for hair – Barnet Fair.