Excerpts from an upcoming textbook to be published by the Northern Massachusetts University School of Industrial History.
From the Introductory Section:
Male Blonding is a modern movement that, however, has its basis in ancient times. Early Male blonds include Jesus of Nazereth who stood out very effectively from the generally dark Israeli crowds. Blonding was very popular in the highlands of Ethiopia where legends of an Aryan tribe grew up around a city where almost everyone blonded their hair. Leonardo da Vinci rediscovered Male Blonding in the Renaissance. It was a huge breakthrough when he announced that lemon juice was as effective if not more so than pigs urine. (He also drew a plan for the first machine to extract juice from lemons but was unable to construct a working model).
After da Vinci Male Blonding spread…
From Chapter 1, Influential Male blonds
Recent rehabilitation of Male Blonding began after the fall of the 1980’s big hair rock bands. Rock bands such as Ratt, Cinderella, Motley Crue and so on were responsible for a rise in male blonding as a whole but also an accompanying fall in social status for many of those who blonded. As pop culture moved away from big hair into rat-tails, skinheads and the solid cuts off the 1950’s the image of Blonding was quietly and successfully turned around. In Southern California Natural Blonds were placed in counter-cultural spaces of authority. Following them were Blonded infiltrators into various sub-cultures and arenas of influence. While this is history if for a moment the reader will look to Japan and the Far East we can see the process occurring. Fashion leaders in all fields have long been blond. Now almost any young Japanese who desires any social status must go through the peroxide curtain and become blond. In the USA and Europe where there have always been some natural blonds the societal impact thus far has been light (no pun intended) but in Japan the domestic government are watching very carefully while abroad many foreign governments and private interests are poised to act should this affect their trade relations…
From Chapter 3, Why?
The search for youth is deeply imprinted in western society and only gets more deeply entwined each year. In the USA in recent decades the quest for immortality has variously been embodied in the blonde surfers of the 50’s and 60’s, the music and film stars of the 70’s and 80’s and the soap (stated or not) stars of the 1990’s. Missing from this group on the whole are politicians. Black and brown hair rule, with salt and pepper getting only limited acceptance. Rumor has it that when the present President was considering running for the office he wanted to break with tradition and keep his Blond hair. he was quickly overruled by his wife and other advisors. Thus his died gray hair…
From Chapter 8, The Male Blonding Industry.
The Male Blonding industry as we know it began slowly with Grecian 2000 and other hair-colorings for men. These treatments started off as darkeners for hair that was graying. Manufacturers – and these were primarily male – soon realized that there was a huge untapped market here. Men were using Imperial Leather, Old Spice or something rather odd supplied by their local barber. The multinationals sensed a profit being missed and examined the possibilities. They soon realized there was no way they could subvert the ancient authority of the barbers: there were traditions here; relationships; and most importantly a limited number of small vicious companies that held a straight razor to the neck of the supplies market. A few companies bailed out at this point and let their products slip into obscurity.(1) Some tried to set up independent distribution channels (this is where Amway may have got their start) but they faced the same small distributors that had stopped them putting their goods into the barber shops. There were a number of cases that made it to court, but the plaintiff rarely did and the lawsuits were always settled out of court.
It came down to a small company called Brutt in the 1970’s to break open the market with a completely new industry model. They called it Da Body Shop. Trading on their early history as small parts dealers in the automotive industry (well known to aficionados of such things as the calender that broke more careers than any other) they closed all their outlets on January 10th, 1976; ostensibly for remodeling.(2) Fully half of their management team quit that day and went on to form a respectable regional auto parts supply company, Da Parts Shop. They probably still regret that choice. For those that stayed this was the most exciting and dangerous time in their company’s history. They liquidated the inventory, broke the leases on their storefronts and took up 15 new stores in some of the most expensive retail arenas in the country.
No one knew what to expect on April 14th that year. Crowds flocked to the shops to see this cuckoo’s egg in their midst. It was stronger than all hopes and expectations. It was a tremendous success. For the next ten years or so they ruled the market in male cosmetics. Carl Sagan was hired as the official spokesmen of the company(3), stores were opened at a then-phenomenal rate of 2 per month for five years running. The company moved their headquarters to Manhattan. They made millionaires out of many of their staff with their unprecedentedly liberal bonus packages and even stock options.
But the best was yet to come.
It hardly looked that way. Suddenly the firm seemed stagnant. Product research and development was at a dead end. Sales were flat. Wall Street traders were considering a Hold rating on the stock, everywhere combs ran through hair nervously, manicured nails were bitten, shampoos were changed. The world was ready for the next big thing but it didn’t know what it would be.
Everything changed when company chairman Henry Diaz fore went his annual visit to family in Wyoming and went to Hawaii instead(4). He filled up his travel case with the usual assortment of emollients, creams, wipes, brushes, medallions and chains. But once he arrived he found his high New York style completely outclassed by bare-chested men without a chain to be seen. They had long flowing golden hair like heroes from myths, or tv. He instantly wanted to be a part of it and knew others would too. But how could he with his irredeemably dark hair? He left his family on vacation, flew back to headquarters that day and called an emergency management meeting. This was it, he said, the next wave, the new era, the new way.
Male blonding had arrived.
(1) Some of these products included Bright Enchanter, Apollo and Serenity II.
(2) Business Week, Jan. 12, 1976, p36, Body Shop Remodeling Self.
(3) Life, p14, April 1979
(4) My Golden Years, Henry Diaz, Little, Brown, 1985
Taken from “A Concise History of Male Blonding,” A.C—–, Northern Massachusetts University, School of Industrial History, 1999*.
*This is satire.