Friday, March 7, 2014

Smelly Perms and Buster Brown Haircuts

Still to this day, the word 'Perm' makes me shudder even though perms have come a long way! Besides modern day perms being less harmful to the hair and more flattering to the person getting one, the biggest improvement to perms is that smell-the gagging, obnoxious smell that filled your senses for days is gone. And the end result is complimentary.
When I was growing up my mother never took me to a 'beauty salon' to get my haircut. Rather, she took me to a barber shop in our downtown. I vaguely remember walking up big stone steps and into a large area with three or maybe four barbers dressed in crisp, white shirts-more like uniforms with black pants. They each had their own area in front of a big mirror. They each had a chair that, to a little kid, was huge-complete with a leather strap attached to the side used to sharpen their razor blade before shaving a customer in either hot lather or straight razor style. After my mother got her hair cut, my brother and I took turns in the big chair. My 'style' was always the same-a short Buster Brown complete with bangs. The best part was when the barber finished cutting my hair, he'd powder up a little shaving cream brush with the best smelling powder ever and clean all the little hairs off my neck and back.
Those horrible perms were given at home. They came in a box. I remember two brands-Lilt and Toni. My mother or aunt usually bought the Toni perm which came with plastic curlers, waving lotion, thin pieces of paper to put between the hair and curler before rolling, and a neutralizer. The stench from those chemicals filled every corner of the house for days. The perms were so harsh they'd make your eyes water so I can't imagine the damage done to the hair. Add in the fact that you couldn't wash your hair for a few days and the misery seemed never-ending. But the hair was certainly curly-very curly-so tightly curled that not even a hurricane could have budged a strand.
I can't imagine having all the services available then that are offered now: foils-waxing-body wraps-manicures-pedicures-paraffin wax treatments-facials, etc. to name a few. Looking back-the service of cutting hair offered in that downtown barber shop seemed more than enough, especially after the barber put his sweet, smelling powder on his little shaving cream brush. My mother was always happy to just get her hair cut. I bet she would have laughed if someone had suggested a body wrap with her husband being a funeral director!

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