STRANDS OF THE SIXTIES: A Cultural Analysis of the Design and Consumption of the New London West End Hair Salons c. 1954-1975

PhD Thesis

Smith, Kim 2014. STRANDS OF THE SIXTIES: A Cultural Analysis of the Design and Consumption of the New London West End Hair Salons c. 1954-1975. PhD Thesis University of East London Arts and Digital Industries
AuthorsSmith, Kim
TypePhD Thesis

This thesis is a study of the under-researched subject of British hairdressing,
focussing on the growth of London’s West End hair salons from 1954 to 1975. It
challenges dominant historical accounts that have focussed on Paris and examines
developments in London, leading to its centrality as a centre for hairdressing
creativity in the 1960s. It culturally contextualises these shifts in the consumption of
hair dressing in Britain from 1954 to 1975 by analysing the leading trade paper, the
Hairdressers’ Journal signalling how salon design and management, and hair
dressing’s fashionable consumption during this era related to wider socio-economic
and cultural developments.
This study is divided into four chapters. Chapter One examines the emergence of the
public ladies’ hair salon in the late nineteenth century and the developments in its
interior design up to 1950s evaluating the hair salon as a gendered public space in
Mayfair, the heart of elite West End hairdressing. Chapter Two explains why Mayfair
became established as a place of luxury and elitism and how this was manifest in the
style of the salons and hairdressing performed there and through its perception as such
in British provinces. Chapter Three identifies the major innovations in cutting and
colouring techniques which elevated London to its position as a world leader in these
practices. Furthermore, Black hairdressing and its professionalization as a result of
mass-immigration, is analysed. Chapter Four investigates why smaller, intimate
spaces including hair salons attracted fashionable youth audiences and it examines the
salon’s suitability as economically viable entrepreneurial space aimed at young
consumers. It contends that economic changes coupled with more informal social
attitudes led to the formation of unisex salons.
My conclusion argues that these developments in British hairdressing and hair salon
design from 1954 to 1975 evidence an important transitional moment in hairdressing
history and in its consumption. It maintains that while West End hairdressing was an
elite part of the national hairdressing trade in Britain, nevertheless, it was keenly
responsive to broader socio-cultural and economic changes, which directed and
shaped its practices and consumption patterns and its international standing.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Publication dates
PrintOct 2014
Publication process dates
Deposited03 Dec 2015
Publisher's version
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