‘Soft, glossy tresses’: White women’s hair and the late- and post-World War II American domestic ideal | Intellect Skip to content
1981
Volume 8, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2040-4417
  • E-ISSN: 2040-4425

Abstract

Abstract

Although hair has long maintained a presence in cultural, sociological, and anthropological scholarship, little attention has been paid to how the subject of hair functioned in the medium of advertisements. My research enters this conversation to uniquely suggest that we can learn about mid-century American values and ideal domesticity from shampoo advertisements during a redefining cultural moment in American history. Specifically, in this paper I explore how shampoo advertisements inserted white women’s hair in a late- and post-World War II conceptualization of ideal domesticity. Rather than merely advertising mid-century hygiene products, I argue that shampoo ads characterized a racialized standard of beauty that naturalized whiteness in the representation of ideal late- and post-war domesticity. Using two prevalent brands as case studies, I situate this analysis between the years 1944 and 1952, a time period I refer to as the Shampoo Revolution. Concurrent with this period during which America transitioned from a wartime to postwar economy was the rapid expansion of the shampoo industry which had profound consequences on popular discourse, elevating a narrow representation of hair as a requisite component of American domesticity. I provide an analysis of this conceptualization of domesticity, and the emerging hair culture that was by the mid-1940s, a prominent aspect of popular media and beauty industry interests. Additionally, I discuss conventions in advertising shampoo, and identify specific themes in Drene and Lustre-Crème ads that represent a particular mid-century domestic ideal.

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2017-12-01
2024-02-25
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