In 1955 the movie version of the play Oklahoma! featured a lavish, surrealistic dream sequence with beautiful women in fancy, beautiful hairstyles to highlight poor Laurie’s mental anguish and plight over who to go with to the Box Social, a rare social occasion in the prairie of 1900 Oklahoma. The women who played the dancers in the sequence were probably just thankful they didn’t have to style their hair with technology from 1900. A new product had been invented five years earlier that would reinvent hairstyling for many decades to come. That product? Aerosol hairspray. The start of the change came with the invention of the first aerosol cans, cans with a liquefied gas inside that propelled the contents out, by Lyle Goodhue in 1941 (Encyclopedia Britannica). These weren’t for hairspray though; they were light, but were only suited for rapid spraying, as they had been designed to quickly disperse and eradicate insects (History Channel). Aerosol hairspray would have to wait until 1949, with Robert Abplanalp’s invention of the crimp-on valve, a valve of tight, inexpensive plastic that made aerosol cans easier to produce, more reliable, and easier to control (Greenhouse, Linda). This cheap valve made it easier and cheaper to market aerosol products, and in 1950 this lead to the introduction of hair spray, under the name Aqua Net, by beauty manufacturer Helene Curtis. The first versions were very hard hold, being made of natural resins, but soon lighter formulas were developed, and by 1964 hair spray outsold lipstick as a beauty product. It continued to gain ground until chlorofluorocarbon bans and simpler hairstyles in the 70’s brought it down, then regained its place in the 80’s with new propellants and punk rock (Suman, Liz). Today, it is one of the most important tools for a makeup designer, allowing recreation of the craziest period hairstyles without the crazy techniques required. It truly made hairstyling possible for everyone.
“Aerosol Container.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 11 Nov. 2013. < http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/7361/aerosol-container>.
“Inventions of War: Aerosol Spray Cans”. Modern Marvels. History Channel. History Channel. A+E Networks, Inc., 2013. Web. 11 Nov. 2013. http://www.history.com/shows/modern-marvels/videos/inventions-of-war-aerosol
Greenhouse, Linda. “Robert H. Abplanalp, 81”. Chicago Tribune News, 03 Sep. 2003. Web. 11 Nov. 2013. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2003-09-03/news/0309030030_1_robert-h-abplanalp-precision-valve-aerosol-valve
Suman, Liz. “The History of Hair Spray”. About.com Web. 11. Nov. 2013. http://beautysupply.about.com/od/Hairspray/a/The-History-Of-Hair-Spray.htm