When hairdryers looked like mind-control devices

Every now and again, Dark Roasted Blend busts out a super-set of vintage photos of some gadget, technology, or system from yesteryear that is so surpassingly fantastic that it stops you cold.

Today is a day where such a set has been posted. The photos of Vintage Salon Hair Dryers that Avi Abrams rounded up here are nothing short of spectacular. Every single one of these demands to be dug out of the scrapheap of history, refurbished, and used as a prop in a low-budget science fiction movie. Especially the kraken-hair ones.

Sleek Vintage Salon Hair Dryers


  1. The one on the top right looks like a device intended as a cruel joke for electrical safety inspectors… 

  2. Maybe it wasn’t the hair dryers themselves, but I think there was some form of mind control going on that convinced women that to be desirable they had to submit to being strapped into these sorts of devices. 

    Although at least while wearing the first one you could still talk on the phone, something I know from personal experience you can’t do with most hair dryers.

    1. Are you saying that no one follows fashion of their own volition? Or only women don’t? Because that sounds a bit like a false consciousness argument. I find interesting your implication that the reason women perm their hair is to be desirable. Desirable to whom, exactly, do you believe they are striving to be?

  3. I didn’t know any actual mind control devices existed for a comparison.

    1. thaaat’s right.  mind control devices is puure fantasy.  ooo look, dancing with the kardashians is on my smart-phone with side-by-side social media commentary sponsored by viagra and candy flavored vodka drink™

  4. LOL! Those aren’t dryers. They are getting their hair permed, and frankly it doesn’t look that different today from the lower one except the machine is plastic. The upper ones are from the early days of perming hair. You think that is bad? Before that they just stuck rods of metal over a fire to heat them. 

    They used perms kind of like this to get those wave hairstyles you see in the 20’s and 30’s. It was a way of not having to burn your hair over and over trying to cook a Marcel wave into it.


    1. Was looking for exactly this comment, telling that it isn’t much different today. Not a historian of wavy hair, but I just asked myself: “What could those things turn into?”

    2. That pic is a good bookend to me rummaging through F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ledger that Mark linked to today.  Good to have you back.

  5. Great, thanks boingboing.  Thanks for making me aware of another previously unknown fetish.  

  6. I always found those hairdryers rather scary as a kid. If not mind control then there was some sort of control going on, sitting immobile, for what seemed like hours, having your hair cooked into shape. I, on the other hand, got to watch colour TV (far from universal in the UK in the early seventies) in my local barber’s which seemed always to have the Mary Tyler Moore show on a loop (perhaps because I was regularly sent for a haircut at the same time every few weeks).

  7. As mentioned, hairdryers have gotten smaller, with more plastic, but they haven’t changed much.  Although the dryers at my salon are equipped with those portable back massagers you can drape off the chairs.

    I was more struck by the woman trying to pile on the old style mascara; the kind you usually mixed with water till you had the consistency you wanted.  And she’s trying to keep that consistency while warm air blows out past the bonnet of the dryer, not to mention holding her eye open wide till it dries. Sitting under a dryer is passive, but putting on mascara at the same time is performance art.

  8. They’ve got a perm machine like these in the local village historical society.

    What amazed me as I took a close look at it is that the clips look like binder clips with one power lead connected to each side.  I figured that there was a heating element inside but it looks like it was designed to electrocute the victim. 

    No grounding prong on the power plug either, of course. No namby-pamby safety crap in those days.  If the lady got electrocuted we’d yank her smoking corpse out of the chair and call, “NEXT!”

  9. So /THATS/ how women were kept in line during the fifties. IT EXPLAINS EVERYTHING.

  10. Theodore Sturgeon took the mind-control approach in The Chromium Helmet, Astounding magazine, June 1946 issue.

    By the way, such an interesting monster should have an interesting hair-do.

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