The History of the Community Hairdresser
The visiting hairdresser
No one seems to remember exactly how the community or mobile hairdressing began. Could it have been the aristocratic households of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, where ladies’ maids and valets were engaged? The best class of maid, it was generally agreed, was French. Best at dressing hair in most up-to-date Parisian styles. That was until the Napoleonic wars!
Moving on to the very early 1900’s the average pay for a ladies maid was £16.00 per year. However, the principal reward of the ladies maid was cast-off finery. In return, she would work hard on her employers every detail of appearance. Amongst the wealthy, it was considered polite if you had a particularly talented ladies maid to send her to visit your friends especially for the skill of hairdressing. She would then pack up her dressing-case, complete with looking glass brushes, boxes of pins and combs, thus creating the community (or mobile) hairdresser.
A century on… community hairdressers charge double the amount and sometimes more for a cut and blow dry, in comparison to the amount earned in a year by the ladies maid. Today they travel in cars, on bikes, or on public transport to reach their clientele. The changing face of society means that people move around much faster and have less time available to spend at the shops, in a time when groceries can be delivered to the door via an order on the Internet. Perhaps the service and retail industry is going back to basics. Only time will tell what effects all of this will have on hairdressing in the 21st century.
Fit for a Queen
Some of the most powerful and influential women in the world today have their hair dressed in the privacy and convenience of their own home. The late Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, known for distinctive rather than exciting, safe rather than adventurous, dress sense, opted for years to remain with her usual arrangement: First Mr Maurice, and then after his death Mr Robert dressed the Queen Mother’s hair at home and never in the salon.
In 1960 Steiner first offered Hair and Beauty services onboard cruise ships, in 1992 the company received the Royal Warrant from Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II as “Hairdressers”. (In 1947 of course Herman Steiner had the royal warrant as a hairdresser to HM Queen Mary.) Along with the security that the various Palaces and Castles provide, the home visiting hairdressing service is an absolute necessity for Her Majesty as it wouldn’t be appropriate to dress Her Majesty’s hair in public. As the Head of State, Her Majesty is photographed and attends functions on an almost daily basis, it is important her hairdressers are constantly on call to provide this vital service.
The Thatcher Years
The Thatcher years held memories for us both good and bad with the encouragement of small businesses. However, many small businesses including hairdressing salons suffered when the Poll Tax arrived pushing business costs of running a retail outlet sky high. Eventually, the recession hit these small businesses the hardest. This was a time when ‘Being Mobile’ became fashionable. It is interesting to note that during her years in office as Prime Minister The Rt. Hon Thatcher elected to have her hair dressed at home in No:10. Famous for requiring very little sleep, every minute was accounted for within her busy schedule. On a very regular basis, her hairdresser would attend early in the morning to style the hair of our political ambassador.
A growth market, hairdressing, in general, offers the opportunity for a career in one of our largest and most respected service industries, combining job satisfaction, with financial stability. In particular community hairdressing is a good way to run your own business and have the freedom to work at your own pace and convenience, without having to invest in a large financial outlay You will continually be rewarded, not only financially, but also in a social and spiritual sense providing an essential service to members of the public, who, for whatever reason, can not make it to a high street salon.
Written by Karen Braysher SSRH