DDi - June 2010 - (Page 48)

48 | Shopping with Paco Getting hair B efore the popularization of the mirror in the 17th century, we human beings gazed upon ourselves in pools of still water, in polished glass or metal, and—when none of these options were available—through the eyes of others. The mirror was, and still is, an elegantly simple, profound invention. It reflects what we look like, and how we vary from day to day. Are we handsome, pretty or average? Fat, thin or in-between? Stressed-out looking or alert? Mad, sad or crazy? Poetically, the mirror is the window to our souls. And while we’re gazing at ourselves, how does our hair look? A random, racing glance through history reveals a few tidbits about hair that range from the gross to the sublime. An 18th-century aristocrat may have never once washed his locks during his adult life. Members of other cultures attended to their hair only to banish lice (nit combs have been found in Egyptian tombs). Contrast this with a tradition of real-life portraiture that reveals female hair as plumage, in some cases resembling a high-end wedding cake. Marie Antoinette’s 3-ft.-high coifs—adorned with feathers, jewels, fruit, toys and even miniature sculptures of ships—must have weighed several pounds. Any woman will tell you that few parts of her body inspire more pride, anxiety or simple day-to-day inspection than the hair on her head. Female hair is both a fashion statement and an undisguised extension of the self. The relationship between a contemporary female and her locks is an evolving, endlessly contradictory slideshow. While many women embrace an organic, all-natural look, just as many—if not more—have opted for the artifice of an un-organic, unnatural look (read: color). Styling another woman’s hair was among the first professions that allowed a female to step away from preparing food, childcare or toiling in the fields. Centuries later, the retail hair salon industry is formidable. Some 250,000 salons employing nearly a million people exist in the United States alone. Those of us of a certain generation had mothers who went weekly or biweekly to the “beauty parlor.” After undergoing a wash, a trim and a perm, the women sat obediently beneath helmeted dryers that made them look like astronauts. Part psychiatrist’s office, part consultancy, part gossip-hive, part escape from domestic life, the beauty parlor visit was a mixture of therapy, self-maintenance and community unlike any other within the female commercial world. Today’s beauty salons don’t just provide hair care. Many also offer nail treatments, therapeutic body treatments, tanning, massage and hair-removal services. It is also one of the fastest growing distribution points for beauty products. Paul Mitchell, for instance, will compensate a salon owner in return for a prominent and exclusive display of Paul Mitchell beauty products. In return, the company assumes the salon’s stylists (rewarded with commissions) will subtly or overtly push the products—the assumption being that if stylists have your hair in their hands, surely they must know what’s best. A female may compromise one night on her meal selection, a brand of seltzer water or a lipstick that’s not quite what she had in mind. None of these choices have ramifications that last longer than 24 hours. A bad haircut lives in infamy. For the female under 30, hair is a style and personality issue. For the over-30 female, the issue of getting her hair cut is a matter of maintenance, carried out every three months, six months or whenever she feels the time is right. Women often alter their hairstyles after a romantic break-up. It’s a reward, an ending and a beginning. Many women are known to cut their hair short after becoming mothers, as if to emphasize the no-fuss practicality of nourishing new life. It’s not only about her anymore. Typically, she’ll later grow her hair out again. Still, while females have far greater latitude than men to kick-box gender boundaries in everything from clothing to sports to tastes in books, music or art, they’re limited as far as their hair is concerned. I could shave off my beard tomorrow and many people wouldn’t recognize me. A female friend in her 80s once told me that she’d never in her life experienced penis envy, but she did occasionally suffer from facial-hair envy. —Paco Underhill is the founder of Envirosell and author of the books “Why We Buy” and “Call of the Mall.” Considered to be the retail industry’s “first shopping anthropologist,” he shares some of his insights with DDI in a bimonthly column. Editor’s note: This is the fourth and final piece based on Paco Underhill’s new book “What Women Want,” which will be available in bookstores late June 2010. www.ddionline.com | June 2010 http://www.ddionline.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of DDi - June 2010

DDi - June 2010
From the Editor
Newsworthy
Quick Tips
Greentailing
Editor’s Choice
Design Snapshot
Channel Focus: Home Furnishings
Levi’s London
Berlin
Put the “StoreFirst”
Branding in 2010
Most Valuable U.S. Retail Brands 2010
POP Products
Right Light
In-Store Technology
Product Spotlight
Calendar
Advertisers
Classifieds
Shopping with Paco

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