hairdressing salon chair

How Salons Began: A History of Sophistication and Elegance

It all began in the 17th and 18th century Paris, a long time from now.

Salons back then were not meant for hair cutting and scissors and blow dryers—well, they weren’t just meant for the hair mowing.

It goes without saying that Paris in the 17th and the 18th century (as well as other parts of the world) was a largely patriarchal society. Women weren’t encouraged to discuss politics, language, or much of anything else.

The establishment of salons changed this power structure. Women—sophisticated women, mostly from the nobility—would gather and discuss politesse, appearance, sophistication, and things of the sort. They would also freely discuss politics and ideas, in their safe sanctuaries where no nosy men would come about mansplaining.

Eventually, this time period came to be known as the Age of Conversation. And soon enough, it wasn’t just Paris where establishments like these were brimming, but they took over all of Europe and were to be found everywhere in the immediate aftermath of the European Renaissance.

The Salon Culture

woman hairstyling

What became to be known as salon culture was basically the nobility meeting together to discuss ideas and culture (fashion, of course, was never far from the discourse). As this gained popularity, the “trends” that took birth inside salons began to slip out, and soon a following was generated—not unlike the trends of today.

A cross-cultural phenomenon was taking place across Europe, challenging existing power hierarchies by bringing women and people who did not belong to the nobility into the table talk. Ideas ranging from literature and philosophy, science and metaphysics were all up for grabs.

It’s important to note that in the age of enlightenment, having knowledge and an opinion about these subjects was considered the fashionable and sophisticated thing to do.

This is exactly what salons have today come to represent: fashion and sophistication. Women of Europe back then used to visit salons on a regular basis to “groom” themselves in sophistication, not much different from what we do today.

Salons Today

Although Jürgen Habermas in his book The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere tells us all about the salon culture in 18th century Europe, we have come a long way since then. Since we have women who stand side by side with men in college and studies, there’s hardly a need for educational grooming in secret havens.

What we still adhere to is the grooming aspect of it all, how we take care to visit salons regularly and ensure that we’re keeping up to date with all the sophistication that can be managed.

So the next time you visit a salon to have your hair styled and your nails trimmed, think about how it all began and feel proud to be part of such a thriving tradition.

About Empire Salon Equipment

Empire Salon Equipment is a leading equipment and furniture provider for salons and hairstyling establishments. They provide a wide range of equipment including barber chairs, salon chairs, shampoo units, dryers, stations, and more. Give them a call at 718-395-2030 to find out more.

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