The Marcel Iron

Melissa Sandfort

If you are reading this post and you’re a female, think back over the years to all the things you’ve done to your hair. Possibly cut it, dyed it, crimped it, curled it, permed it, hot roller’d it, straightened it, and if you had really kinky hair back in the 70s, maybe even used a clothes iron to iron it straight. I’m guilty of quite a few of these things, except ironing my hair.

And to think, the art of hair styling dates back to the 1870s when the smooth, center-parted styles of the Victorian era went “out of style” and a Parisian hairdresser M. Marcel Grateau created a new, natural-looking wave by turning a curling iron upside down. In 1872, Marcel had introduced his famous Marcel wave using a heated iron that imitated the natural curl of the hair.

Basically, you heated these tongs in a kerosene lamp and it made curls instead of a crimp. The one pictured here on the top is a Marcel iron, the bottom two are curling irons, one with a folding handle to make it easier to carry when traveling. Same with the irons – they were heated in a lamp and done one curl at a time.

We’ve come a long way since the Marcel iron…my flat iron has a “boost” button that heats it up in 10 seconds. Seems that beauty took a little longer back in the 1800s.

Until we walk again …

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