Progress comes in many forms and if, like me, you need a little help taming your tresses, it has definitely arrived in today’s ever-expanding range of stylish, easy-to-use, efficient hair dryers. From compact, lightweight travel options to more powerful salon-professional models with a range of heat and speed features, things have come a long, long way since the early days.
Although versions of the fixed, salon-based contraption pioneered by French stylist Alexander Godefroy and consisting of slightly scary-looking hoods connected to a hot air source such as a gas stove have existed since the 1890s, the first patent of a portable hair dryer dates from 1911 and handheld dryers didn’t arrive in homes until around 1920. Hard to believe that before they could be mass produced at affordable prices, women resorted to using hose attachments at the exhaust end of a vacuum cleaner to dry their hair! Of course they could always towel dry or leave it to dry naturally, a process that could take hours for all but the finest hair, resulting in a bed-head effect for anyone unwise enough to sleep with it damp.
Interestingly, curling irons have existed for a lot longer than hair dryers in one form or another, with the first patented version registered in 1866. The Marcel curling iron, created in Paris in 1872 by Marcel Grateau, was heated over a flame and modern versions are still used by stylists to recreate old-school Hollywood waves today. (Best not dwell on the damage the original devices, with no way to regulate temperature, could do to your hair!) But, without a flow of hot air, it could be a real challenge to straighten wavy hair quickly, create looser, glamorous curls with a barrel brush instead of rollers and smooth the frizzy or flyaway.
Happily, over the last 100 years, the humble hair dryer has gone through a series of safety and design evolutions including a wood and bakelite-coated model, the dual-sided 1930s dryer, a 1950s bonnet-style device connected to a handheld hair dryer, variations on the rigid-hood dryer still seen in some salons right through to today’s compact yet powerful designs packing an impressive 1600-2400 watts of power. Ionic technology now promises to combat static; attachments help create sleek or tousled looks; touch sensitive controls and multiple settings all give you greater control for super-fast drying. With the pace of investment and innovation ever-increasing, there’s more choice than ever before. Some seriously state-of-the-art hair dryers from the diamante-encrusted (Nicky Clarke Diamond Shine) to the ion-emitting (GHD Air Hair Dryer) and the supersonic (Dyson Supersonic Hairdryer) let you customise your blow dry and style your hair in minutes.