I was buying a tube of toothpaste the other day and I was amazed, as I am each time, by the vast number of pastes available. Not just different brands. Each brand seems to have dozens of different types! Out of interest I did a Google search on Colgate toothpastes and found 55 listed. Back in the 1950s and 60s there were only a few brands. Each brand had one type. I remember Signal being launched and longing to try it but my mum always bought Gibbs SR.
Two of the very few brands we had in my childhood.
Today’s huge selection.
The same applies to other everyday toiletries. The main shampoos I remember are Sunsilk, Supersoft, Vosene and Loxene. All shops selling toiletries sold shampoo in sachets as well as bottles. There were no conditioners. The first one to hit the market was called Tame Creme Rinse. I used to buy a sachet for myself. You then mixed the contents with warm water in a cup and poured the solution over your hair after shampooing. It was a revelation. I could get a comb through my wet hair without having to spend ages working through knots and tangles.
A bewildering choice of shampoos and conditioner.
I don’t think we heard the word moisturiser back then, they were known as face creams. We always had Nivea in our house. My mum used to rub it on our cheeks before we went outside in really cold weather. There were also creams called ‘cold cream’. My mum used ro rub cold cream into her face before bed. I remember one my Nana used to use called Ponds Vanishing Cream. I can still recall the smell of it.
I know a lot of people didn’t wear deodorant in the 1950s and 60s. I can recall, in high school in the 60s, being aware which girls didn’t wear deodorant. My mum used one called Odorono and my sister and I were encouraged to use deodorant as we approached puberty. The only other ones I remember the names of are Mum and Sno-mist. I favoured Sno-mist probably because it was advertised on Radio Luxembourg and had a catchy jingle. You could get stick on or sprays. The sprays weren’t aerosols, just squeezy plastic bottles.
Some of the many deodorants now available.
My daughter recently drew my attention to an article on the demise of the shampoo and set and suggested it might be a good subject for a blog post. So I started thinking and I kept remembering more and more things – here is the result.
Back in the 1950s when I was a child nobody had showers in their homes and the norm was for people to bath once a week. Going back even further, houses didn’t even have running water and baths. In towns and cities there were public baths which were places where you could go to pay for a cubicle with a bath in it and running hot water. That’s why many of our older swimming pools here in the UK are known as ‘the baths’ because that’s how they started.
This bit of background is to help explain why the weekly visit to the hairdresser was so important. Nowadays we go to a salon every so often for a decent hair cut by a proficient stylist. In between cuts we wash and style our hair ourselves, most people daily. In the 1950s the current hair styles for women were all quite bouffant and structured. It was not a look which could easily be achieved at home with the equipment and the bathrooms we had at the time. Once a week a woman had a ‘shampoo and set’ or a ‘hairdo’ at a salon. The hair was washed, covered in setting lotion, set in rollers and dried (baked!) for ages by a massive metal hood drier under which the client sat. If the hair was straight or very fine a perm was essential in order to achieve the desired look. The trim was incidental and was added to the procedure every few weeks to keep the do in shape. It seems strange to us now but visiting the hairdresser weekly was seen as normal rather than extravagant.
The usual sight at a ladies’ hair salon and some of the current styles.
During the week in between the hair was kept in shape with the help of rollers. These could be put in at night and slept in or put in in the morning and left all day (under a net or a headscarf) until being combed out later in the day before the family came home.
My mum had a shampoo and set every week of her adult life. She also slept in rollers. She never needed a perm as she had naturally thick, wavy hair. I remember that when we went on holiday for a fortnight in the summer holidays my mum would visit a salon in the place we were staying for a shampoo and set in the middle of the two weeks.
This is what was used then . . . . . . . .
and what can be used today.