Fashion, Work, and Politics in Modern France
The twentieth century brought fashion to the masses, as consumption spilled over its traditional social boundaries and individuals began increasingly to define themselves by what they bought and how they looked. Because hairstyles became a particular emblem of the "New Woman" and subsequent versions of the modern consumer, the hairdressing profession provides a unique perspective on the evolution of mass consumer society in this era. Yet one person's fashion is another's business and still another's labor; cultural history at one level is social and political at another. From grotty neighborhood barbershops to gleaming downtown salons, fashion had to be produced as well as consumed. This made hairstyles as much a matter of prices, wages, and work schedules as of shampoos and dye-jobs. This history of coiffure in modern France therefore illuminates a host of important twentieth-century issues: the course of fashion, the travails of small business in a modern economy, the complexities of labor reform, the failure of the Popular Front, the temptations of Pétainism, the changing sensibilities of personal hygiene--all accompanied by a parade of waves, chignons, and curls.
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