Vintage Advice: Cosmetology

Today’s Vintage Advice comes from The Lu-Art Beauty Academy Standard Textbook of Cosmetology from Saginaw and Bay City, MI. First published in 1938, my edition is from 1961.

I hardly know where to begin, there’s so much good stuff here, but I guess I will start with the book’s opening quiz: Will you be a success or a failure? Apparently the good folks at Lu-Art have got this down to a science.

Will you be a success?

  • Be punctual.
  • Be courteous.
  • Be neat, clean, and attractive.
  • Be gentle.
  • Mind your own business.

This advice could lead to success in many walks of life, but the bottom line is the most telling:

TO BE SUCCESSFUL—you must learn to do little things that will make people like you.

So very true.

I do realize, of course, that that line can be interpreted as suggestion that one should kowtow to others. As a recovering people pleaser, that’s not what I’m saying at all. I choose to interpret the statement in a more positive light: relationships are important, and/or sometimes a little effort can have a big payoff. But I do understand that trying to anticipate the proper little things for any given person or situation can be overwhelming. So I have boiled down all the items on the Lu-Art checklist into two words that I believe will determine your success or failure in almost any venture: Pay Attention.

Isn’t that easier to remember? It’s certainly true of writing: knowing your audience makes all the difference in the world. But it’s also true of getting along in life: parenting, working, being on committees, etc. Be mindful of whom you’re talking to or working with. What are their interests? Needs? Skills? Challenges? Giving speeches got so much easier for me when I stopped worrying about what people thought of me (the speaker) and started paying attention to what they wanted and needed to hear about.

This book has so much more to teach: Hygiene and Personality, Finger Waving, Theory of Massage, Removal of Superfluous Hair, Corrective Hairstyles and Makeup…I can hardly wait to soak up all it has to offer. The corrective actions are not judgmental, by the way. They’re quite matter-of-fact. “Do you have broad, muscular, square shoulders? Select a hairstyle having soft qualities, diagonal waves, and curls. Avoid horizontal lines in hairstyle.” I can think of so many young women who are sporting the currently popular super long, flat-ironed hair that requires much time and attention yet does nothing for their features. What’s more important, having a lovely head of hair that looks like everyone else’s, or having a lovely head of hair that brings out your pretty eyes or works well with your lifestyle, i.e., daily swim practice?

This is something that surprises me about vintage beauty advice books — as strenuous as expectations for grooming etc. were for women in the past, there seems to be a lot more acceptance of physical variety. Nowhere does this book focus on weight as the primary indicator of one’s beauty. In fact, it repeatedly says dieting and poor nutrition make a woman less attractive rather than more so. Which is sooo refreshing after being bombarded with grocery checkout magazines that imply that most woman are only ‘X’ pounds away from real beauty (and implied success and happiness).

Do you accept responsibility?

Don’t get the wrong impression – I don’t think this book is perfect. I laughed and laughed at the personality quiz (10 items, 40% of which have to do with physical appearance). The scoring notes suggest that these ten items can determine whether you have an excellent, good, fair, or poor personality, as though “who you are” is something that can be quantified. I’m thinking there’s no one “excellent” personality. This is a perfect example of the adage, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Someone you might find charming could be totally off-putting to others and vice versa. Which is good, because it means there are plenty of friends and mates to go around. Different strokes for different folks.

Still, I give this advice book two (well-manicured) thumbs up, for balance, body acceptance, and unintentionally humorous detours.

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One Response to Vintage Advice: Cosmetology

  1. Christine Mac lean says:

    Pay attention is good advice. Do you give advice on haircuts? Shaving my head would work well for my lifestyle but I don’t think it would do anything for my looks.

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