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c. 1920s-1930s

When hairdryers looked like futuristic robots

Photos show just how far women went to get dry locks

UNSPECIFIED - circa 1930: New hair dryers have been invented lately to simplify women's lives, circa 1930. (Photo by Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

Hard though it is to imagine, hand-held hairdryers were not a normal household product until the 1970s.  While the first hand-held dryer was patented in 1911, a decade later, the device remained little more than an experiment.

The early hand-held dryers were very weighty and created a tepid air-flow. They also had a fatal flaw—literally—in their tendency to electrocute the user.

The alternative—other than to use a towel—was to visit a hair-salon and utilize what can only be described as a hair-drying device…or a helmet. Their inception coincided with the peak of post World War I Futurism and Art Deco design—and many such devices could easily have been props in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, as these examples demonstrate.

But even the hair-drying helmet was an improvement on the lengths people with wet hair had to go to at the end of the 19th century: a hose attached to the ‘out’ pipe of a vacuum cleaner.

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