Ever since the roaring 1920s, the field of cosmetology has expanded as a highly professionalized industry. The professionalization of cosmetology occurred in the 1930s. During the 1930s, women dressed in all-white uniforms and with short, curled hairstyles helped women who needed hair styling. Women were trained in very small and privatized shops during this time. Women operated with electrical tools for the first time during the 1930s.
Cosmetologists grew in demand during the 1940s. Women wanted simple haircuts due to WWII, and cosmetologists were charged with the task of helping women find the perfect bob haircut. The look of the 1940s was more feminine than the looks from the 1930s. Women who worked in cosmetology shops were often the only ones who had access to beauty products during the 1940s. As a result, they were often highly sought-after by other women in the community who wanted to purchase the products on the side.
When the 1950s came around, women wanted a more glamorous look. Women wanted to look glamorous as their husbands came home from war. Cosmetologists were known for having a glamorous look that was envied by other women. The ponytail became a very popular look during this time. Cosmetology really took off as a profession around the 1950s. They started to earn better wages and were more respected in the community. They became known for the “Liz Taylor look” with heavy red lips and light makeup.
In the 1960s, cosmetologists became even more highly sought after for their ability to process and color hair. Women wanted to have blonde hair. They wanted the “girl next door” appearance. Cosmetologists helped women achieve the Twiggy look with super short hair, as well as the Cher look with super long hair.
The 1970s saw a more subdued look. Longer hair was the style in this time period. Men started to see cosmetologists more often to get the feathered look. In the 1980s, these styles rapidly changed as people wanted to tease their hair and achieve the Madonna look. Cosmetologists were instrumental in giving perms to women during this time. The professional woman likely wanted an appearance like Mary Tyler Moore with the flipped out hair.
Ever since the 1980s, cosmetology has become recognized as a serious profession and a smart career move for women and men who want to be financially independent. The modern era requires looks that are often difficult for the woman to achieve on her own. Hair extensions are all the rage right now, and this look requires hours of professional assistance. Highlights and lowlights have also become popular in the last few years, and these types of looks also require professional help. Accreditation standards have now become more rigorous than ever before in the history of cosmetology. While a cosmetologist may have only had to pay $10 in the 1940s to become a hair stylist, now a hair stylist must undergo years of coursework and pass rigorous examinations in order to receive a license to practice cosmetology.