As you can see from tonight’s photo, a bottle of Sani-White (for keeping your tot’s white baby shoes spotless, don’t you know – featured in yesterday’s post) was not the only vintage product I picked up recently just so I’d have a fun thing to share with you good people. Tonight we feature: the Toni home perm!
Oh boy, were those the days. The days when women used to feel it was necessary to wear their hair in a tall pouffy mass. Here’s a fun video, a 1961 British TV ad, that gives you a sense of that particular aesthetic. To my mind, the woman in it looks a heck of a lot better with the “flat” hair that the ad decries than with the oversized puff she ends up with, but you can judge for yourself:
So women would go to the hairdresser a couple of times a year for a “permanent wave” (which everybody shortened to “perm”) and then back once a week for a pouffy refresher. (My sister, Melanie, and I would tease our mum that the weekly ‘do should be called a “temp.”)
But hairdressers cost money, and when I was growing up at the Manse in Queensborough, money was scarce around our house. And in many other people’s homes too. As a result, many women in Queensborough, and all around the world, tried out Toni home perms.
People, I have no idea how a home perm might come together. Having never had a perm of any sort, home or salon, I really don’t know anything about the process or the tools. But I do remember our regular babysitter at the time, a wonderful person named Janice Rollins, coming to the Manse to do a Toni home perm on my mum. How often it happened I do not know. Really the only thing about the Toni home perm that has stuck with me indelibly through all the years, and doubtless will until I die, is this: the incredibly awful smell.
What the heck was that smell, anyway?