Fashion, Work, and Enterprise in Modern France

Overview

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; ...

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Fashion, Work, and Enterprise in Modern France

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Focusing on the history of the hairdressing profession since the end of the 19th century, Zdatny provides a fascinating glimpse into the ways in which the worlds of fashion and consumer taste became democratized in the modern period. He also provides a trenchant analysis of the ways in which this largely artisanal profession transformed itself as French society became increasingly competitive and market driven. Finally, this book awakens us to the manifold ways in which the most mundane aspects of everyday life—including routine hygienic practices and hairstyles—have been shaped by the caldron of history. Written with great wit and panache, Zdatny's book constitutes an indispensable contribution to French labor history, as well as the increasingly rich body of literature on taste and fashion in modern Europe."
—Vicki Caron, Thomas and Diann Mann Professor of Modern Jewish Studies, Cornell University
 
"Zdatny has created a meticulously researched, in-depth analysis of French coiffure as social practice, political process, material culture, and site for both gender and technological change. Written with verve, this study presents a rare and enlightening portrait of petty commerce in peace and war, a distinctive configuration of worker-employer relations, and a demand-driven service sector whose transformations were entwined with cultural shifts. In exploring a century of coiffure, where ‘one person’s hairstyle was another’s business and still another’s labor,’ Zdatny offers an essential complement to the growing literature on couture, providing a model for thoroughly contextualized histories of fashion."
—Philip Scranton, History of Industry and Technology, Rutgers University

"This marvelous jourbaney into barbershops, beauty salons, and the hairdressing profession provides an arresting new look at the history of France from the belle époque to the postwar world of Brigitte Bardot. Zdatny writes with verve and wit. He integrates the history of fashion, labor, and business with rare agility, and he offers fresh insight in key issues, such as fashion’s role in women’s emancipation, the travails of the Left in small business in the 1930s, and the ambiguities of collaboration in Vichy France. Essential reading for students of mass culture and twentieth-century France."
—Herrick Chapman, New York University

"Only a very talented scholar could demonstrate so brilliantly that the history of hairdressing could be a central issue to understand the evolution of French society, from the late XIXth century to the 1960s. In this original work, Steven Zdatny shows to what extent it’s impossible to grasp contemporary France without paying attention to handicraft and petty commerce. His book is a tribute to simple workers living through a growing complex world. It renews the traditional patterns of social and cultural history."
—Henry Rousso, Institut d’histoire du temps présent, CNRS, Paris
 

"An unusual and valuable amalgam of cultural and gender history on the one side, and labor and business history on the other side, framed by the political history of France in the twentieth century. In addition to integrating these usually disparate approaches to history into a relatively seamless narrative, Steven Zdatny incorporates elements of his earlier scholarship on hairdressers and their organizations into a broader consideration of the gendered aspects of hairdressing, inside and outside the occupation, and of the political implications of economic strategies adopted by salon owners and employees and, by extension, by small business owners and their employees."
—H-France
 
"This history of hairdressing offers both fascinating anecdotes and a serious rethinking of culture, labor, business,and politics in modern France...A carefully researched and engaging account."
—Whitney Walton, American Historical Review
 
"Part cultural analysis, and a larger part labor history, Steven Zdatny's new volume, Fashion, Work, and Politics in Modern France, charts the remarkable changes that awaited the world of small business as represented by the hairdressing and barbering profession."
—R. O'Brian Carter, Jourbanal of Modern History
 
 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781403972170
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 5/14/2006
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Steve Zdatny is Associate Professor of History at West Virginia University. Zdatny is the editor of Hairstyles and Fashion: A Hairdresser's History of Paris, 1910-1920 (Berg, 1999) and the author of The Politics of Survival: Artisans in Twentieth-Century France (Oxford University Press, 1990).

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Table of Contents

The Rise of Coiffure Pour Dames
• The Poorest of Trades
• The Bob
• Back to the Barricades
• Fat Years, Lean Years
• The Failure of the Popular Front
• Hair in War and Occupation
• Aryanization, Collaboration, Resistance
• Dark Days, Bright Future
• Conclusion

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