haircuttingfun (haircuttingfun) wrote,

perm machine story

This story was sent to me anonymously and I was told that I can share it with everyone.  This story is about a man in the early 1930s, and his experience with a perm machine.  The detail is fantastic.  Thank you again for allowing me to share your story!

I was the last child in a family of four in England, my sisters being 2, 4, and 6 years older.  My father was away in WW2 over 1939-46 so my early years were in a very feminine household with a mother who attached a lot of importance to a 'good grooming'.  My sisters all had shoulder-length hair which they had wound onto a dozen or so long thin rubber curlers, bent into a circle and the ends clipped together to hold them in place, EVERY night.  I loved the deep waves when my mother took their curlers out in the morning and looked forward to when I would be old enough to have the same done to my hair.  Of course, that day never came, and I remember the disappointment when I realized that as a boy I was denied this possibility.

Until my father returned from the war I was taken by my mother to her hairdresser for my monthly trims, and it was there that I first saw women wired wired-up to a perm machine.  I was absolutely fascinated and got severely reprimanded many times for peeping around the curtains of the little private cubicles.  My mother's hair was permed and I remember sitting on her lap when she'd just had it done and pulling the tight little curls down and watching them spring back. 

As we got older, my sisters started experimenting with different styles themselves, and there was always a great assortment of curlers, butterfly wave-clips, etc around the bathroom.  Often they played at hairdressing, and I was frequently the reluctant (not really!) client.  My hair was usually too short for curlers but they delighted in seeing how many of those curved metal wave-clips they could get in.  I looked like a bizarre metal hedgehog, but there was something about the feeling of all the hair being pulled tight (and those clips had strong springs) that I found exciting.  Later they moved to home perms, wound on tiny thin rods (by today's standards) which they had to leave in for hours and hours.  I loved it all, and developed a real resentment that males were denied this fun.  I let my own hair grow as long as a boy could possibly get away with so that, secretly, I could put in some curlers and clips for a few hours when I was going to be alone and undisturbed.

Quite coincidentally (I didn't know when I met her) my first 'serious' girlfriend was a hairdresser in an upmarket city salon and, furthermore, she specialized in perming.  This would have been 1958 and cold perms were becoming more the norm, but many women still preferred the results of the hot process, and that was Janice's specialty.  Of course, I was always interested to talk to her about her work, and she liked that as other boyfriends had shown no interest.  One evening she casually mentioned that she had permed a man's hair that afternoon, which both amazed me and gave me the opening I needed.  To cut a long story short, two weeks later I was all wired up to a point-wind machine and the steam was starting to rise!

It was an occasion I'll never forget -- a mixture of high excitement, discomfort (the curlers were wound SO tight and it had taken ages to get them in as my hair was barely long enough so I was getting really hot under the heavy rubber cape) and fear of what I was going to look like and what people would say.  However, Janice did a great job and I certainly didn't attract any undue attention for the general public as we went home!  Plenty of flack from my workmates of course, but I played the line that Janice had tricked me into it.  My father wasn't impressed but my mother and sisters were supportive (I think they had more than an inkling that I'd really wanted it).

Four months later, then every four months for about the next three years, I had it done again.  These times I really enjoyed the whole process.  My hair was longer now so the winding was quicker, though I still winced when the curlers were tensioned (using a screwdriver in the slot on the end!), and it was always a bit nerve-wracking getting steam time -- about 10 minutes as I recall.  This gave a nice deep wave with minimal chance of damage to the hair she said.  I never got a burn (and Janice was proud of the fact that she had never burned a client).

Sadly all good things come to an end.  I had another period of perming when the afro was in vogue in the '70s.  That was fun too.  I loved the feeling of my hair pulling tight when I let it dry naturally on the rods, and used to keep them in as long as I could.  But it wasn't the same as the machine perm, which had just about disappeared by then.  Now, when you have resurrected it, I don't have any hair left (otherwise, I'd be on the 'plane to pay you a visit!).
Tags: perm machine, story

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