Blowin’ in the wind

Dyson, the vacuum cleaner purveyors that will sell you a cyclonic bag-less thing of beauty as long as you can qualify for a mortgage to pay for one, is now flogging a cyclonic hair dryer for only $500. Now that Mr. Dyson has solved the problem of picking up pet hair he has chosen to apply his considerable technological acumen to solving the penultimate first world problem of getting wet hair to become dry hair.

In an irony clearly not lost on Mr. Dyson, one of the first devices used as a hair dryer was actually the vacuum cleaner. If you attach the hose to the back end instead of the front end of a run of the mill vacuum cleaner you get air blowing out instead of sucking in. The first salon style hair dryer (the kind with the cone of silence hood) showed up in France in 1890. And during my extensive research on the topic I was surprised to find that the first hand held hair dryer debuted in 1915, although since it weighed around two pounds and had an unfortunate habit of electrocuting people it wasn’t a huge hit. We had to wait until the 1960s before scientific knowledge advanced enough to combine the magic of plastic with state of the art electric motors and arrive at the modern version of the home hair dryer.

Before we had wide spread access to the miracle of quick drying hair women spent a lot of time and energy avoiding getting our hair wet. If you needed to be in the unavoidable vicinity of water, the first line of attack in this quest was the bathing cap and its cousin the shower cap. But these are imperfect devices that require considerable vigilance to ensure their intended function proceeds without breach.

Another approach was to avoid washing your hair. One solution was to outsource hair washing to the beauty salon, which of course had the hair drying technology but needed to be rationed to at most once a week. Then the ‘dry shampoo’ industry rushed in to fill the void with a powder that was supposed to clean your hair without water but mostly resulted in the appearance of a massive dandruff attack. So what we mostly did instead is throw a scarf on our head and call it a fashion statement.

So I guess you could say the availability of a cheap and safe hair dryer is right up there with other labour saving devices that freed us from the tyranny of spending all of our time keeping the household fed, watered and clothed. And by that I mean just like the washing machine allows us the ‘freedom’ to do more laundry and the vacuum cleaner adds an extra layer to sweeping and mopping our floors, the portable hair dryer enables us to spend more time styling and perfecting our coiffure. But at least for a mere $500 we can do it in high-tech style. Thanks a bunch, Mr. Dyson.

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