On hair and hairdressers…

A report in a local newspaper about a mass meeting of the Leicester and District Hairdressers’ Association in 1907 reminded me that there were several hairdressers in Charnwood Street within living memory. George Ager at 275, also a tobacconist, was one of them – see my previous blog at https://cib2.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/george-ager-a-charny-hairdresser-and-tobacconist/ for more about him. In the 1920s others included Ernest Toone at 224 – popularly known as ‘Lilting’, so I’m told! – and George Harry Buckby at 130. Mr R. Lord remembers that Toone’s also sold snuff in paper packets – loose and weighed on scales – and that hairdressers’ shops in Charnwood Street were always full at dinner time (what we now call lunchtime) with boys from Gimson’s engineering works in Vulcan Road.

eileen's hairdresser

Eileen’s hairdresser just before the demolition of Charnwood Street in 1970 (Michael Westmoreland)

Toone’s still appears in a local directory in 1954, but Corrigan’s footwear shop had taken over the premises by 1960. J.T. Tate also appears in 1954 as a hairdresser at 155. In 1960 the shop was occupied by the Janlyn Toy Co., but Eileen’s ladies’ hairdresser was also there by 1969. The other ladies’ hairdresser that many people remember was Eunice’s at 112, there from at least 1954 to 1960 and maybe longer. Lorraine Gee-Nichols recalls that: ‘Each Friday afternoon or evening my mum would take me with her when she went to have her hair washed and set or permed at Eunice’s hairdressers, and as a treat we always popped into Paddy’s Swag Shop and I was allowed a little treat’.

Hairdressing might seem a straightforward occupation, not unduly subject to rules and regulations – but the mass meeting of hairdressers in Leicester in 1907 suggested otherwise. The Leicester Chronicle of 4 May 1907 tells us that this was held at the White Swan in the Market Place, and there was ‘a large attendance’. Mr Rainbow, late President of the National Federation of Hairdressers was among those present. The ‘prime motive’ of the meeting was to obtain better rates for hairdressers, who had had ‘greater responsibilities’ placed on them as tradesmen over the past few years. This included the greater liability ‘forced upon them’ by legislation and actions in the courts. ‘No man who had the welfare of the trade at heart would complain of this’, Mr Rainbow said:

but they must recognise these things and shape their course accordingly. Today they were compelled to have better fitted up saloons [sic], cleaner surroundings, better instruments, and the sterilisation of all they used, for the protection of customers against many imaginary evils. Again, they had to face heavier rents, rates, and taxes all round. He appealed to the members of the trade to stand firm, so that their charges might be such as would enable them to earn a living’.

hair preservationWorries about hair loss were nothing new at this time, however, to judge from an advertisement for a ‘Consulting Hair Specialist’, G.F. Moss of 70 Sparkenhoe Street in Horn’s Illustrated Guide to the Places of Interest in Leicester in 1905. This was accompanied by ‘Before’ and ‘After’ photos of the Verger of St Peter’s church in Leicester, claiming that ‘Your hair restorer has effected a permanent cure’. Maybe… but the risk of having an expensive hair-do ruined by rain was permanent enough. The Illustrated Guide also had an advert for Kendall’s in Granby Street, suppliers of umbrellas, sunshades, walking canes and ladies furs. ‘Above all you must have a good umbrella’, it said next to picture of a family taking shelter – and if it happened to break, Kendall’s would also re-cover it ‘equal to new’ from 1s. 6d (7.5 p).

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