Throughout history, we have followed trends that make sense and then there are others that are real head scratchers. We create and follow trends mostly in the name of beauty. Our idea of beauty has changed over time, and so have the practices we follow, nonetheless the backbone of these changes have generally been in the name of lookin’ good.
We bleach our teeth, opt for breast augmentation, botox, tanning beds, hair coloring, face lifts, striped socks. If given a look back from the year 2050 will these societal inclinations be any less aberrant than foot binding done by the Chinese or heading planking done by the Mayan? I wonder?
Humans have also used trends to signal to the general public that they are of a certain class and therefore by appearance alone, demand a measure of respect. We send a sign that we are ‘in the know’ when we show up looking so ‘with it’. So what are we towing from the past that has influenced some of our modern day inclinations?
This practice gives even the most ordinary face a bit of a sparkle. It gives the impression that the person sporting the radiant smile is well off and has never had any bad habits. Somehow the repercussions of living a life filled with overindulgences of drugs, coffee, wine or for that matter chewing tobacco have not taken a toll. When we flash our pearly whites, we feel confident and handsome, so teeth whitening is very trendy these days.
These days? Records show that in ancient Rome when the aristocracy wanted pristine smiles they bleached their teeth, too. Without chemicals or laser technology, what did they do? Well, we know how ingenuitive we humans can be . . . (as a disclaimer here – ingénue and intelligence don’t always go hand-in-hand.)
Their answer to too many wine stains on their dulling teeth was to swish human urine around their mouth. (OK, yuck). The most sought after urine came from Portugal. As a guess; someone started the trend, stating that they had had the most success whitening their teeth when traveling to Portugal, or perhaps one of the elite employed a Portuguese servant as their pee pee benefactor. This trend got so popular that imported urine was taxed by the government and only the wealthy could afford the (questionable) practice. In my opinion, this was when it was in someone’s best interest to be poor.
I’ve got to move on now – the thought gives me the heeby jeebies.
When we think about hairstyles throughout history who doesn’t remember the over exaggerated top doos of the Marie Antoinette set that reign in societies all over Europe during the 18th century. Or maybe you recall the early 1960s’ trend when girls piled hair that had been backcombed into a matted maze on top of their diminutive heads in the name of fashion? Either way it may have all started when women wanted to gain stature – in more ways than one with the illusion of height.
One early answer came in the form of giant wigs. The wigs were so enormous they were constructed on a wooden frame (no backcombing here). Pieces of human hair were carefully adhered to the frame using lard as an adhesive. Apparently it worked very well, and gave the desired results, however there was a drawback. Lard attracted rats. When the wigs were set to rest at the end of the day, apparently they appealed to the critters to set-up housekeeping. All the pleasures of home – food, warmth, privacy – any rat would have been thrilled. Have you ever heard the term, “rats’ nest”? I think this qualifies as a real head scratcher.
These are just two of the most charming trends we can lay claim to when it comes to our trend setting history. We move on, it’s true, but it seems as if we just come up with better solutions rather than giving up on an idea altogether. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose – as long as there isn’t any urine or vermin involved.
Thoughts please. Leave a comment below.