Snarkily calling a rival a “meanie” and sulking about the condition of your hair are the whining of an insecure moody middle-school girl, not the president of the United States. But a pouting tween Trump is what we are stuck with.
After complaining that he can’t wash his “beautiful hair” properly due to the drip drip drip shower heads, his administration has hair brain scheme to try and roll back showerhead regulations set in place by George HW Bush in 1992.
Does this follically challenged narcissist secretly aspire to be a Breck girl, that retro advertising icon gal with the glowing golden locks who never had a bad hair day?
A Bad Hair Day
Since the pandemic began is there anyone who has not had a bad hair day since mid-March?
After this past week of hair-ravaging humidity coupled with an electric power outage contributing to my already COVID challenged locks my normally baby-fine hair frizzed out channeling a bad 1980’s perm. Short of wearing a large picture frame hat to hide my harried hair, I reluctantly had to zoom in on an art event resembling a cartoon character who had stuck her finger in a socket one too many times.
Yet again my own childhood hopes of emulating a Breck Shampoo girl’s perfect hair were dashed.
Hair Dos and Don’ts
When I was growing up in the 1960s and 70’s no amount of weekly shampooing with that golden elixir that was Brecks, had ever produced for me that longed for glorious glowing hair portrayed in the popular ads. The popular girls all seem to benefit, but it somehow eluded me.
And now looking around the zoom meeting at the well-heeled crowd mingling with hipsters as they viewed and discussed the art, their common denominator was that somehow, miraculously, they all seemed to have perfectly coiffed, disciplined hair.
Although Brecks has been unavailable except in the occasional Dollar Store, it seemed as if once again I was surrounded by a room full of Breck girls. Old insecurities reappeared and with it, remembrances of The Breck hair girl swirled in my mind.
For 30 years the Breck shampoo advertising campaign featured as its centerpiece a romanticized portrait of a smiling girl with shiny, silky swirls of abundant hair. It both recorded and reinforced an idealized, often unattainable American beauty ideal.
It didn’t matter if her hair was a beehive or a bouffant, a pixie cut or a Farrah-do, the Breck girls wholesome, and charming All-American looks never varied through the years. Always desirable yet alays chaste they were also always white.
Promises in a Bottle
All shampoo ads dangled the promise that you’d be head over heels in love with the way your hair would shine and shimmer with the use of their product The results were always hair so gleaming, so glamorous, so silky smooth that romance was sure to follow.
Sure the Halo shampoo girl may have had that look-again-look and Prell promised to make you look radiantly alive with hair he loves to touch, but the Breck girl was the hands-down envy of every American girl from the 1940s to the 1970s.
As ubiquitous as a Pepsi Cola ad and just as bubbly, the Breck girl was hard to miss. The popular advertising campaign ran in every major woman’s magazine often taking up the entire back cover with her smiling golden visage.
All in The Breck Family
In 1936, six years after Dr. John Breck founded Breck shampoo, his son Edward hired a local Springfield Mass. commercial artist Charles Gates Sheldon to draw women for his new ad campaign.
Best known for his romanticized paintings of Hollywood celebrities for Photoplay Magazine, Sheldon utilized the same fanciful techniques for his Brecks girls. His soft-focus portraits of real women were done in pastels, with otherworldly halos of light surrounding the glowing girls.
Sheldon favored “ordinary” women using neighbors and employees of the ad agency as models and early Breck Girls were often really just that- real Breck family members. A Breck advertising manager described Sheldon’s illustrations as “illusions depicting the quality and beauty of true womanhood using real women as models.”
Twice As Nice
Breck Shampoo Ad 1963 illustration Ralph Williams Williams
In 1957 the illustrator with the distinctive name, Ralph Williams Williams took over as the Breck artist when Sheldon retired, and his portraits are the ones most of us grew up with.
He preferred using professional models rather than Susie from accounting. Many of these Breck girls were also winners of the American Jr Miss contest that the company sponsored. The ads featured such famous models as Cheryl Tiegs, Cybil Shepard (Junior Miss from Tennessee) in 1968, Brooke Shields in 1974, and Farrah Fawcett in 1975.
The Girl in the Picture
As women gained independence and challenged historical images of girlhood and womanhood Breck got hip and introduced “the Girl in the Picture” feature giving a personality to the idealized pictures. The Breck Girls were identified through the sponsorship of Americas Jr Miss Contest
A young Kim Basinger appeared with her mother. “Ann Basinger and her daughter Kim of Athens Georgia in 1971. Ann and Kim share many interests: dress designing, cooking, modeling in local stores, and long walks on the beach.
In 1974, Donna Alexander was the first African American to be a Breck Girl. From East Orange NJ she was “New Jerseys Junior Miss for 1974 and represented her state and awarded a scholarship for academic achievement. Donna is now studying veterinary science at the University of Penn.”
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