Closeup/Lifestyle

For appearance’s sake

Suddenly it’s okay to be looking good again

Barbara Amiel February 6 1978
Closeup/Lifestyle

For appearance’s sake

Suddenly it’s okay to be looking good again

Barbara Amiel February 6 1978

For appearance’s sake

Closeup/Lifestyle

Suddenly it’s okay to be looking good again

Barbara Amiel

At 7 a.m. the clock radio set at CHUM-FM goes on. The mellow rock sounds of Jackson Browne curl around a room lined with stuffed animals and photos of Debby Tregale’s camp mates last summer and the synchronized swimming team she coaches. People stay just a little bit longer moans Jackson Browne but Debby, 14, ignores the seductive suggestion and struggles out of bed. She has a 90-minute schedule to complete before leaving for her school in suburban Etobicoke, Ontario.

“From seven to seven-ten I wash. I get dressed from seven-ten to seven-twenty. All the week’s outfits are chosen on Sunday but still it takes time to pull the look together. Then I plug in the curling iron. I make my bed from seven-twenty to seventwenty-five. Then I put on my makeup: blusher, powder, eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara—chosen to coordinate with my clothes. From seven-fifty to eight is breakfast. By that time my makeup is set and I can check for adjustments and fix up my accessories. At eight-thirty my friend Janice Hayzelden [up since six-thirty getting ready] picks me up for school.”

“A year ago we couldn’t get her out of frayed jeans,” says Debby’s father, Peter. “So 1 don’t mind all the fussing if it gets away from the grubby look she adored.” Nor do retailers, manufacturers and a whole network of sub-industries cashing in on the growing desire of Canadians to look good. Though not all Canadians are spending the same time at their maquillage as Madame de Pompadour—or Debby Tregale—clearly the dowdier-than-you look of the early Seventies has given way to the neat-as-possible look of the late Seventies. “More and more girls are wearing dresses, nylons, high heels and plaid classics,” explains a counselor at Magee High School in Vancouver. “And for the boys, long hair is out. Even blue jeans are pressed and clean.”

But it’s not just the collegiate and campus set that is cleaning up its act. Harry Bendayan, 24, an assistant manager at Toronto’s Olympia Carpets, makes a little more than $15,000 a year and won’t spend less than $100 on a pair of shoes. Ambitious and determined to get up the management ladder, when Bendayan’s not studying the intricacies of finance at night school he studies the intricacies of boogie at the more expensive disco clubs. “Look-

ing good,” says Bendayan, “and knowing how to be at ease in social situations helps in getting ahead in life.” His date, Mila Majer, 23, a university science graduate, left the uncertainties of her two-year career as a research chemist for a secure $ 13,000 job as manager of Jean-Pierre Imports. Her studio apartment rents for $240 a month. The rest of her salary, apart from food and necessities, goes mainly on clothes and hairdos at Toronto’s high fashion, expensive (wash and set alone $20 to $40) Michael Kluthe Hair Salon.

O tempora! O mores! Fashion upheavals come and go from the 1960s miniskirt to the 1970s barefaced, unwashed minigrooming. What’s new this time is that the Neatness Revolution of 1978 crosses all the sexual and generation borders with a sweep that makes Mary Quant’s coal black eyeliner seem barely there. Today’s Neatness Revolution is not limited to North America’s teen-agers or even the under-30 set. This time, hums a joyful choir of entrepreneurs and cash registers, the fashion is for everyone. It’s a renewed interest in appearance based on narcissism and pragmatism—the combination glue of our times. Getting a job is what counts in these recession-plagued days and so looking good, though not without its trendy fun side, is more than just a fad. Looking good

is about personal economic survival.

The Male of the Species: The decor is chocolate brown with suede chairs or white wicker and hanging plants. The emphasis is always on chrome and mirrors. This is the age of the men’s beauty salon with stylized cuts ranging from The Muppet and The Shake to two-hour stints in rollers and permanent wave solution for The Weave or Root Perm. Once seen as the exclusive territory of homosexuals, today’s salon features clients in pin curls under heat lamps who are just as likely to be happily married fathers of three getting into shape for tomorrow’s boardroom encounter. At Toronto’s Headlines salon, high-school teacher Ken Olsen, 35, sits comfortably in his perm rollers. Next to him, Claude Hamel, 32, a specialist in bookbinding and restoration work, is getting a henna treatment. “I grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan,” says Hamel, “and if anyone had suggested I’d be sitting under a hair dryer with a plastic bag over my head I’d have balked. But nowadays I think it’s just taking care of essentials.” Explains Paul Booth, 29, a marketing rep at IBM: “I try to wash and blow dry my hair every morning before work. It makes me feel better and act more confidently.”

It’s a growing sentiment. Last year, according to the PMB Product Profile Service, 113,000 Canadian men purchased electric hair-curler sets for personal use and 63,000 red-blooded male Canucks forked out

more than one million dollars for their own lighted makeup mirrors. Cosmetics for men are growing too—though no one actually wants to call astringents, masks and moisturizers cosmetics. The approved term is “grooming aids.” Still, even here things are loosening up. Two years ago the men’s line of Aramis fragrances and skin treatment products called its moisturizer “an after-shave emulsion.” This year Aramis is calling a moisturizer a moisturizer. “Last spring we discussed men’s grooming aids on a Winnipeg television show,” says Richard Roderick of Aramis, “and the switchboard was jammed with hundreds of male callers wanting skin analysis.” But grooming and cosmetics are only half the story. Teen-agers or middle-agers, men want a total look. Explains Rody Watt of Hickling-Johnston Ltd., a company specializing in locating management and executive types: “The 50and 60-year-olds have stopped trying to look like 25-yearolds. They realize they still have the power. And the younger men realize that senior management in almost all major corporations is run by men born before 1925 and they set the tone and the environment. So hair is getting cut and blazers and suits are

worn.” On the junior level, department stores are getting used to young male customers trudging in with photographs from Gentlemen’s Quarterly. When a Toronto teen-ager walked into the 317 Shop in the Bay in January, he told manager Victor Peachy that he wanted “the New York Army look” for a party that night and had $100 to get it. Two sales assistants later he walked happily out clutching his khaki cargo pants and a plaid flannel shirt layered over a solid T-shirt. “Roll up the shirt sleeves,” said a salesman. “It’ll look like you’re just off the site.” Th« Female of the Species: Last November two New York Glamour magazine editors, gold chains and silk blouses in place, swooped down on Vancouver’s Eaton’s to hold workshops on “women’s selfimage.” Five hundred women ranging from 18 to 50 years of age packed the sessions to listen intently to psychologist Stephani Cook’s lecture on woman’s need to assert herself and develop her own style. The audience watched intently as lean and lacquered models pirouetted down the runway in a fashion show accompanied by a commentary titled “What Kind Of Woman Are You?” All the bombast and singlemindedness of the Sixties’ feminists seemed long gone. In fact, while early feminists burned bras, contemporary ones are doling out sizable chunks of money for the privilege of wearing them. Expensive lace and ribbon-trimmed lingerie is a big seller from Halifax to Vic-

toria, say retailers, particularly among businesswomen. (“It’s selling exceptionally well,” says Simpsons buyer Nora McCullough.) Early movement rhetoric about women letting themselves go natural turned out to be less than helpful in a looks-oriented business world. Career women turned for help to a new variant of the old charm school: the personal development course. These courses, which are popping up at community colleges and Ys all across the country, teach women how to groom themselves for job interviews and advancement. Alberta Government Telephone Company hired ex-modeling agency owner Joan Karpow in 1975 to give courses to female employees on grooming, posture, etiquette, wardrobe and skin care. The courses proved so successful that they are now a four-times-a-year fixture. In Edmonton, Barbara Kelly, Miss Canada of 1967 and a popular television personality, decided last fall to start a School of Personal Development for Young Ladies, concentrating on grooming, etiquette, telephone manners—even how to get in and out of a car gracefully—only to discover that the mothers of her students were pleading for a course of their own. Somewhere in the Sixties quagmire of doing your own thing the mothers had never learned how to do the best for themselves. The Media Cash-In: For the past few months the nonfiction best-seller list of the book trade’s magazine, Publishers Weekly, has listed among its best sellers Designing Your Face by Way Bandy and The Woman’s Dress For Success Book by John R. Molloy. Coming up strong on the lists are similar books for men: Looking Good: A Guide For Men by Charles Hix and Scavullo On Men.This spring publish-

ers are sending out shock waves of books designed to tell readers how to merchandise every remaining lacklustre inch of themselves. Titles range from The Skin

You Live In by Norman Goldstein, MD, to The New You: One Of The World's Most Famous Models Shows You How To Maximize Your Total Appearance by super model Wilhelmina. In Canada these books have done extraordinarily well. Looking Good has sold 5,000 copies (that’s enough to make it a Canadian best seller) at $17.95 each. And the buyers are not simply the gay chic crowd. Says Pauline Woodward of Pauline’s Books in Vancouver’s west end: “The book’s being bought by straight upwardly mobile young businessmen. They grew up under the hippy influence when grooming and manners were almost dirty words. Now, they’re getting to a point in their lives where they’ve realized that they need to look good to get ahead.”

The commercial potential in Canadians’ new concern with appearance has affected the domestic magazine market as well. Established magazines such as Chatelaine have dropped their preoccupation with the plight of oppressed womanhood (typical titles in one issue last year: Dare A Political Wife Be A Real Person? and How To Survive Your Husband’s Menopause)andgiven us a 1978 Chatelaine woman who is relaxed, feminine and definitely “making it.” Says Chatelaine editor Mildred Istona: “In our 50th anniversary issue we’re showing lacy lingerie with the cutline, ‘Dare we say it—a return to femininity.’ ” New Canadian fashion magazines such as Chatterley and Toronto Life Fashion have reported increased ad sales (as has the revamped Miss Chatelaine) and Fashion plans to go national this year.

Even the academics are benefiting. There’s a whole growth industry called social psychology ready with batches of tests to “prove” (in case common sense has deserted you) that looking good is an advantage in life. Back in the egalitarian Sixties, social psychologists shied away from studying the relationship between physical attractiveness and success. Explains University of Toronto professor Karen Dion: “Like others in that period, social psychologists felt that it was somehow undemocratic to believe that physical attractiveness should matter, so there was a reluctance to study the subject.” But as with tie-dyed jeans and concern for Cambodians such scruples soon faded. Now a 1972-73 study by Dion indicates that even preschoolers distinguish between attractive and non-attractive people and see attractive people as more sociable and less aggressive. Other studies indicate that attractive people are perceived as brighter, more friendly, poised, strong and more likely to succeed in life.

So the return to makeup and grooming may have a practical base in a job-hungry world where getting ahead is increasingly tough. And who knows, maybe the undisciplined thought processes that have bedeviled our schools and institutions for the past half-dozen years will “neaten up” along with dress pants and hairdos. O