In the world of 1963, the term “beatnik” was media shorthand for a caricature created from popular stereotypes of the Beat Generation, the counterculture movement which rose in prominence during the 1950s, led in part by writers Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac. This group of young, creative hedonists inspired by modern jazz, embraced the concept of antimaterialism, valued soul searching and intellectual pursuits, and would later give rise to the hippie movement of the late 1960s. From Wikipedia:
At the time the term Beatnik was coined, a trend existed among young college students to adopt the stereotype, with men adopting the trademark look of bebop trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie by wearing goatees, horn-rimmed glasses, and berets, and rolling their own cigarettes and playing bongos. Fashions for women included black leotards and wearing their hair long, straight and unadorned in a rebellion against the middle class culture of beauty salons.
By the time of the following newsreel clip, popular culture’s adoption of the word “beatnik” was akin to the way the word hipster is thrown about today, and when used in regards to a young woman, it might also be a stand in for “bad girl”. Here, a hip chick, with her black turtleneck, loose, lightly teased hair, and smokin’ black, heavily-lined cat eyes stops in at an exclusive beauty parlor in the Mayfair area of London.
This salon, according to the narrator, specializes in teaching teenagers how to “make the best of themselves”. Best by mainstream society’s standards, in this case.
After an egg shampoo and an off camera roller set, our beatnik girl undergoes a luxurious facial massage, followed by a mask and eye treatment. Here, we vintage beauty aficionados get a fascinating glimpse into the professional skincare practices of the early 60s.
After painting the mask with melted wax, the entire treatment is peeled away.
A sprayed on “oxylation treatment” to refine the pores is administered.
Gone is the beatnik’s thick, black eyeliner. Now we see that it has been replaced with silvery blue shadow and more refined lining. Then the narrator reminds us that lipstick, applied with skill, can either lengthen or shorten a face, “as nature requires”. We’re also admonished to “never, never take the lips too far out if the face is round and squat”. I’m not sure I’d characterize this beauty’s face as round and squat, but then what would they sell us if we didn’t hate ourselves?
Now we see what the beauty operators have done with the client’s hair as Mr. Narrator admonishes us to remember that a round face needs a piled high hairdo.
And here is how they’ve dealt with the length in the back. The whole thing is finished with spray lacquer, naturally.
From beatnik bad girl, to “gracious lady”, the finished makeover is revealed. We now see our beatnik transformed, like a “modern Cinderella, switched from her leather jacket to genuine elegance”.
Which look do you prefer? The before or after?
See the film clip from British Pathe in its entirety below.