Monday, January 25, 2010

Consumer sovereignty

Karen Stabiner's piece in this morning's LA Times is the latest contribution to the LA-NYC-compared literature.

Among the items compared are women's hair treatments.

Blonds. Clairol's 1960s ad campaign, "Is it true blonds have more fun?," implied that being a genetic minority made life more worth living. But now a highlight and lowlight epidemic on both coasts has turned the stubborn brunet into the outlier. Is it true blonds have more fun? Hard to tell; there are too few non-blonds left for a viable comparison.

This brings to mind Malcolm Gladwell's wonderful "True Colors: Hair Dye and the Hidden History of Postwar America," a chapter in his What the Dog Saw and other adventures.

Do blondes have more fun? Is blondness more alluring? I guess the market has spoken. Gladwell alludes to a "blondness periodic table" published in Big Hair: A Journey into the Transformation of the Self by Grant McCracken, which I must read.

There are appatently six categories in the periodic table ("bombshell" [Mae West, Marilyn Monroe], "sunny" [Doris Day, Goldie Hawn], "brassy" [Candice Bergen], "dangerous" [Sharon Stone], "society" [C.Z. Guest] and "cool" [Marlene Dietrich, Grace Kelly].

All that may have been so in 1995. But, Stabiner would probably agree, the six have have multiplied in NYC as well as in LA as well as in-between.

Consumer sovereignty is a wonderful thing.