View Full Version : Renaissance of the blonde

5th May 2009, 18:10
How fascinating (and unexpected) to see that the recession appears to be having a positive influence on the culture.

Previous posts have noted that both femininity (http://www.judgmentofparis.com/board/showthread.php?t=1490) and the fuller-figured ideal (http://www.judgmentofparis.com/board/showthread.php?postid=3951) are making a comeback during the economic downturn.

A new article in The Times notes another favourable development -- the return of the golden-haired, fair-eyed look (which was associated with the fuller female figure in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Victorian Era, and every other past century of Western cultural history).


Here are the choice excerpts:

Recession chic: why blondes are having more fun

May 6, 2009

Advertisers are moving away from ‘quirky’ models and fair-haired, blue-eyed girls are in great demand. Why?

Carolyn Asome

There may be many consequences of the recession for the fashion world: much of the dross should be weeded out of our high streets, for example, and designers will probably have to push themselves to their creative limits in the fight to survive. But one wholly unexpected and rather mystifying development is the renaissance of the blonde.

You can’t fail to notice when flicking through the first 12 advertising campaigns of the May issue of American Vogue, that they feature nothing but platinum-haired, blue-eyed goddesses. It’s a similar story on the pages of Grazia, British Elle and French Vogue. In the past few months, model agencies such as Premier and Storm have observed a significant increase in requests for blonde hair-blue eyed (BHBE) models, something that they put down to a fragile economy and grim financial climate.

Advertisers, they claim, no longer want the quirky faces that have dominated the catwalks, billboards and weekly glossies in recent years. Instead, they’re searching for safe, wholesome-looking girls with flaxen manes who will reassure rather than shock the consumer.

“We have definitely experienced a larger than usual demand for the classic rather than the quirky,” says Carole White, founder of Premier Model Management. “In a recession clients won’t stick out their necks, they know what sells and they want to hire models with wideranging appeal. When every penny counts, they’re much more likely to opt for the formula that sells the best.”

...“If there’s one thing I’ve noticed as the cry of the model bookers’ table, it’s ‘we need more blondes’. That’s partly because it isn’t easy to find a fabulous-looking blonde, as you need someone quite classy looking”.

...Ultimately, blondes are a safer bet for clients who want to hedge their bets. Plus when we’re constantly surrounded by bad news, that blonde stereotype is zingy and upbeat.”

In mythology and fairytales BHBE characteristics are ascribed to heroines, while their enemies are dark and ugly. Blonde hair also has magic powers: strong enough to use as a rope ladder in Rapunzel and as a powerful aphrodisiac in Pelléas and Mélisande.

The traditional theory, according to Dr Lance Workman, an evolutionary psychologist at Bath Spa University, is that “men in the northern hemisphere were drawn to physical signs of youthfulness because women have a limited period of fertility. Fair or lighter coloured hair is one of these signs because hair darkens the older you become”.

Dr Abigael San, a chartered clinical psychologist, says: “Blonde hair and blue eyes are known for appealing to a lot of tastes, it’s a classically beautiful look. The association with blonde hair goes back to childhood: we associate these characteristics with forces of good, honesty and trust. We’ve recently been deceived by bankers and politicians, so the need to trust is even greater”.

...images of healthy bodies encourage us in turn to thrive. “We also live in a predominantly brunette society — so we are naturally drawn to this look, which is seemingly exotic.”

...it’s simply less risky to choose a more approachable or attainable woman. “Perhaps the image of a woman who is more curvy and facially engaging is what people find reassuring”.

It's humorous to hear the writer describe the opposite of the timeless ideal as "quirky." What that "quirky" look really should be called, frankly, is ugly. So the return of the fair (and fuller-figured) ideal is, truly, a return to genuine feminine beauty.

But I was fascinated that the article mentioned the significance of the fair ideal in fairy-tales and folklore. The writer makes a greater nod to Western cultural history than journalists often do, and she does so without a modern left-wing political bias. It's encouraging to see.

Also notable is the point in the article that "it isn’t easy to find a fabulous-looking blonde, as you need someone quite classy looking”. This is so true in the plus-size industry as well. There are quite a few blondes, but only a very few whose look is truly timeless, like Kelsey Olson, Charlotte Coyle, Chloe Agnew, Valerie Lefkowitz, Justine, Kailee (when she is in her blonde phase), and the loveliest of all, Shannon Marie.

I hope this means that models like Kelsey will be more visible in the near future.

6th May 2009, 20:37
I like the fact that the article describes this as the "renaissance" of the blonde, especially given the posts on this forum that have demonstrated how the fair-featured look was idealized in the Renaissance, and in other eras:


I especially love this passage in the article:

In mythology and fairytales BHBE [blonde-haired, blue-eyed] characteristics are ascribed to heroines, while their enemies are dark and ugly. Blonde hair also has magic powers: strong enough to use as a rope ladder in Rapunzel and as a powerful aphrodisiac in Pelléas and Mélisande.
I'm also fascinated by the many terms that the article uses to describe the characteristics of fair-haired beauties:

-"wide-ranging appeal"
-"zingy and upbeat"
-"safer/happier/less threaten"
-"appealing to a lot of tastes, it’s a classically beautiful look"
-"forces of good, honesty and trust"
-"bathed in radiance and light"
-"wholesome-looking girls with flaxen manes who will reassure rather than shock the consumer"

It's encouraging to see the above qualities being presented as [I]desirable, as something that the fashion industry is now actively pursuing. For too long fashion was concerned with the opposite. It explicitly wanted to be "threatening," to "shock" the public with ugliness/edginess and UNwholesomeness in the extreme (think "heroin chic"), until "shock" itself became tired and shopworn and cliche.

Now the qualities of being "wholesome," the "forces of good, honesty and trust" are being celebrated again. It's an encouraging sign, and I hope that this marks an overall turn in the culture.

12th December 2009, 07:58
<br>The article is truly refreshing. The point that it makes about the timeless idealization of fair beauty is, of course, very true.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/kelsey/sleeping-beauty.jpg"></center><p>Whenever one revisits the classic fairy-tales (as they were originally told--before the modern media began warping them), one finds that the heroines are invariably flaxen-haired, fair-eyed beauties, with abundant, flowing tresses.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/kelsey/cinderella.jpg"></center><p>The is true even of characters who have, in the modern age, been depicted otherwise. Few people know this, but while the magnificent dream factory of Walt Disney ultimately changed Snow White into a brunette for the eponymous film, in the original sketches <i>Schneewittchen</I> was depicted as a blonde.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/kelsey/blonde-snow-white.jpg"></center><p>She had the kind of soft, rounded, childlike facial features that epitomize timeless beauty.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/kelsey/blonde-snow-white2d.jpg"></center><p>There is historical precedent for this, of course. <i>Schneewittchen</i> was traditionally depicted with fair tresses--as seen, for example, in this print reproduction of a 19th-century wall painting (destroyed in the war) that used to exist in Drachenburg Castle, along the Rhine, showing a fair Snow White with her attendant dwarves.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/kelsey/blonde-snow-white03.jpg"></center><p>The recurrence of this look is too universal to be merely a convention. It speaks of something deep within the human heart--an innate appreciation of fair features as betokening wonderful, almost magical qualities, a kind of beauty so compelling that it invites an appreciation that is more than merely physical, but engages the imagination and the spirit as well.

As the <i>Times</I> article suggests,<p><blockquote><i>it’s a classically beautiful look. The association with blonde hair goes back to childhood: we associate these characteristics with forces of good, honesty and trust.</i></blockquote><p>However, the article also identifies a persistent limitation in fashion-industry thinking. While the industry's pursuit of <i>"wholesome-looking girls with flaxen manes who will reassure rather than shock the consumer"</I> is commendable, fashion fails to realize that nothing is more shocking (adversely so) than images of obviously emaciated models.

The article even includes several references to this fact; e.g., when it mentions that<p><blockquote><i>a woman who is more curvy and facially engaging is what people find reassuring,</i></blockquote><p>and that<p><blockquote><i>healthy bodies encourage us in turn to thrive.</i></blockquote><p>The article admirably intimates the traditional association of soft, feminine fullness with the flaxen look. Writers like Charlotte Bronte and Kate Chopin refer to this association in their novels. Many blonde beauties have a natural tendency towards sweetly seductive greediness and alluring self-indulgence, which helps them to develop attractively rounded limbs, generous waists, and overall plump figures.

Therefore, while the fashion industry seems (according to this article) to apprehend part of the means by which it can win back the public--by reintroducing blondes with a wholesome, gentle look--it misses the most important component of all in traditional beauty, and that is, the voluptuous figure that naturally accompanies blonde tresses and light-coloured eyes.

Fortunately, plus-size fashion can satisfy these needs, offering goddess models who possess both fair features and the sought-after "curvy," "healthy bodies" that the article describes. Just look at these brand-new Polaroids of the breathtaking Kelsey Olson, from her Seattle agency, Heffner Management--images that are more gorgeous, though mere snapshots, than even the most sophisticated editorial work from other models.

In the top-left and bottom-right pictures, Kelsey appears indescribably lovely, yet demure and reassuring--evoking precisely those pleasurable sensations that the public is seeking, according to the article. The <i>Times</I> author only errs in suggesting that this look is specifically desired <i>now</i>--for the truth is that it represents an eternal human preference, favoured at all times, whatever the social conditions of any period may be.

In the other two images, showing Kelsey with her jacket removed, the full measure of her beauty is revealed. In the steamy top-right picture, she appears overtly alluring. Her left hand draws attention to her golden dresses, prompting the viewer to imagine similar tactile appreciation. Her grey tee fits her figure closely, defining her curves. Never has her figure appeared as stunning as it does here. The viewer perceives the fullness of her luscious, 39" waist (a measurement that is clearly indicated on the card). But the overpowering impression that one receives from Kelsey is of her complete self-assurance in her physique. She knows that her generous proportions are precisely what make her attractive.

In both images, the model's sumptuous waist is openly displayed. In the bottom-left picture, she appears casual, wholly comfortable with herself--radiating a kind of pleasure that only a goddess who is <i>not</I> starving, but enjoying life to the fullest, can project. Kelsey's pleasure in her own person is infectious--for who could view this image and not wish to share in her delight? What makes her ideally beautiful is how soft her figure always appears--free of any trace of androgynous "tone," but rounded and shaped into perfection by natural fullness.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/kelsey/polaroid06.jpg"></center><p>If the fashion industry, or any part of it, has finally recognized the wrong-headedness of selecting models merely to offend the bourgeoisie, and is seeking girls "who will reassure rather than shock the consumer," then it should embrace models who, besides possessing fair beauty, exhibit full features and buxom figures as well. Those are the girls who connect with the public, because their beauty brings to life our fondest dreams and deepest longings.

- <a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/kelsey.htm" target="_blank">Kelsey Olson galleries</a>