Francois Marcel Grateau was born in France in 1852. He made an unforgettable name for himself as an icon in the beauty industry when he invented the “Marcel wave”. In the early days of his career around 1870 Marcel worked in the slums of Paris in a little salon in Montemarte where he styled hair for the local prostitutes and women in the poorer classes. At that time most women wore their hair long and curled. Marcel wanted to find a new way for women to wear their hair and through his daily practicing he discovered a way to give hair a “waved” look. In 1872 when he began styling hair with his new look which came to be known as the “Marcel wave” he used heavy tongs with rounded internal surfaces that had to be handled by a trained operator who knew how to create a deep, natural looking wave instead of the typical, round curl. These tongs were heated over a small gas burner which made it hard to maintain the correct temperature, if they weren’t hot enough the wave didn’t set but if they were too hot the hair burned so the irons were tested on paper prior to use. Marcel struggled to find customers who were willing to let him practice this waving method on them so he offered free hairdressing to refine and perfect his process while gaining experience. As women saw the beautiful wave styles he was creating more and more of them wanted to try it so he was able to start charging for his services and even began to make house calls to richer clients. Marcel’s big break came when he performed his waving technique on Jane Hading, who at the time, was a very popular actress. This led to enormous publicity and demand for him. Other celebrity clients included the Princess of Sagan and the Contesse de Castellane. He became so sought after that clients actually started outbidding each other for appointments. In 1893 an article was written which compared the “Marcel wave” to anarchist bombs being detonated across Paris at the time. By 1924 electric waving...
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