Throwback Thursday: The Original Flat-Iron

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In a world full of Keratin treatments and Chis, it’s easy to forget that there once was a time, over ten years ago, that achieving gorgeous, silky straight hair was more arduous than blow drying it every other day, then doing a once-over with a flat iron. I know, it seems ridiculous to even think of a time when you didn’t subject your hair to 450° of heat as it slid through two beautiful, ceramic plates. The age during which my daily beauty routine didn’t include the use of tools described as “ionic” seems so far away. I often forget a time without such magic ever existed, but I think it’s important we pay due respect to the pioneer in hair styling tools, the very genius invention that is responsible for the de-curling of millions of heads of hair every day: the original Conair, blue flat iron, circa 2000.

These flat irons became popular in the early 2000s, when most of us were gaining seniority on the elementary school playground. We were starting to slay the hearts our male, pre-teen classmates, while wearing the hottest fashions from Limited Too. We were slowly making the transition from a time when our moms unforgivingly brushed tangles from our hair to the times when it became necessary to start damaging our virgin hair with heat for the very first time, using our Conair straighteners. These things were basically the first flat irons any girl born between 1988 and 1993 ever had at home, because prior to that, the only way to transform naturally curly locks into silky smooth ones was through extensive blow drying (for thirty or more minutes) with a round brush.

By present-day standards, this straightener is beyond sub-par. It only had like, three heat settings, the hottest of which barely got past 200 degrees. If you had thick, curly hair, it pretty much took at least thirty minutes to make your hair even remotely straight using it. It was also about four inches thick, which made it really difficult to make your ends look good, or your roots look especially voluminous, a luxury afforded to us by today’s half-inch thick, salon-quality flat irons available for at-home use. While this straightener lacked the actual ability to make your hair perfectly straight, it did have one component no straightener of 2013 would dare boast: it came with interchangeable plates that allowed us to crimp our hair. I can’t say for sure whether or not I used the crimpers, but I still think it’s important to realize how this little hot tool laid the foundations for the great hair of the ten years that would follow.

Today, we’re lucky enough to have the pricey flat irons and ionic hair dryers that allow girls like myself to execute a perfect at-home blow dry and straighten process within thirty minutes, regardless of how naturally thick or curly our hair may be. Thirteen years ago, however, a perfectly straight mane was only attainable if you were lucky enough to have had naturally pin-straight hair, or if you’d just left the salon after a full foil.

So today, whether you’re committing to a full wash-condition-blow-straighten regimen, or if you’re just doing minor touchups before you hit happy hour, let’s remember the humble beginnings of the one beauty tool no girl could ever live (or look this good) without: the hair straightener of the stone age, the Conair original. While its time in the spotlight was short-lived, as Helen of Troy began introducing their salon-quality, ceramic flat irons for consumer use by 2002, its time on earth was epic, and left a lasting impact on all of us, and our perfectly highlighted, face-framing layers.

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