What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“The newest and most fashionable Taste.”
In the fall of 1770, John Brown, a hairdresser, informed “the Ladies in particular” and “the Gentlemen” as well as that he had set up shop in Charleston. In an advertisement that ran in the South-Carolina and American General Gazette, he announced that he had “Just arrived from LONDON.” This was a common marketing strategy among advertisers from a variety of occupations, from doctors to artisans to tailors to hairdressers. They listed their place of origin as part of their credentials, suggesting to colonists that those who had trained and worked in the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the empire possessed greater skill and a better understanding of taste and fashion than their counterparts from the colonies.
Brown stated that he “was regularly bred to the Business,” invoking a common phrase that indicated extensive training, but he also made the claim to superior circumstances more explicit by clarifying that he learned his trade “in one of the genteelest Shops in London.” Unlike other hairdressers in Charleston, Brown had not yet established a reputation among current and prospective clients. As an alternative, he used his connections to the urban sophistication of London to encourage residents of Charleston to associate additional cachet with his services.
Brown also emphasized his recent arrival in South Carolina. Many advertisers deployed the phrase “from London” in their notices, some after living and working in the colonies for years. That made it significant for Brown to proclaim that he “Just arrived from LONDON.” His experience working in one of those “genteelest Shops” was recent. He possessed a familiarity with tastes and trends in the metropole that was current. Other hairdressers relied on travelers and correspondents to keep them apprised of new styles, but Brown brought that knowledge with him when he crossed the Atlantic and set up his own shop in Charleston. He pledged to dress hair according to “the newest and most fashionable Taste,” a common appeal that had greater resonance when deployed by a coiffeur who had “Just arrived from LONDON.”