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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Back in the day: Bathing caps

The temperature has already made it up to 95 this month, so backyard pools and lakes are warming up. It's time to start thinking about that new swimsuit, a pareo and a cute pair of sandals, at least in Texas. However, one instrument of torture I endured as a child should not be on your summer shopping list...the dreaded rubber bathing cap.

Back in the day, I'm not sure what horror we were told would befall us if our hair got wet when we swam, but we weren't going to risk finding out. Our hair was to remain dry if it killed us, and sometimes putting on one of those caps felt like it was going to do just that.

Looking back, I'm not quite sure what those hideous things were supposed to accomplish. At the après-swim party, wet hair couldn't have looked half as bad as hair that had been plastered against the skull by one of these unforgiving helmets, so saving your beautiful coiffure certainly wasn't the objective.


ebay.com - diroll

No matter how hard manufacturers tried to convince consumers that they could wear bathing caps and still be as beautiful as a movie star, all the makeup and fake eyelashes in the world couldn't hide actress Stella Stevens' forehead full of wrinkles caused by a relentlessly tight rubber object being forced downward over her scalp.


Actress Stella Stevens in a Playtex swim cap ad, 1966
geocities.internetarchaeology.org

If you're falling for the "happy kid" picture on the packaging below, you're more gullible than I thought. Take it from someone who was a kid in one of those caps. We weren't happy. Especially those of us with long hair. The caption that reads "Fits all head sizes" should give you a clue that the marketing people weren't to be trusted. Really, have you ever seen one size of anything that fits all?

geocities.internetarchaeology.org

Attempts at adding a floral touch only resulted in making women look like their heads were being devoured by sea anemones. And it's clear from the grimace on this model's face that she'd figured out just how uncomfortable and unflattering chinstraps could be, even to the most chiseled jawline. Combine all that with the fact that earflaps made women say "Huh?" a lot, and it's fairly clear bathing caps had no redeeming qualities.


geocities.internetarchaeology.org

So you vintage dressers out there...when you pack your beach tote this summer, take a Marimekko print towel to wrap around your head or buy some really cute scrunchies or get a darling Audrey Hepburn pixie haircut that will dry in a matter of minutes. Just don't buy a rubber bathing cap, whatever you do. Trust me, that's one authentic mid-century accessory you're better off without.

17 comments:

  1. Hilarious post Dana! I'm loving the models wrinkley forehead. Those caps must have been murder to get on. I grimace at the thought of putting on a modern day lightweight cap. I agree that the past can keep that accessory!

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    1. Oh, they were hideous. I forgot to mention that some were ribbed inside, which just made it worse. I can't believe that they didn't airbrush those wrinkles out of her forehead!

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  2. Duely noted Dana, yes let's leave that one behind, great post though as always!

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    1. A decision I promise you won't regret...:)

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  3. OMG - my mom bought us swim caps every year and we NEVER wore them. I had a bright yellow one as a little kid. Mom had a pink one that she didn't wear because she realized it made her look bald.

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    1. My mother MADE me wear one. My hair was halfway down my back and thick, thick, thick...and she'd tug those caps down over my head and then spend 15 minutes trying to tuck all my hair up under the cap. Torture, I tell you. And, yes, they did make women look bald!

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  4. Playtex definitely needed to stick to bras and rubber gloves! I do like their effort, though, on the Stromboli!

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    1. As I recall, I didn't like wearing their bras or rubber gloves either. I never liked to feel bound or confined...LOL

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  5. Check out those flight attendants in "2001: A Space Odyssey" they must had long hair too. Must have been a man who designed those bathing caps.

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    1. I think you're right. No woman could design anything so painful to put on.

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  6. Hilarious post! I remember when these were in pretty regular use and I think I remember fooling around with my mothers in fun...

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    1. My mom wouldn't let me in the pool without one. They were vile. LOL

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  7. Dana! OMG! I had to get one of those for Girl Scout Camp! It was white with just a few pink and blue flowers…but UGLY! And of course, I lose it the minute I get to camp and have to sit out while everyone else is splishing and spashing and having a great time…not me. Then later on at the communal bathrooms, I spot my bathing cap on another girls head…my name right there on the side…got it back..got to go swimming…mean clueless girls abound in every era! Her cap? Not! Duh!
    Re: your Shreveport, Cherokee Park post…I am from Shreveport myself. Went to Midway Jr. High. Lived in Wilton Place on the way to Vivian and Yarbrough Subdivision out on Cross Lake. We moved to Hurst in 1964 where I went to N. Richland Hills Jr. High and moved into the LD Bell district in 1965 – graduated in 1968…small world…

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    1. You're right. This generation doesn't have the market cornered on mean girls. Glad you got your cap back and got to go swimming.

      Wow, it is a small world. I bet we went to the same Girl Scout camp! I went to Hamilton Terrace and would have gone to Byrd, but we moved back to East Texas in 1963, and I graduated in 1966. My daughter and SIL both finished at LD Bell.

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    2. Had we stayed in Shreveport, I would have gone to Fairpark as my mother did before me...we would have been RIVALS! As it is, we now get to be buds in the blogosphere! 8-)

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  8. I remember my Grandmother had one just like the first pic. She wore it up until she stopped swimming in her late 80s (about 1995). She paired it with a skirted swimsuit and the sidestroke, LOL.

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    1. haha I do a mean sidestroke, but I'm going to pass on the bathing cap.

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