When you use your flat iron to straighten your hair, you probably think about as you do the work about how you cannot wait to have smooth, straight, and shiny hair. You likely do not even think about how the flat iron started and its history. You probably have no idea who invented the flat iron because that is not a thought that would likely occur to you at all. However, now that you are seeing the mention of it, you probably are becoming quite curious about how the flat iron you are using to style your hair started. Who invented the flat iron? Let’s go over the history of that special styling tool. But, before that, let’s talk about how the flat iron works and turns your hair into a product of something you love!
How Does The Flat Iron Work?
Have you wondered how the flat iron turns your hair into a masterpiece? Let’s talk about some science here for a moment. Your hair contains positive hydrogen bonds in its cortex. The cortex is what causes the hair to become curly and to bend. However, the flat iron or any straightener will break down the cortex, which will prevent your hair from maintaining its natural form. Therefore, if your hair is naturally curly, the bonds broken down will mean that your hair becomes straight.
However, if the broken bonds have exposure to moisture, that can for the bonds and cause them to go back to their natural form. That is why your wavy or curly hair remains flat for a limited amount of time. Eventually, moisture will come into contact with your hair through humidity in the air, or if you run outside during a rainy day, or if you take a shower, then you will see your hair going back to its natural state.
Therefore, if you wondered why your hair does not stay straight for a long time, that is because of the exposure to moisture in your hair. And that is not a bad thing because the last thing you want is dry and brittle hair. However, that is why if you wish to have consistent straight hair, if you have naturally wavy or curly hair, you will have to commit to straightening your hair several times a week, or once a week at the very least.
You also want to be careful with how much you straighten your hair, as excess heat will cause heat damage to it. That is why it is also imperative that you use a heat protectant before straightening your hair to keep your hair safe from the heat. Now, let’s go over the history of the flat iron.
The History Of Flat Irons
Okay, now let’s go over the history of the flat iron. Back in the very early days, which meant anything earlier than the 19th century, suggested using barbaric practices for hair straightening. Hairdressers back then relied on harsh chemicals to straighten hair. That always caused severe damage to the hair. However, in the 1870s, a hairdresser named Marcel Grateau in France started using hot metals to straighten hair, such as the hot comb. Then there was a woman in 1872 named Erica Feldman who used a curling iron to straighten her hair. That was not an invention, but it did create more of an idea that a tool could help straighten hair.
However, the hot combs became more well known in the very early part of the 20th century. In 1906, an inventor named Simon E. Monroe was the one who patented a metal comb that was a hair straightener. The way it worked was that the comb went inside a warming gadget, which caused it to heat up to straighten hair. However, it was not successful. The issue was that after people used the metal comb, they had to brush their hair immediately to become straight. Working with the metal comb and brushing after took hours to do, which tried their patience. Additionally, those who used Monroe’s patented product experienced burnt scalp and hair. That did not work out.
However, in 1909, the visionary inventor Isaac Shero invented the straightener using two metal plates to glide through hair. He wanted to create plates that would glide smoothly through the hair so it would minimize damage. Shero also made the electric hair straightener and ceramic straightener with adjustable settings too. His product was successful and much safer than Monroe’s.
However, were Grateau, Shero, and Monroe, the actual inventors of the flat iron? No, because the one who did invent it was Scottish heiress, Lady Jennifer Bell Schofield. Grateau inspired her to design the modern-day flat iron in 1912. She made the flat iron with long tongs and attached them to metal plates that could heat up. The long tongs were the game-changer as they protected the user’s hands as they styled their hair.
However, people no longer used hair straighteners in the 1970s, often when curls were in fashion. That was until the 1980s when straight and smooth hair was in style again. Therefore, beauty companies reintroduced hair straighteners to the market again. The difference was that modern hair straighteners had plates instead of plastic handles.
Then in 2008, ceramic straighteners became a thing to help create even heating distribution to the rest of the hair and control heat. Then in 2013, ceramic plates provided you to enjoy straight and frizz-free hair, which helps keep moisture locked in to help minimize heat damage. Flat irons will keep evolving to meet the evolving needs when it comes to hair care and styling.
That flat iron that you use to straighten your hair has a fascinating history behind it. The idea emerged in the late 19th century through French hairdresser Marcel Gateau who used hot combs to straighten his clients’ hair. Then in the early 1900s, inventors Simon E. Monroe and Isaac Shero took them a step further and created more of a modern version of the flat iron. Monroe’s invention failed, but Shero’s succeeded. Then the actual inventor was Scottish heiress Lady Jennifer Bell Schofield, who created a user-friendly version of the old-style flat iron in 1912, and the evolution has kept happening since then!