England was once the centre of the world pretty much – its empire stretched the better part of the globe, and at home its upper classes enjoyed a level of prosperity the world hadn’t seen formerly. From there, the island country was rocked with many successive, life-altering eras, from the industrial revolution, to the world wars and the advent of multiculturalism. And throughout these eras, a sense of fashion known the world round was born and reborn, from the cinched waits and pompadours of the Victorian age, to the willowy, smoky look of the swinging sixties, on through to the contemporary London style.
England’s unique presence on the world stage has shaped its beauty industry, and in this blog we’ll look at three companies that exemplify different periods and characteristics of English beauty. England’s colonial days introduced it to a wide variety of scented botanicals; its Victorian era placed an emphasis on beauty routines and rituals; and its contemporary style attempts to make up for its climate (aka, lack of sun) by bringing the beaches of Mediterranean to it.
Britain’s colonial escapades may have introduced the English to certain far-flung botanicals, whether from India or the Caribbean, but its beauty companies were the ones to really make use of them. Older companies, like Yardley, which started out in London in 1770, used botanicals both foreign and domestic to create unique products. But it wasn’t until the 1970’s, around 200 years later, that England would perfect its use of botanicals with a company called Molton Brown. Still making popular lotions and shower gels today, available at their London store or online at b-glowing.com/molton-brown their quintessentially English packaging and beautiful fragrances define what it means to be an English beauty institution.
And, where Molton Brown defines the realm of beauty products, Mason Pearson defines the realm of English beauty accessories. This hairbrush brand, dating back to the Victorian Era, is still made from the same traditional boar bristles. Born out of the Victorian penchant for beauty rituals, in which a woman would sit nightly at her mirror and diligently brush her hair, Mason Pearson still makes amazing brushes, albeit for a much more liberated clientele.
Speaking of a modern clientele, English beauty these days seems to be about making up for what the British Isles lacks – namely, a whole lot of sunshine. After the unfortunate “heroine chic” days of the 1990’s, which saw paleness as a virtue, contemporary England now looks to companies like St. Tropez (named after the French Mediterranean town) to offer natural looking tanning lotions and moisturizers. The English love their Mediterranean vacations more than arguably any other country, but for the other eleven months of the year, they make do with quality tanning products.
Oscar Wilde once said, “Beauty is a form of Genius – is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation. It is one of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or springtime…” They may not know a great of sunlight in foggy England, but they sure do know about beauty.