Woe be unto the girls that had to live up to the image of the brazen beauty with the sparkling smile and glowing halo of hair that was the Breck girl. Forget the constant barrage of stick-thin models in today’s magazines, the Breck shampoo girls were more dangerous than any computer-image enhanced beauty could ever be.
Back in 1930, John H. Breck formulated a ph-balanced hair soap to keep hair clean and pristine. Concerned about his own hair loss, Breck concocted a gentle shampoo that was kinder to your hair than the harsh soaps and lyes commonly used. He put his miraculous shampoo on the market for the average guy and gal, and a full-bodied success was the result.
In 1936, Edward Breck, son of John, launched the Breck shampoo hysteria when he placed girls’ portraits on his advertisements for his product. Breck hired a commercial artist, Charles Sheldon, to create lively images of beautiful, healthy girls with luscious hair as a way to sell shampoo. And boy, did it work!
The Breck Shampoo company captured the hearts of boys and the heads of girls for decades, from the Great Depression through to the 1950’s. The Breck girls were as American as apple pie, and their welcoming smiles and flowing locks of comfort and beauty were more than most boys could bear. Forget Betty Grable and her legs, the Breck girls’ hair was the only crowning glory needed.
The first Breck girl, Roma Whitney, was only fourteen when she was given the honor of launching the shampoo. Her glowing blonde halo radiated from her cherubic face, and by 1951, the Breck company registered her image as their trademark.
Sheldon's successor, Ralph William Williams, helped to perfect the perfectly wholesome faces of the 50’s. The Breck girls were as much pinup girls as their sexier contemporaries, but they sold chastity, not sex. The Breck girls represented the idealized woman, and any woman using Breck’s shampoo for her hair was guaranteed to have luxurious locks.
For over forty years, the Breck girls smiled at you from the bottle in shower, but sadly, their visages washed away by the end of the 70’s. Brooke Shields, Cheryl Tiegs, Cybill Shepherd, Jaclyn Smith, Christie Brinkley and Kim Bassinger can all claim honor of being the last lot of Breck girls before designer shampoos claimed Breck’s share of the market.
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