While we protest against parabens in our beauty products, follow yogis across town and across the world, and parse the virtues of Soul Cycle versus Flywheel, it’s hard to appreciate how radically different—how really high on wellness New York City is—compared to preceding decades.
Thanks to a find at the Brooklyn Flea, we’ve had a flashback to the 1980s when there was nary a yoga studio, a juice cleanse, or a vegan bakery on the island of Manhattan.
Our friend Andrea spotted New York City Woman, a pocket guide published in 1989 (around the time of Desperately Seeking Susan), and written by Elaine Louie, a name you may recognize from the Home section of the New York Times. Bound in burgundy leather with gold lettering, it was clearly meant to serve as the proper young lady’s little black book for every pre-Google question on where to go for beauty salons and where to find “the button of their dreams” (apparently Gordon Button Co. or Tender Buttons).
The carefully curated recommendations recall the days before Yelp exhaustively collated the city—but it’s not the size we find so quaint. It’s how thoroughly the tone of the how-to-take-care-of-yourself conversation has evolved.
A beauty Berlin Wall separated uptown and downtown.
Hair was cut, colored and styled uptown. Louie writes of Elizabeth Arden, “A genteel salon for the wealthy, self-assured woman, not the lively little trendy.” The only downtown salon listed is a place called Bleecker People that’s a “no-frills” family barbershop.
As for gyms, there were two: Cardio-Fitness Centers and the Sport Training Institute. No yoga or Pilates, but you will find a section on riding equipment and horse stables.
For beauty products, Caswell-Massey or Crabtree & Evelyn are the notables and downtowner Kiehl’s gets a mention for “the city’s most seductive essential oils with which to perfume the body.”
And instead of Sephora, a place on 55th Street called the Make-Up Center suggests a battery of make-up artists at the ready. Louie writes, “Both men and women frequent the shop, proving that vanity is universal.”Apparently metrosexuals aren’t a product of the 90’s. Sorry Sunday Styles.
But even if men aren’t new to exfoliating, our current devotion to fitness, nutrition, juicing, yoga, and overall wellness is nothing short of revolutionary. Something that wasn’t even on the horizon in 1989, is now a focal point of the city’s cultural life.