“Necessity is the mother of invention,” “If it wasn’t for bad luck, we wouldn’t have any luck at all,” there’s a reason these sayings exist. But have you ever realized that a major portion of the things we are using today appeared because of some unfortunate events: economic crises, military action, and the related shortage of products and materials? Among these things there are fashionable shoes and handbags, hygiene products, and even the most adored chocolate spread, Nutella.
Bright Side became interested in the history of popular products and “timeless” fashion trends and found out that their origin was not very smooth.
Historically, women in many countries had long hair. Short haircuts were a sign of poverty, as some women sold their hair to pay for basic subsistence (remember O’Henry’s story “The Gifts of the Magi”), illness (hair was cut because of typhus), or indecency of a woman’s occupation — at that time bold hairstyles were mostly worn by actresses and other ladies who had to earn their own living.
One of the first short haircuts was worn by Coco Chanel (in the photo on the left). It is believed that Chanel had to cut her hair because of an accident: a gas water heater exploded in her house while she was getting ready for a premiere at the Grand Opera Theater. Fortunately, Coco was unharmed, except for the fact that the flame seared her hair. Determined to attend the premiere, she took a pair of scissors, cut off her damaged strands, and went to the theater just like that.
But it was during and after the First World War that the bob haircut found its real popularity, when women, especially those working as nurses, cut their hair short for practical reasons. Even on posters calling for women to join the Red Cross, nurses were often portrayed with short hair.
But these changes did not appeal to everyone: men who returned from the war were often indignant about the appearance of these new “frivolous” hairstyles of their wives and brides. However, there was no way back: the bob cut in all of its varieties has taken its place in our life and is popular to this day. By the way, this is the haircut that American Vogue’s unchanging editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour (in the photo on the right), prefers.
Women’s turban hats
The first burst in women’s turban popularity happened during the Art Deco era in the 1920s when ethnic motifs were fashionable. At that time turbans were made of expensive, richly decorated fabrics.
During the second World War, the turban became the most popular headdress for women again, but for different reasons: unlike a hat, it could be made from any fabric. In addition, the turban hid the hair, because in those years women did not have much time to go get their hair done, but still wanted to look attractive.
Women who worked in production often tied a kerchief into an improvised turban. This detail is imprinted on this famous Rosie Riveter poster from the war years, depicting a typical female military factory worker.
You might also find it interesting that the turban was worn not only by ordinary women, but also by Hollywood actresses whose lives weren’t directly affected by the war and who did not need to hide their lack of hairstyling. Amazingly, this headgear is still in fashion in the modern day and can be safely called the trend of the season.
Dr. Marten’s boots
Many people’s favorite “Martens” appeared as a result of a trauma that happened to their creator — a German doctor named Klaus Märtens in 1945. Ordinary boots were too harsh for his injured leg, so the doctor decided to make his own orthopedic shoes with airbags in their thick insoles.
For his first boots Märtens found some material in a shoe shop, but to start mass production in the times of postwar deficit he had to resort to using decommissioned rubber and the remnants of army uniforms: officer’s leather pants and even epaulets were used for making insoles.
Comfortable and durable shoes were quickly appreciated. First of all by policemen, postmen, and factory workers, and then all the rest, including celebrities. Nowadays, “Doc Martens” are still just as popular: even the model sisters Gigi and Bella Hadid love them.
Handbags with bamboo handles from Gucci
Yet again, war is to blame: clothing, footwear, and accessories manufacturers had to adopt very unconventional, but cheap materials. Among these materials were fish skin, woven raffia, plexiglass, and wood. But who would have thought that a material that was used for cost-cutting could become so popular and remain in demand to this day?
Among such things were the Gucci Bamboo handbags, which appeared in 1947. The decision to use bent bamboo for handles was taken not only due to a shortage of materials, but also because this part of the product was always the fastest to wear out. These bags quickly became popular and remain so even now. There were also a lot of celebrities, including Princess Diana, who were fans of this accessory.
Ballet flats and loafers
In the 1940s, it was fashionable to wear shoes without laces. Of course, during the war years production of fashionable footwear wasn’t anyone’s first concern: factories were occupied producing outfits for soldiers. So people had to adapt and in 1941, fashion designer Claire McCardell turned ballet shoes into everyday shoes, by gluing a firm base to them.
This was the prototype of modern ballet flats, which are now present in the wardrobe of almost every girl. By the way, the ballet flats that you see on the photo once belonged to Audrey Hepburn — a big fan of these shoes.
Men preferred shoes that looked like moccasins or Norwegian peasant shoes called “aurland shoes” (Norwegian aurlandskoen), which were sewn by Norwegian fishermen. In England, these shoes were called loafers, since they were originally intended to be worn only at home or during rest, and this name got stuck.
Norwegian loafers are still being produced: on the photo collage on the left you see peasant shoes from a 19th century illustration, and on the right — their modern version. Over time, the loafers ceased to remain exclusively men’s shoes, and are now worn by women too.
It’s clear that every medicine was invented to fix a problem, but Viagra was the result of a complete fiasco. The drug was originally synthesized for the purpose of treating angina pectoris and coronary heart disease, but during clinical trials it turned out that in this capacity it was practically useless. However, it was found that sildenafil has a pronounced effect on the blood flow to the pelvic organs.
Electric epilators for women
Removing superfluous hair on a body is an ancient practice, but not for all peoples. For example, in Europe, it began to be thought about mainly after dresses were shortened at the beginning of the 20th century. But even then, not every young lady shaved her legs — after all, the excess could easily be hidden with stockings. But once again, the war intervened and the deficit of everything, including hosiery, came with it.
Not everyone wore trousers, and instead of stockings in the warm season, women painted their legs a tan color and even drew a stocking seam on them. Simulating stockings in combination with excess hair would look strange, so women began to get rid of it in the postwar years, which led to the appearance of the first electric shavers (you can see one of the classic models in the photo), and then epilators.
Instant coffee appeared on shelves for the first time at the end of the 19th century, but only gained its popularity in the 1930s. This happened because of the economic crisis, when the world market price per pound of coffee beans from Brazil fell from 22 cents to 5 cents. The country had a surplus of coffee, which they decided to destroy: it was burned or thrown into the sea and coffee trees were cut down too.
In addition, Brazil asked for help from the Swiss company Nestlé, as there were no technologies for processing and storing grains after drying and primary processing. So that’s where the well-known product under the Nescafé brand comes from. The Second World War promoted the further popularization of instant coffee, as it was used to supply the US Army.
Disposable hygienic pads
The first means of feminine hygiene appeared in Ancient Egypt, but for centuries women had to use pieces of cloth (and sometimes even their lower skirts), which were then washed and used again.
Disposable pads made from absorbent materials first appeared in the late 19th to the early 20th century when the manufacturers of absorbent cloth, which was originally invented as dressing material for wounded soldiers, finally decided to adapt it to the needs of women.
Surprisingly enough, this delicious product also appeared as a result of a deficit. Its creator, baker and confectioner Pietro Ferrero, began to add hazelnuts, which were plentiful in the Piedmont region of Italy, to his paste because of the post-war shortage of chocolate.
Initially Nutella was a solid bar, but somehow the confectioner made a mistake and hundreds of cookies prepared for the city holiday melted.
Ferrero did not get confused and smeared the resulting paste on bread. The novelty was very popular with the townspeople, and so in 1946 the history of the most popular spread in the world began.
The advertising slogan of this chocolate confection in Italian sounds like this: Che mondo sarebbe senza Nutella? (“What would the world be without Nutella?”). And it definitely makes sense.
Which of these facts amazed you the most? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.