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Feelin’ Frizzy

This month, mousse and conditioner purveyor Sebastian International celebrates its 25th anniversary; and so, as a result, does the world’s first crimping iron.

It was big and solid, 50 watts of heavy-duty crimping power, and Barbra Streisand’s trademark ‘70s look--think “A Star Is Born” waves--inspired its invention. When styling Streisand’s “Butterfly” album cover, hairdresser Geri Cusenza tired of crimping Streisand’s locks the old-fashioned way: tying tiny redundant braids, then letting them loose. Cusenza enlisted her brother-in-law, an engineer, to help design the first crimping iron prototype; when the heavy metal clamp hit it big at a New York trade show, Sebastian International was born.

We went in search of this seminal crimping implement and found it at Sebastian’s Woodland Hills headquarters. Though the company no longer sells crimping irons, the original one still makes seminar rounds.

“We bring the iron out,” says Paula Malloy, Sebastian’s director of education, “and do a little show-and-tell.” This vintage model outperforms its descendants. “It works faster and you get a better definition in the crimp,” Malloy says, but to make one as heavy and resilient today would cost more than $300. And if not in the proper hands, she notes, things could get dangerous: “It was designed as a professional tool, not for consumers.”

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