You can learn a lot about history just by looking at how a woman does her hair and makeup—and the third episode of Cut.com’s viral series, 100 Years of Beauty, gives a quick social and political history lesson in less than two minutes. (You should watch episodes one and two if you haven’t already.) This installment, starring Iranian American model Sabrina Sarajy and directed by Blaine Ludy, is about Iranian beauty practices from the 1910s to the 2010s, and it doesn’t shy away from the political: The 2000s beauty look, with its green hijab and green war paint, references the Iranian Green Movement in which protestors demanded the removal of human rights violator and conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from office. Women were a driving force in this green-donning protest, from wearing brighter nail polish and more makeup in public to wearing green veils and standing side-by-side their male counterparts in the streets.
The 2000s beauty look from the video, referencing the Iranian Green Movement. (Photo: YouTube)
The hijab wasn’t always part of the daily routine of Iranian women. In the ‘30s, the King of Iran outlawed the veil, and women who felt uncomfortable with letting their hair out would wear stylish hats, like fedoras. From 1925 to 1979, when Iran and France had close relations during the Pahlavi dynasty, we can witness strong French influences in the ideal beauty looks of Persian women, like pin curled bobs, giant beehives, and wild ringlet curls. In the ‘80s, after the revolution of 1979 in which the monarchy was overthrown, the hijab became mandatory again.
The 1950s beauty look from the video, with pinned back curls. (Photo: YouTube)
“When we were choosing our third piece we wanted to showcase a culture where that link between beauty and politics was most explicit. Generally, American media is pretty insular. People from other countries are reduced to tropes. We wanted to show that Iran, just like our country, has never been static. The culture has changed a lot over time,” Cut.com’s Mike Gaston told Yahoo Beauty. “And hopefully, those changes would surprise people enough that they’d want to know why and do a little work on their own to find out more.”
The YouTube comments support Gaston’s desire to educate others and to spark curiosity and discussion. One commenter, Richard Taylor, wrote: “This has shown me how ignorant I still am about much of human history. I am constantly learning but I had no idea that Iranian women had more of a western style for several decades.” Another commenter, Sneezy, asked, “Some info about the green paint?”
A sample of YouTube comments from the video. (Photo: YouTube)
To quote muslimgirl.net, “Here’s a video about Iran that doesn’t involve oppression, terrorism or propaganda.” This is a video about changing and reflecting history through everyday beauty.
All hair and makeup looks in this video were styled by Shyn Midili and Juel Bergholm. The hijabs and accessories were provided by Malissa Martin. Assistance was provided by Marina Taylor. Research was done by Rhoya Selden and Rebeka Khajehpour. Music was “Motive 1,2” by Beautiful Eulogy.