The Platinum Blonde

Sultry platinum blonde, Jean Harlow
Ever since high voltage platinum blonde Hollywood actress Jean Harlow sashayed her way across a silver screen in the 1930s, super-pale blonde hair has become a symbol of sexual energy. While Harlow may not have been the first woman to dye her hair the palest of blonde, she was the first to be publicly associated with the hair colour. An association that would provide her with a lasting notoriety.

With her luminous hair, smoldering eyes, blood lips and sensuous body movements, Jean Harlow embodied the familiar cultural myth of the golden haired princess and its implied purity with a hard to miss, sexy undertone.Worshipped by the masses, Jean's hair proved to be a fatal attraction for many fans and a new craze for platinum hair created a host of  peroxide victims..

Though her Hollywood success promised salvation from a troubled early life, Harlow was still plagued by personal problems and ill health and sadly, died from kidney failure at the age of twenty-six, forever forging a link between ultra-blondeness and tragedy - a theme that would recur two decades later in the premature death of Marilyn Monroe.

Although there had been platinum blonde bombshells in the 1940s -Betty Grable, Veronica Lake, Lana Turner and Betty Hutton, to name a few - it was the 1950s and 60s which produced a new explosion in platinum blonde sex-appeal, as well as the most recognizably iconic blonde goddess symbol of all-time ...Marilyn Monroe.

Hollywood subtlety..not. Jane Mansfield.
In the middle decades of the 20th century, few things were done by halves and the sex appeal of the blonde was represented in the most obvious way possible. Platinum blonde hair was now matched with in your face, over-sized breasts, tight-fitting clothes and  baby talk personalities suggestive of body-over- brains.

Whereas Jean Harlow had been a feisty, wisecracking, sexy but smart, if troublesome,  leading lady, blondes like Jane Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe all  too often  had their personalities almost completely submerged by stylistic Hollywood notions of blonde bombshellness.

Both died early, Mansfield via a car accident and Monroe through self-doubt and self-abuse, but both deaths reinforcing the deadly mystique of the tragic blonde. Marilyn in particular, throughout her screen career had projected a kind of vulnerability and fragility upon the platinum blonde image..

Marilyn..the ultimate vulnerable blonde

By the end of the 1960s, the platinum blonde had become a stale idea - the new motif was the natural wild child, devoid of too much artifice and sexual stereotyping. Thus for a while at least, the platinum blonde receded into the background.

Blonde decadence...Deborah Harry
In the late 70s/80s however, celebrities like Madonna and Deborah Harry of Blondie fame reinvented the blonde and wore their platinum hair in an entirely new way.  The dawn of the punk era signified a tearing down of the old motifs, yet also enabled an exploitation of them.

By not attempting to conceal the artifice and letting their dark roots show, the new generation blondes were mocking the  blonde goddess meme, yet benefiting from it at the same time - the look was gritty and sexy and designed to attract attention.

Although plenty of women still dye their hair platinum blonde, as a cultural force, in more recent times, the white blonde is once again keeping a relatively low profile...but probably not for too long.  The blonde goddess, with her ghostly pale hair lurks in the background ready to reappear... too potent a force to be ignored.

Diana Dors..the UK Marilyn
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