The talk this week among the stylists at my luxury hair salon in Manhattan was about a hair dryer.
I know: say what? Is this what we’ve come to, that the joyous gossip of the beauty salon has been reduced to a discussion about styling appliances? Banish the day!
Never fear, this is a truly unusual occasion: the hair dryer, that most prosaic of grooming items, has been transformed by tech company Dyson into something even these seasoned hair pros are genuinely excited about: a $400 high-performance blow dryer.
Most of us know Dyson for its MOMA Design Store-worthy, wildly expensive vacuum cleaners (their newest cordless lightweight vacuum, the V8, costs $600). Or perhaps we’ve used their commercial hand dryers, found at restaurants and upscale malls across the U.S. Last year, the powers who run JFK Airport installed Dyson combination faucets and hand dryers in several restrooms in Terminal 4 that, while lovely, are so complicated that group conversations frequently broke out when they first arrived about how on earth to operate them. Nothing brings a group of weary female travelers from Europe, Asia and America together faster than the plaintive cry, “how do I get water out of this thing?” (Personally, I prefer those cool industrial-strength commercial silver hand dryers called “The Xlerator.” The force of the hot air is like a tiny tornado, and I find it strangely exhilarating to be around that much concentrated power. But I digress.)
Dyson also makes pricey bladeless fans for home and office – while the company has announced plans to create a better lithium-ion battery, and to launch an electric car, for now its core expertise is moving air around in various ingenious and elegant ways. Its newest creation seems to be a breakthrough on that front: the Dyson Supersonic hair dryer. The product was developed at a cost of $67 million, with input from 100 engineers, and it took four years to complete. Dyson bought human hair to test its designs, and reportedly created a worldwide hair shortage in the process (the cost of innovation can show itself in strange ways). At any rate, if you’re ever going to get excited about a hair dryer, this would be the one.
There’s only one model, and it is very sleek: charcoal grey, lightweight, with a no-slip mat to sit it on when not in use (you can check it out on our Pinterest beauty board). The dryer comes with three attachments that connect to the dryer with a satisfying magnetic click, including a diffuser that looks like something from an elegant sci-fi movie. It’s noticeably quieter than the old hair dryer my stylist used to use, and he assured me that because of mysterious technological advances that none of us in the salon confab fully understood (Dyson calls it “intelligent heat control”), my hair would be dry in about half the time, meaning less damage from heat and tugging. That got my attention.
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$400 seems like a pretty high price for an item that can be found at the local drug store for about $30. I asked the stylists gathered around to see the new toy what they usually paid for a professional-quality blow dryer, and the consensus was $175. I asked how long they thought the Dyson would last, and was told that it comes with a two-year warranty. Everyone approved of that — amortizing the cost over that many months starts to make it affordable (hair stylists have to buy their own tools, so they are extremely focused on performance and durability).
How much of the amazement and praise for the new Dyson is the novelty factor, and how much of it is real? Time will tell. But for now, if you’re in the market for a new hair dryer, you can rest assured that one of the toughest crowds in New York gives the Dyson the thumbs up.
With that, we turned back to the normal and proper hair salon conversation unfolding across the country that day: “Did you see Michelle Obama’s incredible dress at the State Dinner last night? Her hair looked perfect!” The natural order had been restored.