British Pathé hair newsreels

Can boring be an aesthetic quality? There’s a certain charm to boring design: text-only generic packaging, plastic classroom chairs, the interiors of mid-price hotels and motels. When it comes to boring in cinema, nothing beats mid-century banal—the default mode of newsreels and educational films, soundtracked by library music and patronizing male voice-over, which most folks only know through pitch-perfect parodies. The Pathé brothers actually created the newsreel in the 1910s, so their British Pathé company had something of a monopoly on boring filmmaking in the U.K., producing short subjects for movie theater pre-shows all the way into the ’70s: clueless trend pieces, three-minute travelogues, coverage of sports in the Soviet Union, and lots and lots of little movies about hair. Somewhere in the late ’50s, British Pathé became obsessed with hair; in turn, somewhere in the middle of last year, I became obsessed with British Pathé’s hair newsreels, many of which have been uploaded to its YouTube channel. Whether it’s a profile of a super-luxe hairdresser or a Space Age-themed salon, a piece about new men’s hairstyles or dance-craze-themed haircuts, each of these is a little gem of boring filmmaking, chock-full of the kind of garish, chintzy, clashing décors and fashions that colored life in the ’60s. Admittedly, these film clips are all pretty funny; their style and tone (“It seems incredible, but hair can be molded just as easily as plasticine!” goes one typical bit of narration) has been spoofed so thoroughly over the decades, they can’t help but come across as absurd. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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A wooden comb

I’ve been trying for years, with varying success and levels of dedication, to become more environmentally and socially conscious. Part of this long attempt includes replacing disposable products with ones made to last years or a lifetime. I’m not just talking about getting away from the individual face-washing pads I used in high school or paper coffee cups (though those too, certainly), but also goods that are replaced yearly or every few years. Like plastic combs. From my best reckoning, I’ve gone through four plastic combs in seven years. I’m not sure what happened to the first three, but the latest plastic comb has several broken teeth (which I’ve learned are called tines), probably because it’s a rare morning that passes without me dropping something. So I set out to replace my plastic comb with something sustainably made and long lasting. The result is the Sierra Legacy Hardwood Comb, specifically the tiger maple palm comb, which I received for a Christmas gift. Not only is it beautiful, made in the U.S., and theoretically lasts a long, long time, it actually makes my hair feel better. Before you point out that my hair doesn’t have nerve endings, consider this: wood doesn’t conduct static electricity. My hair is now static free. You know what I’m talking about: when the weather is really dry and your hair stands up and statics out. This drives me absolutely nuts and results in me licking my fingers and touching my hair in an attempt to smooth it down so it stops tickling my neck and forehead. It’s a vaguely disgusting habit apparently brought about by using a plastic comb. No more, though. Never again. Websites dedicated to wooden combs tout all sorts of benefits, and I’m not convinced that my new comb actually promotes hair growth, reduces dander, or sets my chi in order. But it does feel wonderful to have static-free hair. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]

Old Salt Merchants

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Old Salt Merchants touts itself as “a family run nautical provisions company” owned by Anika and Joshua Colvin of Port Townsend, Washington. I was originally drawn in by the product design of this line that includes salts, sugars, and teas, prominently featuring Dutch—a merchant sailor with a face that conveys years of well-earned wisdom—and lots of carefully crafted details. The products themselves are wonderful as well and just as unique. Beyond the standard green- and black-tea offerings, Old Salt Merchants has created tea flavors like Rum And Cola, a mix of dark rum with Ceylon black tea, and Pina Colada, which combines rum, pineapple, and coconut with the Ceylon black. Both have just the right amount of flair to be enjoyable but not overpowering. As for the delectable salts and sugars, you can purchase them individually to make your own set, or get one of the beautifully wood-burned gift boxes. The website also shares recipes to highlight its goods, including delicious-sounding pumpkin ginger snaps rolled in Jamaican Ginger Sugar, and Sailor Sangria with a Coconut Breeze Sugar rim for the warmer days ahead. [Becca James]