"Does She... Or Doesn't She?" Clairol, 1956
Clairol’s ground-breaking “Does She… Or Doesn’t She?” campaign, launched in 1956, forever altered popular perceptions of women’s beauty products and simultaneously empowered and restricted the meaning of femininity in post-war America. The campaign was designed by Foote, Cone, & Belding, one of New York City’s most prominent ad agencies and in the top ten for highest billings among national agencies throughout the 1950s and 1960s. FC&B's Clairol campaign featured full page magazine ads picturing close-up photographs of wholesome women, sometimes pictured with their children, accompanied by the headline “Does she… or doesn’t she?” The question refers to whether or not the woman pictured had used Clairol’s revolutionary at-home, one-step hair coloring treatment, an entirely new technique and a process that was, until this campaign, generally practiced only by loose women or prostitutes.
The importance of the Clairol campaign lies in that very fact, because it succeeded in making hair coloring treatments normal, acceptable, and empowering. Further Clairol campaigns included copy including “If I’ve only one life… let me live it as a blonde!” and “What would your husband say if suddenly you looked 10 years younger,” carrying on the slightly mischievous, subtly aspirational tone of the first slogan. This made hair coloring a way for women to take control of their self image and place the attainment of beauty squarely in their hands. However, the same copy still played on traditional gender expectations of the 1950s, casting a woman’s hair color or perceived age as ultimately a way to win the approval of her husband. The campaign simultaneously empowered women to make decisions about their appearance without worrying about propriety while enforcing their traditional role as wife and mother, skillfully maintaining the gender status quo while normalizing a revolutionary new beauty technique.