Clickers, anyone?

England is pushing me back to the 80s. When I was in junior high and high school, it was that transformative time in women’s hair styles where big, tall curled and hair-sprayed bangs and the required associated implements, curling irons, were all the rage. At some point, the “must have” item in my adolescent world became the “clicker” or cordless curling iron. Called a “clicker” because it had fuel cartridges and an ignition mechanism that made a loud clicking sound, it was the thing that defined a girl as cool. I had to have one. I did have one. C’mon ladies, surely you remember?

Fast forward somewhere between 15 and 20 years and I’ve bought one again–that’s right, I have a brand new “clicker” cordless curling iron for my newly shorn tresses. The reason I needed such a device, of course, is the lack of electrical outlets in the bathrooms in the UK–coincidentally the only place in my flat where I have a large mirror, but in which I can’t have electrical tools for styling my hair. Unless I use the webcam on my computer in my living room for styling, I’m sunk and regular use of the webcam is just too silly to admit.

After chopping off my hair yesterday, I realised that at the new length I could do my favorite 40s movie star looks if I had some curling implement. Went to my local Boots and sure enough, the “clicker” is everywhere–available in 3 different sizes and refill fuel cartridges also available aplenty. I now wonder where the thing developed–was it really a portable hair convenience tool in the US, or did it grow out of necessity in the UK due to this strange electrical code that forbids curling irons in the bathroom? I’m sure I’ll never know. But I was sporting fabulous 40s hair at the work dinner I attended this evening, and I’ll be happily using my cordless “clicker” in my UK bathroom in weeks to come.

17 responses to “Clickers, anyone?

  1. LOL. I never had the clicker, but I certainly had the crimper! Too funny. And good to know it just wasn’t a weird one-off at the Gent’s that there were no outlets in the bathroom. I’ll need to find myself a cordless straightener!

  2. A new hairdo!!! Well done for getting organised although I have to say I didnt think you needed one.

  3. Millymollymandy

    Dont you just hate those old -fashioned Brits and their perverse refusal to risk electrocution in their own bathrooms?

  4. > Dont you just hate those old -fashioned Brits and their perverse refusal to risk electrocution in their own bathrooms?


  5. I’ve always had a clicker. Not because of the British bathrooms and their attempts to keep the users safe from their electrical appliances though (harrummph!), but because I seem to travel a lot.

  6. Not From Around Here — awesome! I love that I have a solution to my hair woes already. I was wondering what people do without bathroom outlets. I’ve been tempted to take a picture of my current (California) bathroom with the electric toothbrush, hairdryer, and curling iron plugged in. My British friends are aghast when they hear about that. Funny that I’ve never in my life heard about anyone getting electrocuted by using bathroom outlets. Must be the trusty Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters!

  7. I still have my original one from when I was a teen!

  8. The thing is, British women (and from personal experience, German, French and Italian women[don’t ask!]) prefer doing their hair stuff at their dressing tables in their bedrooms. This has the following advantages:

    (a) means that the bathroom of a mutiple-occupancy household is not monopolized when others might want to be using it;

    (b) a woman can do her hair in front of a non-steamed-up mirror;

    (c) she can be surrounded by her other cosmetics and hair implements, the clothes that she intends to go out in, and loads of other useful stuff.

    > Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters

    We’ve had those here for many a long year. UK ‘juice’ is a higher wattage than the US’s (which, incidently is why our electric kettles work so much better), so they are always a wise precaution over here. Also, according to stats that I have read recently, the UK suffers fewer deaths proportionally by electric shock than the US (even the fact that some of the US states maintain the barbaric habit of executing prisoners by electrocution doesn’t explain this disparity.)

    In addition, a quick google shows that there are still US patent applications extant for cordless curling irons, so there seems to be no good reason for supposing them to be a ‘1980s’ craze.

    Loved your joke about “the shocking thing …”!

    P.S. and off-topic: met our mutual friend mikeh on Saturday, and had a great afternoon with him!

    • Howard, I’m not sure the data would pass the muster of a proper case-control study. If women have had access to both options (fix hair in bathroom versus in front of a dressing table mirror) then a conclusion could be drawn. I never had a dressing table in the US at which I could work, and there is no room for one in my bedroom here (which barely fits a single bed and wardrobe/dresser) so I can’t compare either. People will tend to “prefer” what they are used to, which is the basis of much expat angst. Since British women certainly have not had the option of drying hair in the bathroom, I don’t think conclusions could be drawn. I don’t know as much about the continent although the hotels I’ve stayed in there have mostly had a plug point in the sink area and no dressing table.

      The UK may have fewer deaths per capita for many other reasons than vanity. Or even if vanity is the culprit, hairstyles vary and practices vary from country to country. Just saying.

  9. NFAH — can’t agree more. The statistician in me was screaming “external variables!”

    I did some research today on the cause of electrocutions in the US and by a LONG shot the number one cause is construction-related — not hair-dryers and curling irons. I’m going to go on a limb here and theorize that perhaps there is more construction in the US than in the UK?

    Nerding out as a statistician again: ice cream consumption and the rate of drowning are directly correllated. The missing variable is season. People eat more ice cream in the summer and they swim more in the summer.

    For whatever reason — voltage or us of GFI circuits — we US gals mostly use our bathroom outlets to dry our hair, curl our hair, and generally spend obnoxious amounts of time getting dolled up for our men. It truly isn’t a safety concern here in the US. (I know that you’ll shake your heads in the UK as I’ve had this discussion before, but it’s true!)

    • Please please nerd out, I’ve got a PhD in biophysics and I love it when others have an interesting background. I had to take stats to grad level for experimental design so am sensitive to bad science of the “how to lie with statistics” form but am bad at working out the details myself 🙂

  10. Sorry — one more question. Does it seem a little strange to any of you American Expat gals that people are so worried about hair-dryers in bathrooms and not electric kettles? Water + electricity. I’m sure the electric kettles are super safe. It just seems to be a funny juxtaposition.

  11. > the hotels I’ve stayed in there have mostly had a plug point in the sink area and no dressing table.

    Gosh! I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in a hotel on the Continent that didn’t have a dressing table.

  12. Older thread, I know, but in regards to the UK vs. US accidental bathroom electrocutions.. GFI or no, UK and US both have 220 volts entering the home but in the US, most appliances have that divided in half to 110 volts excepting those that require the most, clothes dryers and ovens.. that’s all. Next, factor in the key difference between 220 and 110 in regards to accidental electrocution. When you accidently grab onto a 220 circuit, you cannot release your grip on your own, gravity or some other force must make you let go. Otherwise, enduring contact causes the victim to die. Accidental contact with 110 volts makes you pull away. Enduring contact would eventually be fatal, you just couldn’t hold on to 110 that long. People with heart conditions and/or those who are very well grounded can receive brief, fatal shocks from 110. Incidentally, contact with objects energized higher than 220, blow, or throw you away from them while doing enough damage in that brief contact to be fatal. Lastly, there’s the GFI.. Normally, they trip off the circuit before enduring contact can occur, but even GFI’s can be subject to defects which render them ineffective. Defective or missing GFI’s and 22o volts combine to result in more household/bathroom electrocutions in the UK than the US.

  13. Davina Barnett-Doster

    I LOVED your post as my BFF and I were just talking about this wonderus device and googled it. We are I’m the U.S. and unfortunately for us, can’t find a clicker ANYWHERE! I need/must have one andam amazed there are different sizes available. For us, back in the day, there was one size only.Do you know how we can get one over here? Does the store Boots have a website to order from? Just a tip, you might make some money purchasing these and selling them on Ebay. They are in demand.
    Good day!

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