On Beauty … and the History of Business

Beauty and business seem opposite terms but in fact have had an important and consequential relationship that business historians are only now exploring. This paper sketches several major themes and approaches to the topic. The first is the emergence of a large sector of the economy devoted to selling beauty aids, fashions, bodily care, and style to American women and men. Another is the deployment of beauty as a business strategy—in creating brands, sales, and marketing; in managing the workplace; and in projecting corporate identities. A third considers the sale of beauty itself, as a value added and attached to a wide range of goods, from art to bodies. These broad approaches suggest new directions for future research.