poodle extremism

Recently I read Jane and Michael Stern’s Encyclopedia of Bad Taste. This is what they had to say about poodles:

image found here

Poodles are not sissies; they aren’t even French. But it’s easy to understand how they got their reputation if you see one in full dress clip. It is a stunning sight, like topiary shrubbery but able to beg, fetch, roll over, and play dead. To gaze upon a standard poodle in a “Miami Sweetheart” cut with centered fur hearts on hips and back, pantaloon legs sculpted lathe-smooth, tassel ears, a Van Buren mustache drooping from its muzzle, a ribboned topknot, and a wagging pompon tail, parading along the boulevard in a rhinestone collar at the end of a jeweled lead, is to see an animal that has become a walking, barking work of art.

Van Buren (and more facial hair) found here

Before the idea of shearing and clipping poodles took off, they were well-respected European gun dogs, and their coats were clipped by hunters as a means of improving their performance. In fact, the most familiar fey poodle look, known as the “lion” cut, was developed to help them slog through rugged swamps. Poodles needed their thick coats for warmth in the cold water, but it was a hindrance when they swam fast, and it caught on brush; so only the hindquarters were sheared, with cuffs left around the ankles and hips to protect against rheumatism. Even the gay ribbon tied around the topknot had a purpose: Each hunter marked his dogs’ heads with his own colors, allowing groups of hunters to tell their dogs apart.

lion cut (and more) found here

In the same spirit of making cute things cuter, the poodle’s ordinary colors (a wide range, including blue, gray, silver, brown, cafe-au-lait, apricot, and cream) were supplemented by vegetable dyes that could turn them more shades than nature ever knew. The Vita coat company made “Marron” to make beige poodles a lovely chestnut brown and “Silver Sheen” to cause  silver-coated poodles to sparkle. But the serious poodle colorist started with a white-coated dog. “Women like to make them the same shade or a contrasting shade, to go with their wardrobes,” observed “Miss Cameo” (Kay Waldschmidt), the great poodle stylist of the fifties, who worked in St. Louis and Tucson. Miss Cameo also advised coloring poodles for Easter or Christmas, suggesting pink, orchid, and green as especially becoming.

images found here

Nearly every glamorous movie star had one, or at least got herself photographed with one: Joan Crawford had a toy poodle; Jayne Mansfield  had a couple of standard poodles that she regularly dyed pink to match her home. Doris Day played an American chorus girl who has to pass for a diplomat in a musical called April in Paris. To promote the film and signify the pretense of the masquerade, she appeared on the cover of Collier’s holding a sextet of clipped and dyed poodles: two pink, two aqua, one green, and one gold.

Joan and friend found here

Teenage girls wore stylish poodle skirts decorated with felt appliqued French poodles wearing rhinestone collars; ladies bought handbags with embroidered poodles on the side and decorated their powder rooms with wallpaper that had pictures of poodles strolling down the Champs-Elysees. Poodles were now commonly known as French poodles, and vast numbers of them got named Fifi, Gigi, and Pierre

image found here

As they grew in popularity, that aspect of them that was considered the most French, their ridiculous haircuts, was even more exaggerated. Miss Cameo’s Poodle Clipping Book in 1962 featured step-by-step instructions and such chapters as “Basic Round Head Styles,” and “Mustaches.” In a revealing chapter called “Why Your Poodle Should Be Well Groomed,” the answers to the rhetorical question include:

1} An ungroomed poodle doesn’t look like a poodle at all!

2} It will bring you prestige in many ways.

3} When you go on vacations or trips, you will be able to take him with you, because most motels and hotels do not object to a clean, well-groomed poodle, even though they have a “NO DOGS ALLOWED” sign posted.

4} He is a thing of beauty and should be kept that way.

In the instructional section of The Poodle Clipping Book” Miss Cameo takes the reader from basic “Puppy Trim,” “English Saddle,” and “Continental Clip” to such stupendous styles as the “Bell Bottom Banded Dutch” cut (with a rounded head like a Cossack’s hat), the “Scottsdale Exquisite” (puffs on legs and hocks, tasseled ears, pointed head), and the “Triple Puff Sweetheart” (heart-shaped puffs on jacket and hips, double puffs on back legs, single puffs on front legs). In her preface to her magnum opus, Miss Cameo says she knows that publication of the Poodle Clipping Book will permit other professional poodle stylists to pirate her work. But she is not disturbed. She concludes her remarks, “As long as poodles look better, I will have my reward.”

image found here

Published in: on March 9, 2012 at 9:09 pm  Comments (53)  
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  1. Poor bloody things!
    I had a poodle skirt;would have loved a standard poodle, but would never have clipped the animal like a hedge.

    On a related note – have you read Burton Silver’s “Why Paint Cats?”?

    • Bogor’s Burton? Yes, I have 🙂

      • I also recommend “Why Cats Paint” by Heather Busch and Burton Silver.

      • Poodles are so horrible I doubt the Koreans would even eat them!

  2. They look like costumed rats and they sure are yap yappy curtain chewing obnoxious hyper creatures. If you are going to own a dog get a dog not a pom pom with legs and bad breath. Their owners are even worse – madam whatshername with the martini and cigarette holder planning her next face lift.

    • Oh Carl that’s so harsh. I’ve known several people with poodles, none of their dogs are clipped, nor is their halitosis any worse than my cat’s.

    • I know some burly tattooed men who own poodles or chihuahuas. They normally lift other people’s face by fist.

      • Chihuahuas are ridiculously small

      • Typical “one-kick-only-dogs”?

  3. Luckily, I managed to wrest control of the battery pack for the shaver…

  4. That pic of Joan and her dog is freaky. i’m pretty sure Joan has the larger testicles…

    • she had balls of iron

  5. I do like standard poodles but I hate the stupid way that the poor dogs are clipped. Have you seen a Labradoodle?

    • Yes I have. My landlord has one. He’s adorable.

  6. dogs should be dogs kept clean groomed and fed and happy not paraded about looking like xmas trees xxjen

    • Totally agree. Hey Jen what’s happened to your blog? the link is dead.

  7. It’s unfortunate poodles can’t tell us what they really think about these “dos.” Or perhaps they communicate but are ignored? Our dog once had to be shaved due to massive tangles. She was mortified when she came home – slunk around and tried to hide.
    Ah, what people do to animals…

    • I don’t like to see animals in funny clothes either. I’m sure they find it embarrassing

  8. “1} An ungroomed poodle doesn’t look like a poodle at all…”

    Okay, maybe not. But at least it looks like a damn dog

    • Haha….. has anyone ever tried to groom a coyote? I wonder….

  9. I wonder if Joan treated her poodles better than she did her adopted kids. I suppose there will never be a Mistress Dearest tell-all unless someone channels these dogs but maybe there should be.

    • She was probably very kind to them. I was talking about this with a friend recently and we both know people who are rude to other humans but exceptionally fond of animals.

      • Yes, and I understand that sociopaths can be very sentimental about animals. Or they can torture them, whatever seems good at the time. I have a hunch that Joan left all the care of her dogs to other people, that she neglected them the same way she did her kids.

  10. I just had to find that picture of Doris Day and the pastel poodles: http://lisawallerrogers.wordpress.com/2010/02/10/doris-day-was-poodle-icious/ — and there’s even a bonus picture there of Joan Collins and a pink one.

    • It’s a fantastic shot isn’t it?

  11. Loved this – I actually like poodles a real lot. Almost as much as whippets.

    Have to recommend another Stern book “Sixties People” – it’s a gas! I think I’d love this other one you’ve mentioned. Just looked it up on a well known online retail site and am now itching to buy it.

    • A friend lent me Bad Taste. I’ll have to see if I can track down a copy of Sixties People too

  12. I like standard poodles; I think they’re beautiful as they are. Less allergenic than most dogs too so I can pat them with less wheezing to follow.

    • i prefer the medium size, I think they call them miniatures but they’re not particularly small.

  13. That reminds me….Crufts weekend…

    • I had to look that up. Apparently a standard poodle won best in show in 2002

  14. A good job poodles don’t have any sense of self-image, or they’d all die of shame. Or savage their disrespectful owners.

  15. A friend of mine has a lovely black poodle, well groomed (though not ridiculously) It reminds me of a carpet 🙂

  16. Funny enough (aural palindrome- try it!) … I just happened to have spent a few days with my buddy’s yearling “goldendoodle”, a crossbreed of golden retriever and poodle. Besides being a delightful dog, she doesn’t irritate the allergic or shed. They’d had her clipped recently but only to remove matted fur and not to make her look like a Corvette.

    Note to self: Remember to change “No Dogs Allowed” sign by adding “This Includes F—ing Poodles!

  17. A standard poodle is a rather large dog that is not the slightest bit yappy. I have known several, who were NOT made into topiary displays but just trimmed to keep their coats neat. Not only were they excellent dogs, but they were highly intelligent and very loyal.

    I have seen people who clip their cats the same way and why they have not had their throats slit in the dead of night by the cat is a mystery to me.

    • I’ve seen photos of clipped cats but never one in real life

  18. When I was younger we found a furry white dog that had been abandoned at a gas station. We took him home, and got him cleaned, and he turned out to be a poodle! He bit my brother’s feet until the day my mother gave him away when we were both in college. She couldn’t take him anymore. He’d sleep under her side of the bed and give her fleas.

  19. I despise poodle puffs less now that I understand those ridiculous haircuts had some purpose at one time. (But I still don’t much like them.)

    • agreed.
      i dont quite like poodles too. they remind me of Holland Taylor with really big hair.

      • there’s something about Holland Taylor that’s really scary. I think it’s her cheekbones.

  20. This is an different but interesting variation of the poodle look story that I’ve heard. The version I know says that poodles used to be swimming dogs and that the tuffs were there to keep their joints warm.

  21. I didn’t know any of that! They do it to the olive trees here too….

  22. Very interesting post NM. Never been much of a poodle girl myself but I do have an opinion about the dying of fur on animals. I don’t like it. I think it seems disrespectful in an odd way.

  23. And I thought pink poodles just naturally looked that way!

  24. My family had a toy poodle when I was younger.
    I may or may not have gotten into a bit of trouble for giving him a Mohawk once (and trying to dye it with Kool-aid before getting caught). I’m pleading the 5th.

  25. Poodles and Dalmatians are terribly prone to biting. Unpredictable. I wouldn’t have either. Most of my friends have pit bulls or Rottweilers, but I wouldn’t have those either. It’s easier just to set up a ring of claymore mines in your yard. As long as you stay away from the side which is labeled “Front Toward Enemy,” they will never bite you.


  27. Loved reading this. I’m wondering about the poor pups dyed different colors. That can’t be good, can it?

  28. My mom, a dog groomer and poodle owner, is going to love this post …

  29. Wowza bowza, that is extreme…and freakin’ awesome!!

    • To me it is not.

  30. I do not believe that a poodle is not from France.

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