Staff Picks: A wooden comb, a nautical provisions company, and some old hair

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 …

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