How did beauty establishments come to be known as salons? We had to search through numerous reference books, but we finally pieced together at least part of the story.
The word salon traces far back to a European family of words for “large room.” By the 1700s, the French had borrowed the word to denote a “large room,” and it quickly evolved to mean an elegant apartment or living room, then later a fashionable assembly of notable people, such as literary figures, artists, or statesmen in the home of a prominent person. At the beginning of the 18th century, the word snuck into the English language in two forms — salon and saloon.
The saloons of the Wild West may have evolved to today’s bars, but we argue that beauty salons got the better end of the deal with America’s entrepreneurial twist on the venerable tradition of assembling notable people in a large room.