Woman looking at hand mirror

Meet Don and Sue. They’re neat, attractive young adults who’ve got it all figured out. They’re the kind of people you’d like to know, at least according to the narrator of “How to Be Well Groomed.” Produced by Coronet Films in 1949, this vintage educational video was part of a new wave of “social guidance” films that were meant to teach the public how to be well-adjusted, attractive, healthy and even popular.

They’re funny little time capsules of social norms from another era. Maybe it’s the perky background music, stiff acting or the outdated advice, but we laugh every time we watch them. Yet, maybe there’s something to be learned from them? Have standards of grooming and self-care changed all that much since the 40s? We took a closer look at “How to Be Well Groomed” to see if it stands the test of time and pulled out some “dos” and “don’ts” that you can apply to your own life in the new millennium.


“How to Be Well Groomed”

DO: Keep your clothes pressed and mended.

Our hearts melted a little when Don starts ironing. This un-heteronormative expression of self-care was completely unexpected in a film made in 1949. Whatever your gender, clean clothes make a difference, and getting them ready the night before helps make mornings less stressful.

pressing clothes

DON’T: Only stick with clear nail polish.

Poor Sue. Sue thinks she has “stubby hands.” She avoids red nail polish so as not to draw attention to them. We disagree! Sue, your hands are beautiful. You should wear whatever color nail polish makes you happy, whether it’s red, black or none at all. Today, women (and men) are expressing themselves through elaborate nail art more than ever before. It’s a relatively inexpensive and temporary way of trying out a whole new style.


get your beauty sleep

DO: Get eight hours of sleep.

While every body is different, the National Sleep Foundation suggests that most adults get 7-9 hours of sleep per night to feel rested and stay healthy. Sticking to a sleep schedule (even on weekends), practicing a relaxing bedtime routine and sleeping on a comfortable mattress all help with sleep hygiene. Don and Sue don’t need to think about turning off their smartphones at bedtime, but we all should. The light from electronic devices can affect your circadian rhythm and make it harder to fall and stay asleep.

beauty sleep 2

DON’T: Stick to conventional fashion choices.

Check out the fantastic print on this buttondown! Sadly, Don chooses a rather dull version to pair with his trousers instead. We think he should embrace the idea of “jolie laide,” the French term for “pretty ugly” that means taking fashion risks and even wearing clashing prints. Why not? Life is short. Make a statement.

fashion choices

DO: Clean your fingernails in private.

Absolutely. There’s no excuse for clipping nails in public. Ever.

clipping nails

DO: Choose a hairstyle that looks right on you.

The “right” hairstyle doesn’t have to be conventional or boring, though. Sometimes going blue is just as “right” as staying natural.

dying hair

DON’T: Stress over breakfast. 

Recent research has debunked the modern belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Based on the results of two new studies, it turns out that eating first thing in the morning has inconclusive impact on weight loss or general well being. Some people are breakfast people and others simply aren’t. Gretchen Reynolds of the New York Times, sums it up nicely: “if you like breakfast, fine; but if not, don’t sweat it.”


hearty breakfast