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TheStreet Open House

5 Ways Business Changed Us for Profit

How we perceive "beauty"
Corporate America has found ways other than shaving to mold our efforts to look good into profitability.

Fashion houses routinely tell the women of America how short (or long) their skirts should be hemmed and how fat or skinny a man's tie should be. Jeans -- thanks to Levi's, Jordache and Gloria Vanderbilt -- went from rugged pants perfect for farmers and juvenile delinquents to must-have fashion. Ditto for sneakers, which evolved from utilitarian sports accessories to a pricey, sometimes riot-worthy footwear mainstay thanks to youth culture outreach by Nike (NKE), Adidas and others.

Makeup, in one form or another, has existed for centuries. It took some effort by companies to ensure that its application became a daily routine.

Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden were the pioneers, the grand dames of makeup -- cutthroat competitors in the beauty business, each with a company bearing their name.

Over the years, helped immensely by the advent of color movies, their companies leveraged celebrity endorsements and magazine ads to push the message that makeup was every bit as important, in a fashion sense, than any outfit one could wear. Helping their cause was that the American male, in the years after World War I, were more interested in the sexual energy of bold colors rather than the prim and proper past practice of women using "powder" to stay pale and regal.

After a marketplace lull during World War II, makeup companies flourished and multiplied and a multibillion-dollar industry was built persuading the women of America to buy every imaginable variation of makeup and skin care products.

According to market research firm Kline & Co., U.S. sales of cosmetics and toiletries in 2010 totaled roughly $36.5 billion.

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