- "Brylcreem, a little dab'll do ya!" Gentlemen, we have come a long way since the jingle for that iconic tube of hair dressing, created in 1928 by a chemical company in Great Britain that also made an abrasive kitchen cleaner, as today we have almost as many hair products available to us as the ladies.
I became a teenager in the waning days of do-wop and the D.A. (duck's ass) hair style. I had curly auburn hair and I practically developed tennis elbow trying to achieve that slicked back look prior to heading off to Junior High School every morning. All I can say is thank God for the folk music era, as Bob Dylan
and Art Garfunkel
made it cool for me to let the curls go, grow and flow.
Before that time I took the advice of an Italian friend of mine and tried olive oil. It works great if you have beautiful, straight black Mediterranean hair, but not so much on this Celtic kid from Queens. I did take his advice years later when I was cast as Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol" at 28 years old. The small theatre company had no money to buy me a dye job, so I would white out my hair every night with baby powder to age myself. After 35 straight performances my coif was the equivalent of cotton candy. A fellow actor had suggested mayonnaise, so I mixed mayonnaise and olive oil together and within a month my soft curls were back. I am sure; however, if it had been July and not December I would have had flies buzzing around my head in the summer heat. I also, obviously, smelled like a salad.
I share these little tidbits of my disastrous hair history with you to illustrate the fact that we men of style no longer have to rely on condiments to maintain healthy hair and achieve the desired distinctive 'do. Nor do we need to use the female hair products that have proliferated since the days of Breck and Prell shampoos. Gentlemen, the aisles are filled with a bounty of our own.
Some of the products of Baxter of California line for men. (Baxter)
I am not just referring to department stores, large chain pharmacies and salon shelves, as I can personally attest to the fact that the small, independently owned Bridgehampton and East Hampton Pharmacies have, frankly, one of the most eclectic walls of men's grooming products I have seen anywhere. Their line-up includes some boutique labels that are both rare and the cream of the crop. Long time clerk Gerry Betta
of the Bridgehampton location confirmed the change in men's grooming attitudes, "Yes, we have added lines simply by request for such and such a line and we try and get them. There are more and more lines as men are getting more conscious of their looks. The days of Vaseline in the hair are over and that is a good thing."
There are many male divisions of the designer hair products that have evolved over the years for women, but there are numerous lines that are exclusively for men. For instance, a favorite of mine that can be found almost anywhere is American Crew. Their line-up includes various types of shampoos and conditioners, of which the Tea Tree line-up is superb and very invigorating. Like most of the men exclusive lines they offer products that serve as treatments for dry, damaged or oily hair, styling gels and sprays, along with classic pomades, which is what Brylcreem actually was originally.
The American Crew line for men is enormously popular. (American Crew)
They also offer their own version of a hair restoration treatment. American Crew for many years offered a daily leave-in conditioner that I was particularly found of, but it seems they have sadly discontinued it as I have not been able to find it of late. And remember as stated in a previous article, many men's labels offer facial and skin conditioners, shaving creams and gels and male specific soaps and body products.
Grooming is a highly subjective matter, as every man has his own tastes and hair issues relating to follicle temperament, length and style. To that end, I am not going to make suggestions product by product line, but simply suggest you start exploring the myriad of male specific hair products that are available. Move beyond the Paul Mitchell
and Pantene product lines and try some rare breeds like, for example, Truefitt and Hill, Baxter of California and Jack Black
Remember, despite what we were taught when we were young, real men do dance, eat quiche and, yes, lather, rinse, repeat - and condition! So style it up boys and hit the streets!
Frequently mistaken for the "Most Interesting Man in the World" from the Dos Equis commercials and the iconic gray-bearded Sean Connery, DMH is the Senior Contributing Editor at Hamptons.com. www.hamptons.com