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Sunday, 11 September 2022

Brylcreem

In scanning my parents’ photograph albums to share with the family I came across the following picture: 

Did we really slick this scented white grease through our hair?

The adverts said it aided the natural flow of sebum (yuk!); that it gave a clean, smart look safe from dandruff - presumably by sticking the dandruff to your head. How long did it take to wash out? Probably ages, bearing in mind that we only washed our hair about once a week. Jars had finger grooves to minimize risk of drops. Upholstery had to be protected by antimacassars. What did it do to pillows? Did Richie Benaud oil his bat with it?

Thank goodness for The Beatles.

37 comments:

  1. Oh I can smell it now , remembering how it smelt when I kissed my dad on the forehead before going up to bed. ( He was always sat in his chair) Then he would say " good night, God bless". I liked the smell and his Old Spice. Nice little boy in the picture...butter wouldn't melt. Haha.

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    1. I think Old Spice would have been much later. Although men might have worn hair cream in the 50s/early60s, I don't remember many wearing anything that was especially smelly. In fact, I don't think many people wore deodorant.

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  2. I always like how you take us back Tasker. Rather like when Henry Cooper advertised Brut. "You splash it on all over".

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    1. Again, Brut would surely have been later. Only someone tough obviously like 'enery could get away with wearing it.

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  3. You know, when I was a little kid, our couch had an oil spot on the back of it, and I could never figure out why. I bet THIS is why! (We eventually got slipcovers and covered it up.)

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    1. I would put a bet on that being the cause. Neither of us would have much need of Brylcreem now.

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  4. Mother's bemoaned pillow cases, especially. They eventually retained a circular oil stain.

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    1. Sorry for the delayed reply - you went into spam. I guessed that anything in repeated contact would be permanently marked. Maybe the head, too!

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  5. This might explain why we always had upholstered furniture with shoulder high backs! Nobody could rest their greasy head against it! My mom was no dope.

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    1. When looking for armchairs a couple of years ago we noticed how low backs seem to be fashionable now. You have to either lie, slither right down or sit bolt upright. Not comfortable.

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  6. The slogan here for Brylcream was 'A little dab will do it'. I gave a lift to someone a year or so ago who slicked down his hair with cocoanut oil. It took days for the smell to disappear from the car.

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    1. I remember having the same problem when someone wearing loads of hand cream used my desk. I had to get some furniture polish, although that was nearly as bad.

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  7. My dad used Brylcreem every morning and I did the same on school days from the ages of eleven to fourteen. Is that a picture of your good self Mr Dunham? You were a handsome youth so what the hell happened?

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    1. Having Richie Benaud, Denis Compton and the Puddings all on board must have boosted sales enormously.

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    2. There is strength and sensitivity in the laddie's amiable grin.
      He would not have gone unnoticed by the lassies.
      Did he know even then he would grow up to be Tasker?
      The mystery of nomenclature.
      Haggerty

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  8. Never used by anyone in my family but my Grandma had anti-Macassar cloths on all her high back chairs until she passed in the 80's; maybe for visitors originally but I suspect because she had handmade them from fine linen and worked handmade lace on the edges and it remained a way to display her craft.

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    1. I imagine so many people had them that armchairs and settees looked bare without. My parents continued to use them for many years. Also, as I mentioned, it was common to people to wash hair only once or twice each week, so antimacassars might have been needed anyway.

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  9. I remember my Dad using Brylcreem and it wasn't slicked through the hair, simply smoothed over it once the hair had been combed into place. It held the hair and protected it from weather as well, unlike women's hairsprays, which held the hair but also contributed to it drying out and getting split ends. Let's not forget the noxious fumes from the sprays too. I remember antimacassars too, on the backs of chairs and sofas, sometimes on the arms of furniture too, to keep it clean.

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    1. Perhaps I've exaggerated slightly in a "mods" and "greasers" way, although surely if you applied it every day and washed hair infrequently it would have built up. We had arm cloths too.

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  10. As you say 'thank goodness for the Beatles'. Long hair on males though seemed slightly effeminate at times. Now I see older men walking around with pony-tails and think it still looks better that the shaven head....

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    1. I remember the feel of hair moving around my head was strange at first, but it would feel awful to plaster it down now. I think also the pony-tail with bald head combination looks ridiculous, although slightly less so than the "Robert Robinson".

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  11. My granddad had something called Haarwasser (hair water) to slick back his full head of white hair, not a cream, but of course it had a characteristic smell which I would recognise anywhwere. My Dad did not use anything but soap to wash his hair all my childhood and youth, and the smell I most associate with him during that time (1970s and 80s) is of filterless Gauloises.

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    1. Brycleem was emulsified oil - I don't know if that is different from Haarwasser.
      Gauloises and other European cigarettes were so pungent to British noses used to Virginia rather than Turkish tobacco. But I seem to remember most grown up people smelled "natural", which wasn't as unpleasant as it sounds provided they were clean. Hardly anyone used deodorant.

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    2. Haarwasser : Jings, I like that word.
      Gauloise, Turkish tobacco, coffee beans being roasted, coffee being ground & brewed in cafes, the lemony tang of Continental beer, garlic fried in good Olive oil, crusty bread, brioche and waffles from the patisserie, perhaps the salty reek of herring which floated through the fiction of Gunter Grass, as redolent as tar and linseed oil ... and how about peaches in brandy and Chanel No 5 as the waitress brings me my bock?
      Even my copy of Le Temps retrouve has an uneatable aroma, the indefinable book smell which Elizabeth Jane Howard likened to daffodils.
      Haggerty

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    3. If I lived in Meike's wee toon I am sure she would invite me in once a year for a glass of schnapps and a sing song.
      *O Tannenbaum O Tannenbaum, wie treu sind deine Blatter !*
      Nobody does Crimbo better than the Krauts though I heard Sinatra put on a nice spread in Palm Springs with Sam Giancana and the Papal Nuncio present, not the sort of cronies Jesus mixed with.
      Aye, Continental Europe has been on my mind these last three years. Haven't been on a plane, train or omnibus just a school reunion last December in an airy Italian restaurant.
      A lassie in my class lives in Edinburgh now and said maybe we might bump into yin another in its cobbled streets.
      Never thought to get her mobile number ...
      Haggerty

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  12. The young people here in the 1990s started to wear gelled hair again. I was baffled - the law-students always had (also with parting), but now others, less conservative, followed.

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    1. Whereas Brylcreem in the 1950s and 1960s was emulsified oil, I understand that hair gel is more complicated, based on polymers, and is not good for your hair. I looked that up when writing this post. It baffles me too as to why anyone would want to gunge their hair up this any of this stuff, unless they are a complete poser of course.

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  13. Old pictures of my Dad with his nice pompadour - must of used Brylcreem to make it stay in place. I can hear the jingle of their song, "Brylcreem, a little dab will do ya!"

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    1. My hair was never thick enough for one of those.
      I seem to have sparked off a lot of memories with this post. You can never tell what will and what won't. I almost deleted it as not worth publishing, but clearly I need not have worried.

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  14. Tasker that brought back memories of my brother 11 years older than me and long gone. When I was I child I thought he was so glamorous - he brought his girl friend home and I remember the smell of Brylcreem so well - a wave of that smell hit my nostrils just now. I thought it was so glamorous.(he didn't marry her)

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    1. You've reminded me of my uncle, 11 years older than me, and how he used to brush his hair straight back with Brylcreem. "I hope you're not going out chasing after young ladies," my dad said to him. "No, they chase me," he replied.

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  15. My dad was a Brylcreme user. He only needed it at the front of his hair, where he swept it up and back. He wore his hair like that all his life. In the end, I think it just started growing straight up.

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    1. Those were the days. The front of my hair is the one place I most definitely wouldn't need it now.

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  16. Never used it, maybe that's why I wouldn't need it now.

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  17. I remember brylcreem - my grandfather used it always if in small measure. It had a very particular smell .

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