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Old School Hair Products

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Typically, if you’re clean-cut and well-dressed, you’re more or less expected to have a neat part as well. Since we cover shaving on this website, we don’t really cover many other aspects of grooming. I mean, you’ve got to have a swagger to go with the shave, right?
So, in doing so, I started checking out some of the hair products for men from my grandfather’s era. They have some good, some okay and some not so good. The best thing about all of these, however, is that not a single was close to $10.

First, I tried Murray’s Pomade, which has been around since 1926. While it has a smell almost like vanilla, it’s pretty tough to use. The main ingredient is beeswax, which causes the stuff to be pretty thick. It also doesn’t allow the comb to glide through your hair, and instead pulls. The trick is to heat the comb under hot water. After a few minutes of combing and reheating, you hair shouldn’t budge, even in water. But I will warn you now, Murray’s is a pain to wash out. You need to use either Dawn dish detergent, lemon juice, vinegar, or all three. And if you’re wondering where to find it, try the Ethic or Special hair aisles at Wal-Mart or any pharmacy like Walgreen’s. It’s usually a whopping $3 or less.
Next, I tried Groom & Clean, which was $4.73 with tax. It’s been around since the 60’s, and is entirely water-based. This means you can wash it out with just water. It gives your hair that slick look, but the smell will get to you. It’s like a cross between zucchini bread and pumpkin pie loaded down with allspice. While it is very easy to wash out, the smell is it’s downfall.
Next up, I tried the ‘ol standby and favorite of many men from grandpa’s era, Brylcreem. It’s oil-based, so it will take you a couple of times to wash it out, but it doesn’t harden like the Murray’s, and will hold up to rain. The smell is pretty good, and it doesn’t take a lot. It costs $5.89 with tax, and lasts somewhere around 6-8 months.
Next, I gave Three Flowers Brilliantine a try. It’s a favorite of Brits from the London scene of the late 50’s and early 60’s, and several of today’s greasers and rockabilly aficionados swear by it. However, while it is cheap, it’s also pretty tough to get over. The consistency is like Vaseline, and the smell is terrible. I used it once, and was immediately trying to find somewhere to wash it out. They also make a hair tonic, which I haven’t tried yet.
Next up is Pete Rose’s favorite from back in the day, Vitalis. I actually like this stuff, but I primarily use it for dandruff control. It smells like rubbing alcohol, and dries rather fast, leaving your hair in a shell-like state. It also has a magical ingredient known as V7. What is V7? Basically, it’s kind of like the ingredients to Coca-Cola. Nobody knows except for 2 people, and nobody knows who those two people are.
Wildroot was the next one I tried. It was my dad’s favorite, and my wife’s grandfather preferred it. I don’t know why they did. It’s extremely greasy, and took me a few washes to wash it out. And before I washed it out, it dripped from my head to my face, and made me look like I was going through puberty again. It’s one of the few on this list you can’t find at Wal-Mart, but it is available at Walgreen’s for $7.88.
And last but not least, we have Royal Crown Pomade. This can be found at most dollar stores for the same price as Murray’s. It has a more pliable consistency, so it’s easier to work with and washes out much easier. The smell is a little off-putting, however. It smells like a mix of lavender and rose hips, and is great if your wife or girlfriend love those smells. But, for the most part, not very many men would like to go about their day smelling like a flower.
For the most part, some of the hair products from Grandpa’s era were on the money, and some left something to be desired. For my money, I use Vitalis and Brylcreem. I did like the look and hold that Groom & Clean gave my hair, but the smell is it’s downfall. You may like the smell, who knows? To each his own.


10 thoughts on “Old School Hair Products”

  1. Sorry to comment on such an old post, but Groom & Clean has been my go to since high school. I used to be put off by the smell too and stopped using it (it used to over power everything and my hats reeked of it especially combined with the heat in the summer).
    Finally Senior year of college I read that if you use Vitalis as a base and then apply Groom & Clean it kills the smell. It worked. It’s funny since both are rather potent on their own.

  2. My favorite is Pinaud’s Quinine hair tonic. I like the scent and it controls my hair while also conditioning my hair and scalp. I occasionally use Vitalis to change things around, that works well too, it is probably a tad bit stronger in holding the hair than Pinaud’s. I just ordered Lucky Tiger’s, so I see if I like that. I have tried Lucky Tiger’s Aspen after shave and I like that.

  3. have you ever heard of Joe Cure?
    I don’t know if the spelling is correct.
    It might Bo “Ker” it’s a cream or tonic. My father used to mention it but I haven’t been able to find anything about it

  4. Wildroot is the best. Brylcreem is too greasy and hard to wash out. Groom & Clean smell is too strong. Wildroot is just right.

  5. I’d like to add that if you have curly hair you might want to try luxina brillantina. It is a very good Italian brillantine that leaves no residu nor hardens the hair. This product was my gateway into the world of good haircare vs. acceptable costs.
    Greetings from Holland,

  6. Pingback: Old School Hair Products | rasage

  7. I’ve used G&C for a while now and never found the hold to be all that great. I don’t mind the smell at all and if I’m in the office all day and it’s not very windy outside G&C works well enough.
    Recently I tried a can of American Crew Pomade (the med hold, high shine one) and was pretty impressed with the stuff, has really good hold and a pleasant smell to it. Only gripe is that it’s $17 for a 3oz can of the stuff.

  8. One of my recent discovers is Lucky Tiger’s Three in One. While it is marketed at more of a “Hair Tonic” it is a great hair product. It’s not particularly greasy, but keeps my hair under control pretty much all day. It is easy to comb and wash out.

  9. The Groom & Clean scent fades pretty quickly once your hair dries. I don’t get the “spice bread” smell people attribute to the stuff. It’s mostly lavender/geranium. When you mentally attach “pumpkin” to the aroma, I can understand why it sounds unappealing. Geranium’s a non-sweet floral, so it seems to give people fits describing it when it shows up – Taylor’s Avocado shave cream is the same way.
    Another product worth trying is Lucky Tiger hair tonic – good hold and wet-look without a bunch of oil. However, it does have a kind of cloying citrus-floral scent that reminds me a bit of bubble gum. And, unlike G&C, it doesn’t fade after drying.

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