From Academic Kids

Brylcreem (pronounced brill-cream) is a brand name men's pomade, the precursor to today's hair gel. It was created in 1929 at the Chemico Works in Bradford Street, Birmingham, England.

Its purpose is to keep combed hair in place. It is essentially an emulsion of water and mineral oil stabilised with beeswax. Other ingredients are fragrance, calcium hydroxide, BHT, dimethyl oxazolidine, magnesium sulfate, and stearic acid.

Brylcreem is sold in a tube in the US, and a jar in Europe. It is marketed in the US by the Combe Corporation; in Europe, by the Sara Lee Corporation.

The shiny "wet" look it gave to the hair was de rigueur for men's hair styles for many years in the 20th century. Other substances, including macassar oil and petroleum jelly, had been in use for this purpose earlier and made popular by such figures as Rudolph Valentino of silent movies fame.

Brylcreem's use declined during the 1960s as men's hair fashions changed to favor the "dry look" over the "wet look". However, it has seen a comeback since the late 1990s, remarketed under a Ministry of Hair banner alongside companion gel and wax products in squeeze bottles, rarely sold directly alongside the traditional Brylcreem.

This appears to be a response to market pressures and a trend to get away from the "helmet hair" that is common with gels, with a new generation of men, including many in a number of subcultures, returning to using pomades and creams. Most hair care manufacturers now offer similar petrolatum, wax, or oil based hair products that give hair a sleek and pliable look while maintaining control for styles such as DA, "bed-head" and "Princeton".

The footballer David Beckham signed up to a promotional deal with Brylcreem, until he shaved his head.

Cultural references

Its popularity with Royal Air Force pilots in World War II led to their nickname, The Brylcreem Boys. This is the title of a 1998 film about downed pilots interned in the Republic of Ireland.

Ironically, Tony Gibson, the model shown in RAF uniform to advertise Brylcreem during World War II, was an anarchist and conscientious objector.

It was advertised on TV by the jingle "Brylcreem -- A Little Dab'll Do Ya!".

In the sitcom Seinfeld , the bald character George mentioned that he still had Brylcreem in his medicine cabinet.

In the raggare subculture Brylcreem (or other brands if not available) is often used in the hair.

In a episode of The Sopranos, Junior mentions "I've got the feds so far up my ass I could taste Brylcreem".


Tony Gibson: Conscientious objector who became the smooth image of the RAF, Donald Rooum and Rufus Segar, The Guardian, April 30, 2001.

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