Reflections: The Brylcreem Generation

By Gipp Forster

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*"Brylcreem, a little dab will do you. Brylcreem, you'll look so debonair. Brylcreem, the gals will pursue you. Simply rub a little in your hair."*

I think that's how the ditty went.

I'm from the Brylcreem generation. Things were different then. Guys' hair was only long enough to form a duck tail at the back. A little dab never did me! A quarter of a tube, maybe, but never a "little dab." Another thing was different then too - I had hair!

We were known as "Greasers," for obvious reasons, and we thought we were the best things since Clark Kent and Superman. We looked ridiculous, but nobody could convince us of it, at the time. We thought we were rebels and wanted to stand out as such. Much like the kids today with the green and red hair, a myriad of tattoos and skin punctures. We wanted and they want an identity of their own. I eventually walked away from the Brylcreem, but they will have a tough time walking away from their tattoos! But each generation leaves its mark.

Hindsight is a great teacher. I just wish it didn't lag behind so much.

We thought we were cool in those days of six-ounce Coke in thick glass bottles and 25-cent movies. Our favourite book and movie was about the Amboy Dukes and our favourite actor was a very young Tony Curtis because we all coveted his hair.

We sought reputation in violence, at least where I bought my Brylcreem, and hid our fear in false bravado. I still do that when my wife gets angry with me. She's just lucky there's no Brylcreem around.

Sometimes, I wonder if those days of Brylcreem and rolled-up jeans were real - or did I just make it up? Girls with pin curlers in their hair wore kerchiefs and chewed gum from the side of their mouths. Those days, there were Buckingham cigarettes, Caporal cigarettes or cork-tip Black Cat cigarettes that cost 25 cents a pack!

I remember taking a girl to a movie and each of us having a Pepsi and a hamburger afterwards. It cost me just under a dollar! It all seems so long ago now.

It's strange to me that I can't remember how much a tube of Brylcreem cost back then. I mean, I should; I used enough of it! I gave a completely new meaning to the terms "sliding into bed" or "slipping into a bath."

Anyone could have used my head to do an oil change on their car. Maybe it was because of Brylcreem that my hair "slipped" away. I guess I'll never know.

It couldn't have cost too much. The average wage was $1,200 to $1,500 a year!

I don't think I miss those days. I miss my hair, of course - and my 31-inch waist. But as far as the misadventure is concerned, I'm glad I don't have to repeat it. Sometimes, I don't even like to remember it!

My wife just piped in: "Are you sure you don't mean your 31-inch wrist and not your waist?" (And yet, nobody believes me when I say my watch strap used to be my belt).

I've said it before and I'll say it again: there's far more to look back on than there is to look forward to!

I slipped into young (very young) adulthood with an edge. I did it with Brylcreem and I slipped in like greased lightening. Even though I may be nearing the exit to the sound of distant thunder, I won't be using Brylcreem to make my escape. I hope to be able to do that without props.

In the meantime, I guess memory and I will continue to walk down the path that lays behind us, and yet still welcomes us; pointing out this and pointing out that, laughing at this and crying over that.

I'm not sure if they even sell Brylcreem anymore. But if they do, I think I'm going to buy myself a tube. Not to use on my near baldness, but have it bronzed, so I can look at it and remember those hair-raising days - in the Brylcreem generation.


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