Patent Hair Product Advertisers and the Feminization of Facial Hair
Groomed for Power‘s third chapter explains how facial hair (the origins of which are explained in Chapter 1 and Chapter 2) came to be called beards – and what the word ‘beard’ signified during the nineteenth century. It does so by focusing on the people who made and advertised tonics, restoratives, and dyes – a category of goods that Groomed for Power denotes as ‘patent hair products.’ These goods, the chapter argues, came to constitute one of the most visible embodiments of the culture of men’s grooming. This was due to a revolution in advertising practices, which helped make notices for patent hair products not only numerous compared to ads for other kinds of grooming products, but lengthy, compelling, and memorable.
Because these patent hair products were closely associated with dandies – Walt Whitman, for instance, described urban dandies as “all soaked and ‘slickery’ with sickening oils” – the proliferation of advertisements for these goods seemed to imply the spread of dandyism. Opening their morning newspapers to find numerous, column-length advertisements for Barry’s Tricopherous or Bogle’s Electric Hair Dye, many American readers must have wondered whether the use of these products – and the ethos they embodied – was not, in fact, more wide-spread than previously believed. Turning to the disgruntled ex-shavers who increasingly populated the landscape of American men’s grooming, some must have seen in their whiskers the taint of dandyism. I call this process the “feminization of facial hair.”