Time-Tested Grooming Products for a Modern Look

The fifties may have been boring, but men knew their way around a bathroom.
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The fifties may have been boring, but men knew their way around a bathroom.
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There are plenty of things about the fifties that we can look back on with horror: polio, cross-ply tires, and Pat Boone don’t crack the top ten. Still, some staples of mid-century life deserve a second glance. Mayberry may have been racist, parochial, and boring, but the dudes who lived there sure knew how to groom themselves.

While the rise of high-fashion streetwear and leaps in beard-trimming technology mean looking good and looking casual are no longer mutually exclusive, the shiny-haired, smooth-cheeked men of the fifties displayed a luster that guys today would be wise to emulate.

To do so, we recommend these four products—items that are as good as they’ve ever been and, moreover, better than what the toiletry-industrial complex has come up with in the last half-century. Your grandfather was probably wrong about a lot of stuff, but he knew what he was doing in the bathroom.

Muhle R89 Double Edge Safety Razor

For anyone born after the 1971 release of Gillette’s Twin Blade Trac II, it might seem backwards, even dangerous, to forgo the latest vibrating, octo-blade wonder-razor. But there are two good reasons to do precisely that: First of all, blade quality matters much more than blade quantity. You’re much better served by a super-sharp high-quality razor blade (like Feather’s) than five of dull edges. Secondly, a double-edged safety razor will save you money. Buying a high-quality razor like the MuhleR89 means, except in cases of loss or theft, you will have one for life. Sure, it costs $69, but spread that cost over the ensuing decades and it’s pretty damn low - Feather Double-Sided blades are available on Amazon in packs of 10 for $3.91. You just saved money you can spend on better shaving cream and cologne.

Murray’s Superior/Super Light Pomade

Pomade is more than just fancy Vaseline. Take Murray’s pomades, produced non-stop since 1925. The original Superior pomade is classic, with only three ingredients and a near-solid consistency that requires some heating before application. Our advice, though? Try Murray’s Superlight. With lanolin, aloe, and mineral oils, this lighter pomade is great for a clean, softer look, and requires no heating. Scoop some up, loosen it between your palms, and apply for a low-sheen, great-smelling ‘do. Amazingly, it seems neither the packaging nor the price has changed much since 1925: a hefty 3-oz can is only $3.

Ogallala Bay Rum Aftershave

This local treasure went national a long time ago. Made in Nebraska cattle-country, this aftershave is a smoky-sweet astringent perfect for after shaving or for use as a toner. The ingredient list is simple: witch hazel, Bay Rum spices and essential oils. Ogallala has turned American women on for hundreds of years. Trust history.

Bag Balm

“Bag Balm” is not just a cute name. To the contrary, it’s kind of a gross name: This hearty salve was originally used on cow’s udders, only jumping species when farmers realized the magic it was working on their hands. With a strong, clean smell of lanolin, this balm soothes and softens rough palms and knuckles, and its makers claim it even helps heal small scrapes. While any medicinal claims remain indefinitely untested by the FDA, this special green tin has been made in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom since 1899. In that hardscrabble corner of New England, you’ve got to be pretty tough to last 115 years.

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