When I was a boy, the whole scope of male toiletries amounted to carbolic or coal-tar soap, Brylcreem and, if you really wanted to impress some girl, a splash of your Mum’s lavender toilet water, but you had to be very careful with the latter or you would be the laughing stock of your mates. Before going to meet the girl of my dreams, I would get into a hot bath and lie there for perhaps an hour and a half, or until the water was too cool and my skin had taken on a crinkly texture somewhat akin to an old piece of canvas. There was no shower in our house, but at least the bath could be filled from a gas powered geyser at its end, though it was necessary to keep a window open while this was going on, or you’d be killed by the poisonous fumes given off by the burning coal gas! A large dollop of Brylcreem on my hair after drying myself, followed by the carefully splashed on toilet water and I was ready for anything, a teenaged Adonis, feeling and looking like a film star once I’d got my nice, cheap, blue jeans and white shirt on; or so I thought at the time. A pair of suede Italian desert boots to complete the picture and I was ready to take on the world!
How things have changed since then. Nowadays, if I was still a teenager, I suppose I would first need to get my hair cut to whatever today’s fashion is, then it would be off home and into the shower, where a tube of men’s body-wash awaits, promising ‘total skin comfort’, plus another tube containing the appropriate shampoo for my type of hair and a bottle of conditioner to finish. Then I’d would no doubt go to the bathroom mirror and run my electric shaver over my face, (whether I needed to this week or not!), followed by a generous dab of moisturising lotion on my cheeks and perhaps some eye-drops as well, to make sure I at least looked bright eyed and alert. Then there’s the absolutely vital under-arm deodorant, and a shot of David Beckham eau de toilette spray on the neck and chest and one final cleansing chore, brush my teeth with one of those whitening tooth-pastes that make your teeth four shades whiter, (or so they claim), and I’m ready for stage two.
Stage two is the process of getting myself dressed and this requires at least as much care as the preparations in the bathroom. Calvin Klein underpants are the first things to concern me, plus a smart pair of pale blue socks with some sort of motif on the side, and then we come to the shirt. Should I wear one with the long collar points, or the short collar points, or no collar at all, a tee-shirt perhaps, or one of those finely knitted crew-neck sweaters. Depending on my choice of shirt I then have to decide on the trousers. I’ve already decided on the pale blue socks so I pick a pair of very expensive jeans, fairly tight at the thighs and slightly flared at the lower leg, plus a pale blue shirt with a bit of dark blue embroidery on the breast pocket. The picture is completed with that nice, tan, soft leather jacket that cost me best part of a week’s wage too buy last year, a pair of leather shoes the same colour as my jacket, and I’m ready to go and pick up the bird!
We’ve come a long way since the days of Brylcreem, or so we’re led to believe, but I wonder sometimes. Our pleasures were simple ones in those days just after the war, but the marketing gurus have convinced us that we have to be not just clean these days, but germ free as well, and we have to dress, not so that we just feel like film stars, but so that we dress as expensively as them as well! The trouble is, I doubt that the girls are any more impressed today than they were by my efforts all those years ago. Thank goodness I found Jacqui before I got completely depressed with my lack of girl catching success, and gave up the chase altogether!
Oh, by the way, I still use only Wrights Coal Tar Soap in the shower!