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Wildroot Woes

    The Wildroot Company began in 1911 in Buffalo, New York, but it's most popular product, Wildroot Cream-Oil Hair Tonic, did not appear until the '40s. Wildroot, made in the USA, along with British Brylcreem, were the two most popular men's grooming products of the fabulous '50s. In the late '50s, Colgate-Palmolive Company acquired Wildroot. Later it was made by the Stephan Company in Florida , and about five years ago sold to the Oakhurst Company, back home in New York.  Wildroot's reputation fell, however, due to a bad batch which was widely distributed to stores, leading to the Wildroot Woes. The defective batch is immediately apparent. No amount of shaking the bottle will mix it up, and it comes out thin and watery instead of as a rich cream.

    This is exactly the opposite of what the Oakhurst Company intended, and they are determined now to restore Wildroot's good name. The problem was solved about a year ago, a spokesperson from Oakhurst assured, and now lot numbers are stamped on the bottles to allow tracking in the unlikely event that future problems might occur. Oakhurst has also brought back a favorite hair groom from the 60's, Protein 29, in both bottles and tubes. Protein 29 was originally made by Mennen, and recently by Stephan. The good news is that both grooms are available directly from the manufacturer at Barbers and druggists are also invited to contact them regarding wholesale distribution.

Classic grooming supplies
Classic vintage grooming

Above: Together they span a century. Wildroot and Protein 29, Two popular hair grooms from the '50s and '60s have been brought back by the Oakhurst Company of New York, and can now be obtained from their webstore at

Below: Two oft-seen signs in the '40s and '50s.
Left: Fearless Fosdick, a parody of Dick Tracy appeared in Al Capp's newspaper comic "Lil Abner". He also frequently appeared in comic strip ads for Wildroot.
Right: This large metal sign advising, "Ask for Wildroot" was seen outside many a barber shop.

Vintage Wildroot sign
Vintage Barber Shop sign

Vintage ephemera

Above left: Matchbook with Cream-Oil Charlie Wildroot advertisement. The inside reads: "Cream-Oil Charlie says- 'Buy more war bonds now... and keep them!'"
Above right: Detail from a Wildroot ad from a 1950's magazine.

Below: Detail from ad in a 1959 issue of The Saturday Evening Post which concludes with the slogan, "Make hair obey all day with Wildroot Cream-Oil." Other popular Wildroot slogans include, "Get Wildroot Cream-Oil, Charlie!" and "Clean as a whistle, quick as a wink".

Saturday Evening Post

Vintage barber supplies
Classic men's hair grooming

Above left: Detail from an ad aimed at barbers featuring five Wildroot products in barber size bottles: Wildroot Cream-Oil, Robin Hood Hair Trainer, Vam Hair Tonic, Wildroot regular hair tonic, and Wildroot with oil.
Above right: Wildroot ad on the back cover of a 1961 issue of Barber's Journal and Men's Hairstylist announces the variety of products available from the Wildroot Barber Supply Dept.

Below left: Wildroot introduced "New Formula" hair dressing in 1962.
Below right: Robin Hood Shampoo followed Robin Hood Hair Trainer, both named after "The Adventures of Robin Hood" sponsored by Wildroot in the mid '50s. Other TV programs sponsored by Wildroot included "Sam Spade", "The Perry Mason Show", and "CBS Game of the Week", along with local sports shows. "As a result," concluded an ad aimed at barbers, "your customers hear about Wildroot constantly-- have a greater interest in good grooming. To cash in on it... Suggest Wildroot by Name."

1962 men's grooming
Wildroot vintage grooming

Barber Ad from 1936
Barber Ad from 1953

Above left: Wildroot ad on back cover of 1936 issue of The Journeyman Barber, the magazine of the Barbers' Union. Products came in two gallon jugs or cans which barbers used to refill "barber bottles". The products on this deal include Wildroot Hair Tonic (shown in a can), Hair Dress, Instant Shampoo, Taroleum Shampoo, and Quinine Boquet. The ad also mentions Wildroot advertising on a radio show featuring Ted Husing, Paul Douglas, and the Charioteers.
Above right: This ad on the back of a 1953 issue of Barber's Journal mentions three Wildroot hair tonics. The little cartoon man says, "Be sure to ask 'Which hair tonic for you today?' and the text gives a rundown of the basic differences between the three tonics, so barbers know what to tell customers who as, but the bottom punch line says, "Again and again the choice of men who put good grooming first: Wildroot Cream-Oil."

1.  "Wildroot Cream Oil-- The easiest hair tonic to sell because it's already America's biggest-seller. Contains lanolin. Non-alchoholic. Grooms hair, relieves dryness, removes loose dandruff."
2.   "Wildroot Regular Formula-- The alchoholic, non-oily type. Gives scalp that healthy 'tingling' feeling."
3.    "Wildroot With Oil-- The three action Wildroot tonic for men who prefer a smooth combination of alchohol and oil."

Below: Magazine ads for Protein 29 hair groom by Mennen. "It's made with protein, like your hair." Protein 29 came in a bottle as a clear liquid,  as a clear gel in a tube, and as a hair groom creme. Eventually it also came as "Hair Groom Aerosol" (don't call it hair spray). Protein 29 was also advertised in very clever TV ads.

Vintage men's grooming

Vintage grpoming revived