Brylcreem Boys

Discussion in 'General' started by Fanofveterans, Feb 29, 2016.

  1. Fanofveterans

    Fanofveterans New Member


    I am doing a project here in India on world war II veterans and how they came to be called the Brylcreem boys. Request respected war veterans to share any insights as to why were they called the Brylcreem Boys. Did the war heroes really have their hair neatly combed at all times.

    Need your help as I am a political science graduate working on world war II insights.

    Appreciate if someone could help me.

  2. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Not ALL Veterans were "Brylcreem Boys " only the RAF who thought they were above all others - and invariably got the girls with their haircuts etc

  3. RCG

    RCG Senior Member, Deceased

    Did the war heroes really have their hair neatly combed at all times?
    Simply answer No.

    World War II veterans and how they came to be called the Brylcreem boys?
    As far as I am aware it was only RAF personal, who were called Brylcreem boys.

    Bare in mind that this is only my theory.
    So we have to go back to 1928 when Brylcreem was invented as with any new product it is always expensive so only people with high incomes would only be able to buy it.
    Go forwards ten years to 1939, Brylcreem has had ten years of sales and advertising, so price has now come down and middle class people can easily afford it.
    The lower and poorer people if they had bought some would possible, only use it on special occasions.

    So WW2 has started thousands of young men have joined the RAF, those who were pilots were mainly from the top or middle class.
    Now due to their upbringing and training they would always try to be smart and well turned out.
    Brylcreem seeing this, advertised accordingly so used Airmen in their adverts.
    Now a couple of years later with airfields scattered all over the country and loads of young airmen going out on the town and doing what every young generation wants to do look their best to attract the girls they would use brylcreem (There was not much else). Now as they all went out in groups to the pubs and dance halls it would not be long before someone commented on them.

    For example.
    Imagine a quiet pub near an airfield somewhere in Norfolk a couple of old boys playing dominos and a group of young airmen come in hustling and bustling full of high spirits.
    I can just picture one saying to the other. “Oh ah looks like the Brylcreem boys have been let out again” The barmaid overhearing this would repeat it to someone else “Old Bob just called those RAF chaps Brylcreem boys”
    Then like any catchphrase it would just sweep across the country. :biggrin:
  4. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    As said the "Brylcream boys" referred to certain sections of RAF servicemen.usually aircrew.It was the formal hair fashion adopted in prewar days and throughout the war when to be seen well turned out was to have the hair plastered down with the aid of Brycream and have a well defined parting.The use of Brylcream was always accompanied by the well defined was regarded as being associated with well turned out.

    I think the fashion had its origin from the leading male film stars of the time who were always reflected as such in film studio photographs...not a hair out of place....however Brylcream might not have been used by them

    Denis Crompton the Middlesex cricketer was immaculately turned out using Brylcream and was used as a model to advertise the product postwar.

    The photographs of RAF fighter aces and Bomber Command leading personalities' bear testimony to this air fashion....just looking at a photograph of Basil Embry with the same well turned out hair style.Gibson's hair style was neat, again with a well defined parting but his hair appeared to be thicker than straight hair.

    Have a look at Members of Parliament...some have continued with the fashion aided by hair gel. some captains of history also reflect this fashion.

    I would say that by the early 1950s the Brylcream fashion was on the wane...soiling everything the head touched....seemed to be more suitable for those with straight hair.I recollect that there has been an attempt to revive the Brylcream fashion with an ex English International footballer being the model.

    As regards my RAF service..on the squadron,in our section we all had crew need for any hair of the lads had a degree of expertise in cutting hair...never had to go to the barbers.
  5. rockape252

    rockape252 Senior Member

    Hi Harry Ree,

    We had a Sqn "Barber" on every Regiment squadron I served on, usually an SAC who would do a No 4 Haircut for a shilling.

    Short hair was much easier to maintain and made treating head wounds a lot easier.

    By the way my late father used Brylcreem and he was a Cavalry man.

    The other hair cream used was "Brillianteen"

    Regards, Mick D.
  6. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    There's a selection of period piece adverts here:

    And refined a bit more for just the 1940's here:

    I did wonder if perhaps the "slick look" would have helped i.e. with the flying helmets they have on here:


    This is a case - below - of (perhaps) having just pulled one such flying helmet off... ??? (Not sure though ;) )

    RAF pilot, Flying Officer Francis Mellersh (1922 - 1996), gets a haircut between missions, while reading John Buchan's 'Greenmantle', Fairlop airfield, Essex, November 1942. In the background is a Spitfire fighter. Mellersh himself flew a Bristol Beaufighter night fighter.

    By-the-way, also some of these Tankies (my own grandfather the chap on the farthest left with the accordion) look like they "used" a bit of hair product too (perhaps to "help them get the girls" as well ;) )


    All the best,

  7. Fanofveterans

    Fanofveterans New Member

    Thanks for the information. Dear Harry have you ever tried using one of these products like Brylcreem to keep your hair in place?
  8. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    My late Dad was in the RAF in the Far East. He was in a Mobile Heavy Wireless unit however also volunteered (he claims 'was volunteered') for ground to air communication with infantry columns (I am still working on who? What, Where?).

    He was not technically what was disparagingly called a 'Brylcreem Boy' however like a lot of his generation he did use hair cream or oil until very late in life.

    He rarely spoke of his experience at 'the sharp end' however told me a story of being forced to buy a local hair product in Ceylon (going without was not considered an option) however it went rancid leaving him and his mates with terrible rashes and a horrid stench which took a lot of bathing and precious soap to get rid of.

    He also told me that for the treks behind enemy lines that, in addition to the radio equipment, spare batteries and such, they were issued with infantry kit including helmet and rifle. They threw these into the undergrowth as soon as they could. Discussing the loss of the helmet - I naively pointed out that the bowl could be used to hold shaving water, he replied that there was so much hair oil soaked into his bush hat that he could use that as a wash basin.
  9. NickFenton

    NickFenton Well-Known Member

    My late Father was a bomber pilot and Brylcreem was the order of the day for me in the early 60's as a youngster and was it not also used by some of the early Mods?

    I still have the wooden handled hairbrush that my Mother also used with a nice crack in the handle where it was turned over and used to 'tap' me on the head if l did not keep still.
    canuck likes this.
  10. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    ecalpald and canuck like this.

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