Clubman Country Club Shampoo (Pinaud)

When it comes to shampoo, people are scornful. I'm guilty of it, my derision aimed at the cheap work perfumers must offer shampoo makers. I imagine the chemical composition of generic shampoo limits their options, and the result is a yawniverse of apple-tini and cherry blossom hand soap. Some five-star luxury hotels and resorts bring their A-game by spending cheese on A-list perfumers to perfume their toiletries, presumably with good results. I'm just another rube, so my hotel experiences are limited to the average airport layover boarding houses where they decant Prell into little plastic squirt bottles with the hotel parent company's logo stamped on them. 

This doesn't deter me from fantasizing about what my luxury layover hotel would offer, if I were wealthy enough to golf with the Hiltons at their easy-entry country club (Paris, call me). The grounds would have male peacocks roaming freely, the lobby a tireless piano player, and every suite a jet-black tiled bathroom stocked with Pinaud products, with a smallish bottle of Country Club Shampoo up on a black shower stall shelf. It isn't by any means luxe, as it simply smells like the granddaddy Clubman aftershave, but customers would quickly realize that Clubman is just so goddamn good. That powdery barbershop fern smell is timeless and comforting, exactly what a guest needs after twenty-six hours in a cramped tin can with three-hundred disgusting strangers. Clean is king.  

What would the guest experience be like? It's a surprisingly dense shampoo that sits like half-set jello in hand and lathers very rapidly, filling the shower stall with Clubmanny goodness that admittedly requires an extra minute to rinse out. I do notice that the scent disappears pretty quickly during the rinse stage, but it leaves my hair feeling fairly soft and clean. Pinaud markets this as being pH balanced, protein-rich, and of course, for professional use only, despite there being a barcode on the back. Naturally my hotel's mini bottles would be customized for my brand; instead of touting Panthenol, they'd say Fitted for Theft Deterrence, and cables would tether them to the hot water knobs.


Stephan Lilac Fragrant Skin Toner (Stephan)

I tend to approach barbershop products with love. I'm won over by their shabby and unpretentious looks, their schlubby labels, and their distinct sense of purpose. When it comes to vintage barbershop fare, few things go back further than nineteenth century lilac water. To date, I'm aware of only two that still exist, Pinaud Lilac Vegetal, which dates to the 1870s, and Stephan Lilac, which might date back to 1897, although there's no way to know. That was the year Stephan's company was founded, so I assume the lilac water was one of their first offerings. If I'm wrong, then at the very least it goes back to the early twentieth century. Either way, this stuff is pretty old. 

This particular old-school lilac water is hardcore American barbershop. It has its pros and cons, so I'll start with the good first: the scent. Although it isn't really a natural lilac aroma, it is far closer to the smell of lilac flowers than Master's Lilac Vegetal, and it's more straightforward than Pinaud's. Where Pinaud gets abstract with its green notes, and Master settles on nondescript sweetness, Stephan opts for a literal lilac flower, and comes awfully close to nailing it. The drawback is the budget, which limits the dynamism and "flattens" the floral tone, but I expect that with after shower/aftershaves. This stuff costs less than a dollar an ounce, and you get fifteen ounces. I don't expect high art, but I'm impressed by the degree of accuracy that this product achieves. 

The negatives: the first and most important thing is that the formula contains acetylated lanolin alcohol. This is a compound produced from lanolin, which is derived from wool fat, so if you're allergic to wool you might have a mild skin rash reaction to something with acetylated lanolin. Of secondary concern is the weird blurb on the product label, which states, Bay Rum is one of the few completely natural scents nowadays, followed by a description of bay rum. One problem - this isn't bay rum. But it is a good lilac water, and its scent lasts more than an hour, so buy some and try it if you're into this sort of thing. I don't regret the purchase, and the face feel is soft and soothing, so it achieves that distinct sense of purpose, and then some. Long live lilac water!