Monday 14 November 2022

MACASSAR OIL - The Classic Returns

Bottles of Rowland's and The Dandy Gent's Victorian Macassar Oil
Men’s grooming has always been a potentially profitable business for any company. That is, as long as the products on offer manage to capture the imagination and develop a loyal following. Most men simply buy what they need from the local supermarket or pick it off the shelf of the high street chemist, it's easy, but it wasn’t always like this. Back in the Victorian period, hair and body preparations were displayed in neat rows and embossed glass bottles, and this plastic-free approach is thankfully returning. So, 229 years after it first launched, it’s time to rediscover Rowland’s Macassar Oil courtesy of The Dandy Gent.

Unless you’re a diehard fan of haircare then you can be forgiven for not knowing who Alexander Rowland was. He was a celebrated London hairdresser and, alongside his successful barbering, he developed the famous Macassar Oil. Born in London in 1747, he began his apprenticeship at the age of sixteen before becoming a fully-fledged barber in his own right seven years later. He quickly gained a reputation and his customers began to include London Society and the educated elite. However, it would be 1793 that marked the turning point in both his career and his legacy.

Hair preparations were numerous in the late 18th and early 19th century, with barbers often making their own. When Alexander Rowland created his Macassar Oil, he’s said to have been influenced by the ingredients found in the port that shared its name. Now, it’s quite difficult to check the facts around this, so let’s just say that it makes a good story. Famed for creating luscious hair and even curing baldness (!), it remained in circulation up until the company, A.Rowlands & Sons, went into liquidation in 1954. It seemed that Prince Albert’s favourite hair oil was to be forgotten.

Vintage Bottle of Rowland's Macassar Oil
Shane O'Shaughnessy
could never have imagined back when he was a ten year old boy working in his grandfather’s barbers that he would eventually revive a worldwide bestseller. He apprenticed in a similar way to Alexander Rowland, although he eventually left the industry for a role in IT. However, he was lured back to the world of barbering and, alongside cutting, dusted off his grandfather’s old hair preparation formulas. One of these was for Macassar Oil and, with a growing trend for facial hair and sharp cuts, decided to bring it back in 2012 alongside more of David Keithley’s original tonics. Macassar Oil was back!

The ingredients are true to Rowland’s original and centre around coconut oil, jojoba and hemp seed, but it’s the aroma that makes Macassar Oil so great to use. It features ylang ylang, with all of its tropical qualities, but also adds lemon. It’s this slight tartness that stops the fragrance becoming too floral. Alongside this, the hemp oil adds an earthiness to the scent along with an aromatic touch, and perhaps it’s this that provides the vintage edge. The oil is perfect for conditioning moustaches, beards and the hair, although Shane has left the claim that it cures baldness firmly in the 19th century. The Dandy Gent has a great range of vegan barbering products, and they're the ideal gift for those that like some history with their hairdressing.

Macassar Oil is available from The Dandy Gent website at priced at £19.99 for 100ml. [Sample provided by Shane O'Shaughnessy]

1 comment:

  1. Hello, I'm glad that you enjoyed the article and found the information that you needed. It's such a great product, and this new version is just as wonderful as the original. Best, Stephan