RICHARD ORD: Combing history for origins of beard oil

Striking beard oil.

Striking beard oil.

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Remember when I told you about my trip to the Turkish barbers?

“Remember? How could I forget,” I hear you say. “Worth the price of the newspaper alone. ‘Man goes to barbers,’ brilliant journalism. You must tell us about your trip to the shoe shop next.”

Well I’m saving that shoe shop trip for another time (it may make a more in-depth social comment piece, even a movie, I’m thinking The Shoe Shop Redemption, maybe a comedy, Sole Man, or a sci-fi slant, Star Wars: Brogue One perhaps).

In the meantime I will be milking the barber excursion for all it’s worth.

As well as burning the hair from my ears with a ‘fire stick’ a couple of weeks ago, my Turkish barber noted the tatty condition of my beard and offered to ‘tidy it up’ at no extra cost. In the hairdressing business, however, there’s no such thing as a free trim.

After clipping my facial fuzz to an acceptable level, he intimated that I needed “some help” … and produced from a cabinet a bottle of, wait for it, beard oil.

He handled it like some mysterious elixir of life.

So precious was this beard oil, that it was contained in a tiny brown bottle. My barber suggested I apply “three or four drops” to my beard every day. “No more!”

The beard oil came with its own eye dropper (or should that be beard dropper?).

The cost of this mysterious beard balm? An eye watering £8. Having been given a free trim, I felt duty bound to buy the beard oil.

I had never heard of beard oil before. I assume, in the late 1800s, when there was an abundance of facial hair, it was in plentiful supply.

I have visions of explorers drilling the plains of Texas and striking beard oil. You can picture them now, dancing around a gushing well, throwing their mining helmets aloft and rubbing the oil on their on facial tresses.

Well, that’s how I see it. May not be historically accurate, but it’s good enough for me.

Clearly, however, the beard oil glut of the 1800 and early 1900s could never last.

Crude oil these days is considered a relatively rare, and, therefore, valuable commodity. It’s reflected in the price. A barrel of Brent Crude Oil is currently trading at 52 dollars. That’s £42 at the time of writing. (Given Brexit and the tumbling pound, this may be 38p by the time you read these words).

My beard oil from the barber came in a 10ml bottle, which means a barrel of beard oil would set you back… £127,000.

I suspect it costs so much because it is no longer sourced from the earth, but from actual beards.

These days you must have to strain about a thousand beards, to obtain, say, 10ml of beard oil. It’s cheaper in the winter moulting season, when hipsters shed their beards.

Whatever the cost, I don’t think I’ll be investing in another bottle of beard oil.

For one, it does little to enhance my beard. At best, it makes it look, well, oily … which I’m not so sure is a good look.

And for two: If I buy the £8 beard oil I’ll have no money left to buy the barber’s other speciality.

Word is he’s one hell of a snake oil salesman...