One of the very first articles we published way back in 2008 was a fun look at some of the “worst products for men.” A year after, we created another such list with even more wacky products we had discovered.
These gems have been gathering dust in the archives, so we dusted off our favorites from each list and then added a bunch of new ones we’ve unearthed since the aughts to create a comprehensive, all-in-one exhibit of these oddities.
Below you’ll find some of the funny, dorky, disturbing, and just plain out-there products that were pitched to the men of yesteryear — often playing on male insecurities like hair loss and impotence — that aren’t due a comeback anytime soon. Window shop at your pleasure, and your risk!
Male Virility and General Groinal Health
Radioactive materials were once thought to impart healing and vitalizing powers. Radium was infused into drinking water, baths, toothpaste, and, though the advertisement above doesn’t come right out and say it, packed into jockstraps. As is the hallmark of impotence-correcting ads even today, the copy doesn’t directly state the problem this radioactive banana hammock is designed to cure, instead coyly framing it as the antidote to a “decline of sexual strength,” “low vitality,” “premature old age,” and “loss of manly vigor.” Here at last was the cure for the fellow who “realizes his happiness depends on his ability to perform the duties of a REAL MAN,” and who isn’t “satisfied without the pleasures that are his birthright!”
If the jockstrap didn’t do the trick in restoring one’s vim and vigor, radium also came in the form of suppositories “guaranteed to be perfectly harmless.”
The Prostate Warmer
Invented in 1918, this device promised to “stimulate the abdominal brain!” (I am not sure what that is, although men have long been accused of thinking with it.) The warmer consisted of a 4.25 inch probe which was plugged into the wall and then inserted into the rectum. When plugged in, a blue light bulb lit up to tell you it was working to restore your manly vitality. It really brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “blue light special.”
Truth in advertising: the Rector Rotor was most certainly “in a class by itself.” This dilator promised to cure “piles, constipation, and prostrate problems.” It was designed to break up, your, um, “piles,” lubricate the rectum, and stimulate the prostrate from the inside out. With a motto like “large enough to be efficient, small enough for anyone over 15 years old,” how could you go wrong?
Heidelberg Electric Belt
In the early 1900s many people believed they were suffering from “neurasthenia,” a disease caused by modernization and over-stimulation. This “sickness” produced a wide variety of symptoms, from depression to impotency to fatigue. Touted as a cure for those suffering from such a “weak and deranged nervous system,” the Heidelberg Electric Belt encircled your waist with five electrodes — one which hung over your junk — and promised to zap “the proper organs and affected parts” back to vim and vigor.
Prostatitis is the inflammation of the prostate gland and can cause your man junk to really hurt. The Dila-Therm promised relief, but only for the owner with the wherewithal to boldly apply it himself . . . or to ask someone else to do it for him.
The Lantz Supporter
The Lantz Supporter was basically an everyday jockstrap, for the man who felt his boxer briefs didn’t provide sufficient support for “freedom of action,” and whose quest for a “refined appearance” went beyond tailoring his trousers.
Anti- “Self-Pollution” Devices
During the 1800s and early 1900s, extreme measures were recommended to control the sexual libido of young men. This particular device was aimed not only at preventing masturbation, but nocturnal emissions as well. Young men would tie this ring of death around their member, and whenever they became aroused, the spikes would sink into their flesh. Don’t worry though, as according to its creator, it would “produce no uneasiness till erection comes on, when the patient, roused by the pricking can jump out of bed and thus arrest an impending emission.”
Patented in 1876, the spermatic truss was designed to make erections impossible by binding the genitalia down. Twenty-one years later, the designer changed the truss a bit, making erections possible. The only downside? An erection would now drive the penis against painful spikes.
The Timely Warning
Invented by Frank Orth in 1893, The Timely Warning was a penis cooling apparatus designed to prevent wet dreams. A man would attach the device to his penis before he went to bed, and when an erection occurred during the night, levers opened to allow cold water to flow through tubes around the genitalia. This cooled “the organ of generation, so that the erection subsides and no discharge occurs.” Basically, it was like taking a cold shower, but without the shower.
Clothing and Personal Appearance
Model 25 Nose Shaper
Why waste thousands of dollars on a rhinoplasty when you can simply smoosh your nose into submission? The ad says you can wear it day or night, but the former is only true if in addition to a large schnoz, you’re also a dedicated homebody who’s got a bad case of agoraphobia.
Paste-On Facial Hair
All men long to grow a manly mustache or sideburns. But it takes so dang long, and wouldn’t you like to be able to wear some sideburns to work and then attach a cool handlebar mustache for your date that night? And sometimes you just want to rock the
Satan Van Dyke. With this kit, there are so many options to play with; as the ad notes, “The combinations are limitless!” Though, as the author of the Modern Mechanix blog observes, “actually there are only seven combinations, unless you count each side burn individually.”
Crosley Xervac Head Vacuum
This large device (which you could rent for home use) operated on the principle that sucking more blood into your scalp would make hair grow healthy and strong and prevent it from falling out. A hose attached to a skull cap surrounded your head with suction power. This reminds me of Garth using the Suck-Cut on Wayne‘s World. “It’s sucking my will to live, man!”
Here’s another device operating on the same principle:
A New Kind of Hat
Not only does this hat help you grow hair, it also protects your brain from mind control. The Allied Merke Institutes definitely should have invested more in their marketing department; they couldn’t even come up with a name for this thing except for “invention” and “new kind of hat.”
A compellingly passive way to regrow your hair. Just put on the topper you were going to wear anyway, insert the “Hat Sheath,” and let the magic vapor go to work as you go about your business!
Fleischmann’s Yeast Acne Cure
Did you know that chocolate makes you break out? 100% true. Also, the same substance that makes bread rise can cure your acne. Honest. Just eat a few cakes of it a day; your mouth will smell like bread, your face will be as smooth and clear as a baby’s bottom, and you’ll be on your way to the corner office.
Weil Reducing Belt
Here’s the pitch: you wear a rubber belt around your midsection constantly, and every time your portly flesh rubs up against it, it melts away your fat. It’s a man girdle. Much better idea than doing “strenuous reducing exercises which are liable to strain your heart.” Plus, it puts your “sagging internal organs back into place.” I know I hate it when my liver droops.
Rainat Hat Cover
Utilitarian, especially for a time where nearly every man wore a hat day in and day out? Surely. Suave? Surely not. Can you imagine Humphrey Bogart pausing at the first sign of drizzle to put a jimmy on his fedora?
Paper Hat Parasol
Hats are by nature supposed to keep the sun off your neck and face. But if the brim just doesn’t extend far enough for you, then you can place a very handsome paper parasol on top, and attach it with a rubber band. Ever enterprising, the manufacturer suggests printing the paper with an advertisement. Perhaps one for sunscreen.
Glow-in-the-Dark Kiss Me Tie
Do you often find yourself in the pitch black darkness? While wearing a tie? With a woman who will do whatever your tie tells her to? Well, sir, do I have the tie for you! If this one doesn’t float your boat, the company also makes another equally suave design:
Glow-in-the-Dark Striptease Tie
This is the mullet of neckties. Business during the day and a party at night.
The Dribble Bib Necktie
Bow Legs . . . Cure?
What kills me about this ad is the sheer mystery and uncertainty of its intent . . . should a gentleman just send away for a booklet of perfect leg forms to gaze upon? If, after gazing upon them, a man is filled with envy and left bemoaning his less than perfect drumsticks, will the booklet then hawk a cure for those beset with dreaded and “unsightly” bow legs and knock knees? And . . . what kind of ghastly contraption could correct them??
Float-ees Swim Trunks
Making it to adulthood without learning how to swim can be quite embarrassing for a man. You can’t very well put on a man-sized puddle-jumper. Float-ees is the solution! But make sure no one sees you blowing them up; you might get a real funny look.
The “Stick-‘Em-Up…The-Joke’s-on-You” Gun
Recommended for the “well dressed Chicagoan” in “these days of flying bullets and indiscriminate hold ups,” this invention was introduced in 1929, but unfortunately still seems useful for navigating the modern Windy City. Don it underneath your clothes (no one will notice you’re wearing a pillow-sized contraption under your suit), and “Instead of merely throwing up the hands when threatened by a hold up man the wearer can spray a stream of lead bullets in his face.”
I surrender . . . psyche!
Note: Most of these old advertisements were found on Modern Mechanix — a fascinating, often laugh-out-loud funny, but unfortunately now-defunct blog that collected this kind of delightful ephemera.
Last updated: November 15, 2017