Week of Hair: Babies Named After Edwards’ Harlene


From the 1880s until the 1930s, Edwards’ Harlene was sold by a London company via advertisements that made extravagant claims such as:

  • “Forces luxuriant hair, whiskers and moustachios to grow heavily within a few weeks without injury to the skin no matter what the age.”
  • “The world-renowned remedy for baldness, from whatever cause arising.”
  • “As a curer of weak or thin eyelashes, or restoring grey hair to its original colour, it never fails.”

Lillie Langtry, one of the first celebrities to endorse commercial products, appeared in ads for Harlene around the turn of the century.

Edwards’ Harlene was sold internationally, including in the United States. Harlene has also been used as a baby name in the United States. While it’s impossible to link one to the other, I’d bet at least some of the U.S. Harlenes were named with the product in mind.

What do you think of the name Harlene?

P.S. The name saw a spike in usage in 1937 and 1938. The influence may have been 1930s movie actress Harley Wood, who was often credited as Harlene.

5 thoughts on “Week of Hair: Babies Named After Edwards’ Harlene

  1. I don’t know. It shares a resemblance with harlot.

    Brilliantine at least sounds like you expect your kid to be an Einstein.

    Either way, this is a HILARIOUS series, Nancy!

  2. Harlean was the actress Jean Harlow’s real name. I looked it up and her mother’s maiden name really was Jean Harlow. Supposedly her parents dissected that and put it back together to make Harlean, lol.

    Jean Harlow was in movies from 1930 to 1937, when she died. The spelling Harlean has never ranked, but since Harlene made the top 1000 from 1936-1939, I wonder if there is a connection there.

    Of course, the 1930s was also the peak period for Arlene, so it may be one of those “different but not too different” names. Or, of course, the hair product is always a possibility!

  3. @The Mrs. – I’m very happy it’s amusing you! Certainly amuses me to write about it. :)

    @Diane – I think your Arlene theory is the best of the bunch, actually. The hair product may have helped a bit, but whatever influence it had would have been minor.

    I didn’t know that about Jean Harlow! Interesting. Influence from her would have hinged upon many people back in the ’30s knowing her birth name, though, and I don’t know if that was necessarily the case.

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