Visionary inventors not only have to come up with world-altering ideas, they also have to heave against the mighty weight of cultural inertia. Before refrigerators came around, most folks were fine with their iceboxes. Indoor toilets? Who needed 'em when we had perfectly usable outhouses? So please try to contain your sniggering until the end of each entry as we guide you through some of the most inspired (and yet inane) men's grooming-product concepts at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Method of Concealing Partial Baldness (1975)
Yes, it turns out you can file a patent for a way of doing things rather than an actual physical invention. Think of this technique (pictured above) as hirsute origami, in which you grow out the three sections of the hair you do have (back and sides) and then fold them in such an ingenious way that the offending pate is totally obscured. Only your intellectual-property attorney knows for sure! It's a combover with a copyright.
Mirrored Ear-Grooming Accessory Apparatus (1999)
You can use all the Q-Tips you want, but you'll never know how clean your ear canals really are because, sadly, human eyeballs don't leave their sockets. This tiny mirrored thingamajig clips onto the pinna (that is, the outer ear) so you can see inside your ear canal using the second reflection from a bathroom mirror (not included) to do a thorough job clearing out the earwax, straggly old-man ear hairs, etc. If you're really that into having clean ears, more power to you. But, boy, do I have the fringe Japanese video for you…
Face Protector Shield for Shampooing (1945)
Those who have graduated from Johnson & Johnson's No More Tears baby shampoo know how irritating it can be when lather gets in your eyes. This invention fits over your forehead, kind of like a card dealer's visor, so that flying flecks of foam and creeping soapy fluid don't hit your eyes and enter your ears as your hairstylist massages the stuff into your coiffure. Or, you could just try closing your eyes. And as for the part about getting soapy water in your ears, consider not going to the same gal who washes your dog.
Combination Toothbrush/Tongue Scraper/Ear Cleaner (1964)
Reasons one might need this: Because you…don't have enough space on your bathroom sink for both a toothbrush and a Q-Tip? … Because people like putting something in their mouths that was just in their ears? We're not entirely sure, but the idea here is a single doohickey with branches for brushing your teeth, scraping your tongue, and cleaning your ears—like a Swiss Army knife for most of the holes in your head. (Speaking of which, why didn't they cram a nose-hair trimmer in there, too?)
Dual-Blade Razor Head With Adjustable Spacer (2000)
If you'd always wanted your face to look like the nether regions of a mid-nineties porn star (i.e., Brazilian-style) but didn't have the manual dexterity to keep your shaving lines even, you were shit out of luck…until now. This contraption is much like your standard modern razor, but with an adjustable gap between the two sets of blades so that you can keep your pencil-thin stache neatly delineated in the middle of the blades. Like two razors in one! It's okay to laugh now—unless you're one of those guys who rocks such an inexplicably thin beard, in which case, please stop.
—Michael Y. Park is a writer living in New York City and a regular contributor to Details.com.