Kangaroo Paste, the Australian hair gel

Viewed the morning of the 8th, S2 E9 (“Bounty Hunters!”, 2007) of the tv series Psych, with several references to a (fictional) Australian hair gel for men, Kangaroo Paste, which the central character of the series, Shawn Spencer, really likes. This bit of mischievous product placement led quite a few people to ask where they could get the stuff.

For the record: there is an Aussie brand of hair-care products for women, which offers (among other things) Aussie Instant Freeze Gel, Aussie Instant Freeze Sculpting Gel, Aussie Instant Freeze Sculpting Mousse, Aussie Mega Gel, and Aussie Headstrong Volume Spray Gel (I have no idea how these products are distinguished from one another); and there is a product called Kangaroo Paste, but it’s a Korean shoe polish (a Korean knockoff of Kiwi Shoe Polish).

To come: the tv show (with a digression on the actor Kevin Sorbo); hair gel; the Aussie brand; Kangaroo Paste shoe polish (with a digression on compounds like Kangaroo Paste shoe polish); Kiwi Shoe Polish; and product placement.

The show Psych. Fairly substantial discussion of the show in a 4/4/15 posting about Cybill Shepherd, and a bit more in a section of the 3/4/17 posting “Five tv hunks” about Sage Brocklebank (who plays the only non-neurotic regular character in the show).

The central character Shawn Spencer (played by James Roday) is a psychic detective in Santa Barbara CA, a jokey hyperactive adolescent in the body of a grown man, whose annoying, apparently eccentric behavior and cascades of verbal play (drenched in pop culture references) push the action forward. The “Bounty Hunters!” episode pits Shawn and his best buddy and business partner Gus (played by Dulé Hill) against a skeevy bounty hunter played by Kevin Sorbo.

Early in the story,

Shawn asks [a murder victim’s husband] if [he and Gus] are eligible for his bounty money, and while he’s at it, envies his ginger scented hair gel, Kangaroo Paste, which you can only get from Australia. (link)

The Kangaroo Paste theme returns later in the episode. Along the way, Shawn is also openly envious of the bounty hunter’s leather vest. (Shawn has adolescent enthusiasms.)

As for Kevin Sorbo (as the bounty hunter), whose greatest actorial fame is as the immensely amiable muscle-hunk Hercules of pop-mythological tv: see the discussion of him in my 2/29/16 posting “Four mythic hunks”.

Hair gel. From Wikipedia:

Hair gel is a hairstyling product that is used to harden hair into a particular hairstyle.

(#1) Brylcreem ad from ca. 1957

… In 1929, the British company Chemico Works invented Brylcreem, which became the market leader among hair styling products in both the U.K. and the U.S. during the following decades.

(#2) Dep Sport Gel

In the 1960s, modern hair gel was invented in the United States, by what would later be renamed the Dep Corporation. Marketed under the brand name Dep, modern hair gel was given this name by its inventor, Luis Montoya, in recognition of the substance that gave it its unique, non-greasy consistency: diethyl phthalate, commonly abbreviated as DEP.

(#3) Seriously gelled hair

Gels come in varying degrees of stiffness or hardness, technically called hold, with gels for men typically towards the high end of the scale and gels for women (intended primarily to provide body) typically towards the low end.

The Aussie brand. There’s no Kangaroo Paste hair gel for men from Australia, but there’s something close, Aussie brand hair care products for women:

(#4) Aussie ad with aussome/awesome word play

One of their many gelling products:

(#5) Kangaroo in the logo, no kangaroo in the name

Kangaroo Paste shoe polish. There is a Kangaroo Paste, but it’s shoe polish, not hair gel; and it comes from Korea, not Australia:


The noun paste has a general meaning:

a thick, soft, moist substance, usually produced by mixing dry ingredients with a liquid (from NOAD2)

— with specialized senses in particular contexts: paste as adhesive (library paste), culinary paste (“Make a thick paste of flour, butter, and broth,…”), potter’s paste (composed mostly of clay and water), shoe paste, and, yes, paste as hair gel.

Compounds like Kangaroo Paste. The N + N compounds Aussie (hair) gel and Kangaroo Paste (shoe) polish are proper names of the form

BrandName + TypeName

Some examples with the TypeName shampoo:

Pantene shampoo, Redken shampoo, Dove shampoo, Axe shampoo, Aussie shampoo, Suave shampoo, Alberto-Culver shampoo, Head & Shoulders shampoo

Similarly for other TypeNames, all of which are Ns: hair gelshoe polish, toilet paper, shirt, baking soda, butter, truck, …

Whatever their historical source, BrandNames act like Ns syntactically. For one thing, they can coordinate with one another. The Suave of Suave shampoo is originally an Adj; the Dove of Dove shampoo is originally a N; the Pantene of Pantene shampoo is historically back-formed from the chemical name panthenol and is now of unclear categorial status; the Redken of Redken shampoo is historically derived from a combination of the family names Redding and Kent — but they can all coordinate:

I couldn’t decide between the Suave, Dove, Pantene, and Redken shampoos.

In the shampoo aisle, I couldn’t decide between Suave, Dove, Pantene, and Redken.

And they can all function as grammatical subjects:

Neither Suave, Dove, Pantene, nor Redken is injurious to hair.

(in which case they all act like M(ass) Ns). The details are different for BrandNames in other Type domains — some are C(ount) Ns — but they all act like Ns.

The word Aussie, outside of brand names, is either of category (C) N or Adj, just like American (N in Most Aussies / Americans are gregarious, Adj in Kim is very Aussie / American). Modifying the N shampoo, outside of the brand name, it seems to be an Adj: I’m looking for a truly Aussie / American shampoo. But the brand name Aussie is, like Suave, Dove, Pantene, and Redken, a (M) N: I couldn’t decide between Suave and AussieAussie is not injurious to your hair.

Kiwi Shoe Polish. Kangaroo Paste shoe polish is pretty cleary a knockoff of Kiwi shoe polish: compare the tins in #6 with this one:


Despite the name, Kiwi is originally an Australian product. From Wikipedia:

Kiwi is the brand name of a shoe polish, first launched and sold in Australia in 1906 and as of 2005 sold in almost 180 countries. Previously owned by the Sara Lee Corporation since 1984, it was sold in 2011 to S. C. Johnson. It is the dominant shoe polish in some countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, where it has about two-thirds of the market.

The polish was developed in Australia by William Ramsay, who named it Kiwi after the flightless bird endemic to New Zealand, the home country of his wife, Annie Elizabeth Meek Ramsay. Its success in Australia expanded overseas when it was adopted by both the British and American armies in World War I.

Product placement. Back to the appearance of Kangaroo Paste in the tv show Psych. When it first turns up and Shawn Spencer enthuses about it, the bit looks like a particularly unsubtle form of product placement. From Wikipedia:

Product placement, also known as embedded marketing, is a marketing technique in which references to specific brands or products are incorporated into another work, such as a film or television program, with a specific intent to promote said product. While references to brands may be voluntarily incorporated into works of fiction in an effort to maintain a feeling of realism, product placement is the deliberate incorporation of a brand or product in a work in exchange for compensation. Product placements may range from unobtrusive appearances of a brand or product within an environment, to prominent integration and acknowledgement of the product within the work. For example, the producers of a film or television program may be paid to incorporate specific brands of automobiles or consumer electronics in a work, or works produced by vertically integrated conglomerates (such as Sony) may include placements of products from their other divisions as a form of corporate synergy.

In the 21st century, the use of product placement on television has grown, particularly to combat the wider use of digital video recorders that can skip traditional commercial breaks within television programmes, and to … engage with younger demographics. Digital editing technology has also been used to tailor product placement to specific demographics or markets, and in some cases, add placements after-the-fact to television programmes that may have not originally had embedded advertising before.

In the Psych case, the spoof product placement was so successful that several men (all American, I think) wrote to question sites to ask where they could get the stuff. My guess is that these men were somewhat conflicted about using fancy hair-care products — this usually being understood as a feminine domain — but that a styling gel with Australian credentials would feel sturdily masculine to them, given the macho working-class stereotypes associated with Australian men.


2 Responses to “Kangaroo Paste, the Australian hair gel”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Robert Coren on Facebook:

    Not to be confused with Kangaroo Meringue, as immortalized by Ogden Nash:

    Kangaroo, O kangaroo,
    Be thankful that you’re in a zoo,
    And not converted by a boomerang
    To zestful tangy kangaroo meringue.

  2. Dea Says:

    Yeah, we have the Aussie Moist products here in the US. Low grade crap that sells at big box stores.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: