Sy Sperling, the founder of Hair Club for Men who touted himself as "not only the president, but also a client" in commercials, died Wednesday in Boca Raton, Florida, at 78. Sperling had suffered a lengthy illness, according to the South Florida Reporter. As a Mental Floss article explained in 2018, Sperling was 26 and had been losing his hair for years when, depressed over his recent divorce, he first had the idea for his business—he had tried a toupee, a weave, a combover, and wasn't happy with the results. He ended up marrying again—a hairstylist—and together they came up with a nylon mesh fitted to the scalp, to which human hair strands could be woven, but which allowed any of the client's original hair to continue growing. The system solved one of Sperling's main complaints about toupees: It stayed in place during sex, exercise, and even showering.
Sperling eventually realized he needed to advertise—his customers, after all, weren't exactly eager to talk about their hair replacement to their friends. And thus the famous slogan was born. In the first commercial, which aired in 1982, customers gave testimonials; it didn't get a lot of attention. But producers shot a back-up featuring Sperling himself, and after it aired as a late-night infomercial, Hair Club for Men got 10,000 calls in a single month. Soon, Sperling was opening franchise locations and bringing in millions. In 2000, he sold the multi-billion dollar business (now called just "Hair Club" after more women started using the procedure), which to this day offers a similar procedure to Sperling's original, plus topical treatments, laser combs, and even hair transplantation surgery. (Read more obituary stories.)