An antimacasser is a small mat--usually crocheted or tatted but maybe embroidered on silk, linen, cotton or wool of woven cloth--which was used in Victorian and Edwardian times to protect the top back and sometimes arms of upholstered chairs and sofas from men's hair oil. Macassar oil was a common hair oil made from palm or coconut oil and usually scented with Ylang-ylang. The name is taken from the port of Makassar in Indonesia from which the product was imported.
The old lady's room was crowed with heavy mahogany furniture, deeply carved, upholstered with dusty, crimson plush with intricate crochet antimacassar mats draping the backs of the chairs, still emitting the faint, stale sent of the hair oil of by-gone generations of gentlemen.
An antimacassar is a small cloth placed over the backs or arms of chairs, or sofas. Historically, the Edwardian male penchant for oiling one's coiffure continued into Victorian times; necessitating the invention of washable decorative fabric blotters. They are still used in luxury rail lines and immaculate Japanese taxis.
The name is derived from the Indian unguent for the hair commonly used in the early 19th century, macassar oil— the poet Byron called it, "thine incomparable oil, Macassar."
They first came to have elaborate patterns, often in matching sets for the various items of parlour furniture; they were either made at home using a variety of techniques such as crochet or tatting, or purchased from drapers.
The original antimacassar was often made of white crochet-work, stiffened and uncomfortable, but in the third quarter of the 19th century it became simpler and was made of soft coloured stuffs, usually worked with a simple pattern in tinted wools or silk.
doily, especially as used to prevent men's brilliantine (macassar) from staining upholstered furniture
There were crocheted antimacassars on the headrests of the train seats