There is a small trend moving it’s way through the Kingdom of Man (or otherwise known as Mandom) and it revolves around the old school colognes. Primarily those that your father and grandfather wore. As one marketing slogan goes, “If your grandfather hadn’t worn it, you wouldn’t be here.” Tis true, as one of my grandfathers wore one of these everyday. You find them in your local drugstores (and national chains as well) and sometimes in your local grocer. Even though they have been around for decades, they are a good option for your everyday wear especially when you take their cost into account. Most usually go for around $8 to $12 with some below and some slightly above. I wear some of these often and the younger ladies of the office often comment on how good it smells. The more mature ladies look at me with a tilted head and an expression like they should know but can’t quite figure it out.
I know it seems odd, in this day and age, with all the new fragrances out and well, really nice ones at that, which I will address in another blog post soon, but there’s just something about the old ones that are alluring and dare I say, really nice. And for the price, really, c’mon, you cannot beat them. Besides, there also seems to be a small cult following of these older aftershaves and colognes of people who just like to collect them in all their varying bottles and versions.
So here I am. Admitting that I wear some of these for everyday use and why not? For work or school, these are perfectly acceptable and you’re not wasting your nice $80 a bottle cologne. You wear that on special occasions for special people. And besides, you can’t beat them for the price, especially in this economy! So let’s review these gems of old and see what we can find out here and why men are starting to come back to or in some cases discover these colognes for the first time. I’ll start with the ‘big three’ from my earliest days then move on to later ones that may or may not ring a bell for you but in my opinion, those that are available, are still a viable option for todays man. I’ll give a little splash of history and background both public and private as I dare and I’ll throw in some old commercials and print ads to boot. By the way, for those that need a refresher on the differences between an aftershave and a cologne, you can read my earlier post here.
Aqua Velva got it’s start as an alcohol based mouthwash for men in 1929 by the Williams company. I would not recommend trying the current version as a mouthwash though. Nor would I recommend using Scope or Listerine as an alternative to aftershave. It is still available (as an aftershave and cologne) at your local drugstore or even local grocer for around $5. My youngest son has taken to this aftershave and cologne as he is now beginning to shave. WARNING: If you have the pain tolerance of a three year old girl, then brace yourself for this one when you put it on after you have shaved. If you can stand the stinging for a short while, it really does leave you feeling fresh and clean. It’s not a strong scent but it is noticeable and for me at least, tends to fade throughout the day and is not necessarily for an evening out with your lady. Regardless what the print ad below suggests in the photo. And check out the price at the end of the ad.
Check this out. Pete Rose singing! I really dig the plausible scenario that a fan would shout out to the athlete asking him the all important question, “What’s a man really want form an aftershave?” Vic Tayback (the fan) is more widely known for paying Mel, the old, grumpy, dirty shirt wearing owner and chef of Mel’s Diner in the late 70’s sitcom, Alice. Also, Vic and the peanut vendor seem to really get into the song.
An interesting offer (at least to me) is this gem. Aqua Velva Frost Lime. Gonna have to scour the Bay for a bottle of this.
I’m wearing this one today. It was launched in 1964 by a company called Faberge. In 1968 a budget version was released called Brut 33. It contained 33% of the fragrance found in the original cologne. Through numerous changes of the guards, in 1989 the Chesebrough-Ponds division of Unilever dropped the ‘33’ nomenclature from it’s range of products (colognes, aftershaves, deodorants) and rebranded it to just ‘Brut’. So the Brut bottle you see on the shelf is actually the old Brut 33 inside. If you want the original Faberge ‘Brut’ (full strength) then you need to look for “Brut Classic by Faberge”. This bottle below with the silver ‘medallion’ on it. Brut has hints of spicy woods mingled with citrus top notes and is recommended for evening wear. Although, I do wear this one throughout the day as I don’t view it as an ‘evening’ cologne per se. I mean I could see it as a cologne you would wear when you go out with the buds for a drink or a sporting event but certainly not when you are with your lady. So, take the ‘recommendation with a grain of salt.
Joe Namath….how could you go wrong in 1973 when you had this guy pluggin’ your stuff to “go all the way man.”
Ok, so here’s a short (16 second) not so vintage commercial that I thought was funny.
This is the one my granddad wore. I can still remember seeing the bottle in the bathroom and on his dresser and smelling it on him as we sat in the truck driving to church Sunday mornings when I would visit. Old Spice actually started out in 1937 as a woman’s product (who knew?). The men’s product didn’t come out until a year later in 1938. It was founded by William Lightfoot Schultz in 1934 under the Shulton Company. It is full bodied and quite exotic. It has top notes of orange, sage, and lemon that blends into carnation, geranium, cinnamon, jasmine and heliotrope. Following that up is the vanilla, cedar wood, frankincense, Tonka and musk. Again, quite exotic. It was marketed in white glass bottles with gray stoppers and had a nautical theme of sailing ships on the side. An interesting note is that the original ships were the Grand Turk and the Friendship. Other ships used were the John Wesley, Salem, Birmingham, Maria, Teresa, Propontis, Recovery, Sooloo, Star of the West, Constitution, Java, United States and Hamilton. 1990 was the year Proctor & Gamble bought the company and of course made some changes. The sailing ships are now replaced with a yachting logo and in early 2008 the original Old Spice scent was repackaged as “Classic” and the glass is now plastic and the gray stoppers are now red.
Old Spice has three lines and since we are only talking about the original scent, you need to know which line carries it. It’s the “Classic” line. Kind of makes scents really (pun intended). My oldest son likes the Red Zone line of products. New generation gets new scents I guess.
Original with the Grand Turk ship New packaging…bleh.
They evidently felt a need to offer some lime scented products as well. Introduced in 1966 and sold until the early 1990’s. The name changed to “Fresh Lime” in 1977.
“Things happen…” Like the bottle cap exploding? They also sold other variations like Old Spice Burly and Old Spice Musk and Old Spice Herbal. The burley I assume would have more of the tobacco smell as the only burley I know of is a type of tobacco plant. Would love to get my hands a bottle of this stuff. The Musk and the Herbal? Haven’t got a clue and not that interested really.
Ok, so those are the big three. Still readily available except for some of the variations, although you might find them on the Bay or CList. But like I said in the beginning, there seems to be a resurgence in these older aftershaves and colognes in the land of Mandom. I don’t have any empirical data to support that, just observations across the web I have taken note of and conversations I have had with other men and store clerks. I seriously encourage you to try one if not all of these out. There really is no excuse not to. At the current prices….how can you go wrong? Besides, we wear vintage tees, jeans, belts, hats and jackets. Why not colognes as well?
So those were the most widely used colognes in the day but there was another level of colognes that were popular as well but just didn’t dominate the market like those above. Let’s take a look at some of these.
This one, some would argue should be up there with the big three making it the big four and in some cases, that is true. My dad wore this one for a long time and it is still available, easy to spot with its famous wooden cap and always a pleasure to wear….
Got it’s start in 1949 by Javier Serra of Taboo, Ambush, and Canoe fragrance fame. It is a mix of lemon, orange, honey, vanilla, leather and bergamot fragrances giving it a very masculine sent that lasts all freakin’ day. This is a classic scent that a lot of my early year buddies wore as well. Take note of the last line in the ad. You can still get it for under that price.
I remember this commercial (below) simply cause it had a young girl in it and her voice was oh so disturbing to me for some reason….it still is. This commercial is also (IMO) quite the departure from the regular cologne ads that promote sex appeal and really, to be honest, it’s kind of weird. I mean I get what they are saying but still…..
Apparently, lime scented cologne was the ‘in’ thing back in the day as English Leather did as well and in the same year as Old Spice, 1966. Personally I have never tried any of these lime versions so I have no idea what they smell like (this one has grapefruit in it but no lime as far as my research has lead). Would love to see what they (Aqua Velva Frost Lime, Old Spice (Fresh) Lime and English Leather Lime) are like. In fact, I was high bidder for a bottle of this stuff but soon lost as the bottle (with wooden box) went for $45!! Time to hit up the local Goodwill stores.
“By Mennen”, sung in three notes at the end of every commercial is the famous slogan for this brand. The company name, “Mennen” is not however a play on their demographic, men but rather the actual last name of Gerhard Heinrich Mennen who came up with his first product in 1878, a talcum-based powder and obviously, the founder of The Mennon Company. Skin Bracer is a clean scent that is pretty light. I have a bottle of this stuff and it’s ‘okay’. Tends to end up smelling rather ‘soapy’ on me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very clean smell so it’s not bad at all, just not ‘manly’?Certainly not a “He-man aroma” as the ad suggests below, IMHO. If all you are looking for in an aftershave is a clean, light scent then this is the aftershave for you.
This was a very popular commercial starring Jack Palance. Most people now days would probably know him best as Curly Washburn in the film, City Slickers that starred Billy Crystal. He is also known for doing something rather unique at the Oscars one year.
Jovan Sex Appeal
C’mon, say it out loud. “Jovan”. It’s got that cheesy 1970’s “I’m sexy and I know it” sound to it. Can you see “Jovan” on the hood of his 1978 Buick Regal, white pants, open shirt with silver and gold chains around his neck?…. shutter at the image. Believe it or not, it’s still available. “This provocative, stimulating blend of rare spices and herbs was created by men for the sole purpose of attracting women.” Hmmm….for what other purpose does a man wear cologne?
Sex Appeal is a mix of patchouli and sandalwood among others ingredients that was introduced in 1976 and is a classic oriental scent. It is more of an evening cologne and a bit much for the office I would think. The ad campaign for this cologne is a bit weird to me. One would think that with a name like “Sex Appeal” the campaign would center around the relationship between a man and a woman and try to define ‘sex appeal’ or something like that. At least in my brain it would. So it’s a bit unexpected I guess to see a Herculean/Conan type character that has a benevolent, Jorel (Superman’s dad) type father figure giving him the “power”.
Animated cologne commercial…..interesting approach.
My dad wore this one for a short period of time. This one was introduced in 1973 and has citrus, lavender and spices that produces a very strong sent at first but then mellows out to a smooth clean smell. It is a great daily office aftershave/cologne and well worth the price of $15. “It’s what attracts. The cologne works with your body’s natural chemistry to make a sexy scent. A blend of exotic spices and woods meets with the seductive power of musk. The result is a masculine, powerful persuasive fragrance.”
This seems more in line with Sex Appeal ad campaign than the Musk. Maybe there was a mix up in the advertising department and these got switched? Who knows.
Oh wow, Lee Horsley or should I say Matt Houston! It was a TV show back in the early 80s (1982-1985 on ABC). Matt Houston was a millionaire private investigator that always got the bad guy…..it was a poor competitor of Magnum P.I. (1980-1988) which starred Tom Selleck on CBS. Other than that, nothing more to add here about the cologne or the campaign…..
okay, so I lied. In 1981, Jovan paid one million dollars to put it’s name on Rolling Stones tickets during their Rolling Stones’ American Tour 1981 that promoted their Tattoo You album. Now there’s some useless bits of information that will never earn you a dollar. In fact, nothing in this blog will ever earn you a dollar but thanks for reading anyway!
Ah yes, launched in 1972 this cologne is classified as a refreshing, subtle oriental fragrance. I remember having this on my dresser or did I steal it from one of my brothers? Hmmmm. “It is an elegant cologne, fresh and tonic with notes of bergamot (BTW, bergamot is a type of orange grown mostly in Italy), lavender, orange (the real kind I guess?), sandalwood, oak and geranium moss, oil of opoponax and Russian leather.“ It is suited more for daytime wear than evening. I liked this one. Becky in fourth grade liked it too. Only thing I remember was going over to her house one Saturday afternoon. She cleared the back porch so we could dance. Only thing was, I didn’t know how to dance so I just sat there like the 12 year old idiot that I was and watched her dance then went home.
And last but not least…..
This post wouldn’t be complete without Hai Karate. I will state emphatically, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO WEAR THIS ONE…until you have memorized the self defense instructions (against the inevitable onslaught of women) that came with each bottle. This was introduced in 1967 as a budget cologne and strangely enough, held it’s own against the likes of Old Spice, Brut, and Aqua Velva before coming to an end in the 1980’s. It was most known for the marketing campaign than the cologne itself really. After seeing the video, you’ll know why.
They too offered a lime version….wonder if this one had grapefruit in it too.
There are of course others I’m sure like, Polo, Drakkar Noir, Jacomo, Arimis, Chaz, Sante Fe, Paco Robanne, Azzarro just to name a few but I didn’t want to include those in this post. I will however blog about those in another post soon. Such weird memories of that time in my life, Jr, High school and high school…..bleh.
So there you have it. The old become new again….sort of. I encourage you to go visit your local drugstore or corner store. Take a stroll down the perfume and cologne isle in your grocery store and take a look-see. Don’t take yourself so seriously, loosen up and have fun, be brave, grab one and try it out. If anything it is a great conversation starter.