Fragrances from the past: Where are they now?

Men of a certain age will remember fragrances from the past, or legacy colognes and after-shaves they once knew. So we asked “Where are they now?”

Men of a certain age will remember fragrances from the past, or legacy colognes and after-shaves they once knew. So we asked "Where are they now?"

Fragrances from the past: Where are they now?

brut1 Fragrances from the past: Where are they now?A few days ago, I posted a reference to a cologne that — depending on your age — you probably know from days long ago. I hate to admit personally, but I recall seeing a few of these from my childhood or on my father’s dresser. Today we decided to ask — and answer  – the question: Where are they now?

Brut: Fairly or unfairly, I picked on Faberge’s Brut as it’s a scent that no self-respecting guy my age (give or take) would even consider. However, it’s still around and largely unchanged. You’ll find it at most drugstores in the shaving accessories aisle. If you’re lucky, you’ll find old stalwarts such as Pinaud’s Clubman and others in the same section as “after-shaves”.

Skin Bracer: Speaking of fragrances from the past, the phrase “Thanks, I needed that” became part of our collective vocabulary, courtesy of Mennen’s Skin Bracer after-shave.

Aqua Velva: While we’re on the topic of fragrances from the past, there was always “something about an Aqua Velva man” as outlined in this 1960′s TV commercial. And it’s still around if you’re seeking that standard clean-crisp scent and alcoholic sting.

Old Spice: Key among fragrances from the past that have become more difficult to find? The original Old Spice. With the branching into various other products, the one left behind seems to be the iconic ivory glass bottle. Finding it has been difficult in the age of Axe body sprays, but many drugstores (including a couple of national chains) do carry it, so you may have to do some searching as I did to find it as a present for my father-in-law. Here’s one of the original commercials from 1957.

Thankfully, Old Spice still exists mostly unchanged from its original formula, and surprisingly, it’s really not bad stuff. Granted, the concentration is less than 3% fragrance oils with the remainder as water and alcohol, but nonetheless, it’s still a pretty good cheap bet and isn’t off-putting for those who enjoy a traditional yet clean scent…even if the longevity is relatively short.

Here’s a short but fairly complete list of  fragrances from the past that I can recall some point in my early life, either because they were sitting around somewhere (bathroom sink basin, Dad’s dresser), from store displays, or memorable commercials.

Starting with British Sterling, still found today in most major drugstore chains.

Canoe - yes, apparently women in sexy swimsuits really respond to the raising of nautical flags. Available on-line or in retail outlets such as Sears (which seems to have many legacy fragrances).

English Leather – Apparently, this stuff drove women crazy. For me? It probably just drove them away. It’s still pretty ubiquitous, especially in gift set form around the holidays. Sears and major drug chains continue to sell it.

sun up Fragrances from the past: Where are they now?Sun Up - One of my memories and fragrances from the past that I actually cannot find anything current other than this picture. This was a mid-1960′s Gillette product, and I was given a bottle when I was perhaps 6 or 7. Let’s not talk about what happened to that bottle, but at that age, let’s simply say that kids can be a little overzealous in ‘how much’ they apply. Long since discontinued.

Hai Karate - Key among the fragrances from the past I recall the most, however, is another cologne that no longer exists: Hai Karate. To be honest, I can’t even recall the smell, but I definitely recall the very campy advertising used to sell it. Pure kitsch using — you guessed it — a man fending off women with Karate moves. These days, it’s become almost a quest for the Holy Grail to find a bottle, though some occasionally appear on eBay.

What have we missed or what do you recall from the past? Leave a comment and tell us!

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  • Bryan Ross

    No self-respecting guy would wear Brut? You’re aware of Brut Classic, right? I love your blog, but wonder why no self-respecting guy would wear Brut. It’s a cheap fougere, yes, and pretty simplistic, but it smells good. Kind of a white floral powder in the typical old school barbershop style. Not something to wear with a tux, but still . . .

  • Andrew Buck

    Bryan, I meant that as a tongue-in-cheek swipe at Brut, not meant to offend or be totally off-putting (sorry if it was taken as anything but a subtle sarcastic job). And I did smell it recently. True, not something I’d wear with a tux, and sure it’s ok for a $5 investment. Since fragrances are largely a very ‘subjective’ experience, it will forever be etched in my mind as something reminding me of a time faced with filling-station men’s room going back 40 years, give or take, when that was what men wore (and how service station restrooms often smelled). So smelling it on someone will always associate that visual for me. There are some guys who can pull that off, but it just doesn’t float my skin chemistry well at all.

    For my tastes, Bogart for Men is still around, it’s as great a fougere was it was in the late 70′s, and while a bit more pricey than Brut, it isn’t a budget breaker.

  • Bryan Ross

    No offense taken, thanks for explaining that, I wasn’t sure if it was a joke or not, or maybe I was just reading it wrong. It’s funny you mention the nostalgia and filling-station men’s rooms, because whenever I smell Brut, I think of that little scene in the movie North by Northwest, when Cary Grant gets off the train and goes into the men’s room to hide from the police, and there’s guys shaving around him as he attempts to make do with a tiny travel razor. It’s before Brut’s time, but the general feeling of that sort of oldschool barbershop scent is captured with scenes like that. Thanks again, enjoyed this article, btw.