Sunday, September 16, 2012

My View: The Old School Deserves Better


I need to vent about something.  There's an article on Basenotes called "Event: An Incomplete History Of Men's Fragrance : Perfume Lovers London", and it's about what looks like an upcoming exhibition in London about how men's fragrances have evolved over the years, with focus on stuff like Old Spice, Hai Karate, Brut, Jovan Musk and other old warriors like that.  Apparently visitors to the exhibition will be treated to samples of some of these old colognes and aftershaves.

I know I sound like a grouch criticizing an exhibit that draws attention to fragrances of the past.   But you know what bothers me?  It's the treatment of old school fragrances like they were dinosaur fossils, rather than real fragrances that you can still wear today.

Everyone knows, for example, that Old Spice has been around forever, that we wouldn't be here if our grandfathers hadn't worn it, and that it's been really, really, really, really influential.  Do we really need to hear it again?  It's the same thing with guys who write these wimpy reviews of Brut, for example, apologizing for liking it and writing nonsense like, "It's okay to wear Brut if your grandfather wore it, if you only wear it in honor of him, and you make sure you're not in public when you wear it."  What is this? 

Enough of this shit. 

Of course history is interesting and important, but this high-browed over-focus on history denigrates great fragrances like Old Spice.  It very well may be unintentional, but it implies that these scents are just old, tired has-beens that are no longer relevant, and that no one in their right mind should take seriously anymore.  It sends a message that says, "Let's all pay our respects to English Leather, but only because it was an iconic scent way back when, and it influenced a lot of fragrances we wear today".  Lord help anyone who would actually choose to wear it today on an every day basis!  Only old farts, guys who can't afford Chergui, or men who have bad taste wear it now!

Why do they think companies continue producing these fragrances after all these years?  So they can fill store shelves with historical artifacts?  No, stuff like Old Spice and Tabac Original are still in production because there are people in this world who still think they smell good and wear them for that reason only. 

I like reading about old school fragrances from guys who actually wear them, and wear them on a regular basis simply because they like the way they smell.  I don't wear Jade East so I can feel all cute and "retro" - I wear it because the drydown smells awesome.  I don't wear Brut to pretend I'm Joe Namath.  I wear it because it makes me feel clean, well groomed, and ready to kick ass at the start of my day.  I'd much rather read an Old Spice review written by a 20 year-old college student who wears it all the time, than reading Chandler Burr's opinion of it.

Proctor & Gamble has the right idea with Old Spice.  You've probably all seen those recent Old Spice commercials with the suave guy with the towel around his waist (see picture below).  I think they're pretty cool.  Those are perfect examples of how the great old school frags should be marketed - in a relevant way that tells its audience that not only should you not be ashamed to wear an old classic cologne such as Old Spice, but that you can still be a cool guy wearing it.  There's no reason guys under age 40 should feel awkward wearing Old Spice or, to give another example, Jovan Musk For Men.

Today's Old Spice marketing is great because it just reinforces what is true about all great classic fragrances: that a true classic always smells good and never goes out of style.  Old school fragrances deserve to be treated that way - like scents that are meant to be worn, not gawked at like a stuffed dodo bird in a museum.

14 comments:

  1. Have you seen the new Brut tv ads? They crack me up.

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    1. I haven't seen them on TV, but I saw the new Brutworld online video, and I didn't like it. I don't like that goofy looking guy with the baseball cap - he just reinforces that whole idea that Brut is meant for rednecks and shitheads.

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    2. Hey I resemble that remark LOL. The ad I am talking about has a couple dressed nice to go to some classy place to eat or a dinner party or something like that. The slogan is "Let Your Man Out".

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  2. Chergui is one of the biggest jokes in the history of fragrances IMO. Terre d'Hermes? Gag

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    1. Yeah, and Lutens is getting the last laugh.

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  3. Great piece shamu! Wholeheartedly agree - at 39 I'm lucky to have grown up smelling these great classics and a small part of their appeal is nostalgia but I genuinely love the smell and feel of brut, tabac, old spice, english leather et al. They just smell GREAT! Fashions come and go but some things stick around because they work and they transcend time, fashion and fads.

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    1. I'll admit that I feel some nostalgia with English Leather because my Dad wore it when I was a kid. But the current Dana English Leather smells a lot different than what he wore (MEM's version), so I really enjoy wearing it on its own merits.

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  4. I think people tend to forget that Chanel No.5 used to be a drugstore fragrance, way back in the olden golden days. I've read accounts online of people seeing it sitting right next to the Old Spice . . . the great divide between fancy/hi-end/contemporary and oldschool masculine frags really doesn't exist at all, yet continues to be perpetuated as one of the most heinous myths, many of which are spurred on by greedy corporate nonsense and price-gouging. In the end guys who know better spend much less on things that smell a hundred times more satisfying than the expensive stuff at Blue Mercury. Puzzling to say the least.

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    1. Hell, in France I've found Creeds in drugstores - the drugstore at Orly airport in Paris had them when I was there ten years ago, and at dirt cheap prices (e.g., $70 US for a 2.5 oz. of Millesime Imperial). Even in Canada, in Montreal, you can buy Eau Sauvage, Chanel Egoiste and Chanel Pour Monsieur at just about any drugstore, right next to the bottles of cheapies like Tonio Lamborghini frags. It's awesome.

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  5. Finally someone is giving these great frags some well deserved love!

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  6. Finally someone is giving these great old school fragrances some well deserved love...

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    1. Thank you. I have read reviews of these old dogs out on the blogs, but there aren't any I know of that really focus on them. When I started this blog, I wasn't specifically intending to do that, but I usually write about scents I like, so it turns out that half the frags I've reviewed are old reliables.

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  7. Like you, I wear these because I like them, not for their camp value or ironic hipster cachet. I don't giggle as I put them on. I admit that much of the old American midcentury culture appeals to me, in part because I am old enough (43) to remember the vestiges of that culture and to have a father who came of age during those years. My first two cars were a 1954 Ford and 1958 Pontiac so the old school has always been a part of my life - not for any ironic posing but because I appreciate great design and classic masculine accoutrements. Bravo for your championing of both new and old masculine fragrances.

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  8. "I don't giggle as I put them on" LOL!!!!!!!!

    I'm your age, so I know what you mean. Some of the things I wear, like English Leather and Old Spice, I got to know because I remember my Dad and my grandfather wearing them (respectively), so they're scents of my youth. I liked the way they smelled back then, and I still like them. Brut was also a smell of my youth, when Joe Namath promoted it, but I didn't like it much when I was a kid; I thought it was too strong. I've learned to love it as a guy in my 40s.

    As for new fragrances, I need to get my hands on some samples of newer releases. I know I often dismiss a lot of modern scents due to their being so ubiquitous, but they're still worth reviewing. There aren't many blogs I know of that talk about modern designer fragrances. It's all niche blogs.

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