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Retro Fragrances from the Groovy Era

Culture | November 4, 2018

The '60s and '70s were some really wild and crazy years. Social norms and behaviors were changing and so was fashion. As popular as fashion always was and continues to be, the outfit just isn’t complete without your favorite cologne or perfume.

Many hundreds of years ago, perfume was used as a way to disguise body odor because people only bathed once or twice each year. Now we use it AFTER we shower!

Perfumes were a luxury many people enjoyed in the '50s and '60s but by the '70s, they had become an invisible part of every perfect outfit, no matter what the occasion. There were more choices for women then men but there was something for everyone! 

On the rare occasions, in this day and age, that I smell Old Spice, I immediately think of my grandfather. Pop never wore any other cologne, and he probably had a lifetime supply of Old Spice because all the grand-kids would give him a bottle for every occasion.  Old Spice made a cologne but the after shave was all a man needed!

Aqua Velva and Aqua Velva Ice Blue were popular with younger men.

My dad was an Aqua Velva man; Aqua Velva Ice Blue aftershave and cologne. It wasn’t hard in those days to pinpoint a man’s cologne as the selection was fairly small. In addition to Old Spice and Aqua Velva, there was Brut and English Leather. If a man wanted a change, he, or his wife, would go to the local drugstore, sample the four or five colognes and decide on another.  

Brut cologne was originally marketed as a luxury scent back in the day. Joe Namath was an iconic football star at the time and endorsed the product boosting sales.

By 1968, Faberge created a "budget" version of Brut called Brut 33. Joe Namath, when he wasn’t playing football or wearing pantyhose, starred in the Brut television ads. Old Spice and its buoy-shaped bottle were originally created in 1938. By 1969, magazine advertisements were reminding women that, “men who wear Old Spice, know what woman want.”  

Dana Cosmetics3rd August 1960: A display of scented soaps, perfume, bath salts, lipstick and designer cologne spray by Dana. (Photo by Chaloner Woods/Getty Images)

Women’s fragrances of the '60s were just as memorable. Estee Lauder, Nina Ricci, Shalimar, Tabu and the classic Channel No. 5 were a huge hit with women.

Coco Channel once famously remarked, “the woman who doesn’t wear fragrance has no future.” By and large, these fragrances were spicy and heavy and lingered in the air long after their wearer exited. And they were for woman only, girls did not wear perfume. Teenage girls may wear Eau de toilette or toilet water, a watered-down version of an adult scent. And they were excited to wear toilet water although, it doesn’t sound as great now as it did then!

Fragrance manufacturers were successful in marketing their products with taglines like, it “makes a girl feel pretty” and “even babies can be sexy.”

But like everything else in pop culture during the groovy era, the times were a-changin'. By the '70s, fragrances became lighter and were designed to appeal to younger consumers. There was Bonnie Belle Skin and Avon’s Sweet Honesty. Sandy Duncan told us that Skinny Dip, “makes a girl feel pretty” and Love’s Baby Soft perfume produced an ad featuring a young woman with a Dorothy Hamill haircut and a lollipop saying, “even babies can be sexy.”  

In 1973, Revlon introduced Charlie, named after the Company’s founder, Charles Revlon. Targeted at young working women, Charlie’s television and magazine ads featured models Shelly Hack and Naomi Sims. Thanks to Charlie, Sims became the first African American women featured in a cosmetic company’s ad campaign. Additionally, both Hack and Sims wore pants in the ads, another first. By 1976, Charlie was the world’s top-selling perfume.

Musky and Woodsy fragrances musk oil were very popular with the counterculture generation.

In the 1970s, we were also introduced to exotic fragrances like musk, sandalwood and patchouli. Coty Wild Musk Cologne Spray was a must for every teenage girl. And guys got in on the action too. Jovan introduced musk for men and in 1978 English Leather created Ginseng Cologne, billed “as the root of all evil.” And don’t forget Hai Karate! Hai Karate’s clever marketing campaign was a hit at the time as television ads featured men using karate skills to fend off women who became enamored by their cologne. In addition, every package of Hai Karate contained a couple of karate moves to “memorize before going out of the house.”

With a few exceptions, most of these scents are still around today. If you are anything like me, often I will get a blast from the past just by encountering a familiar scent. Scents have a groovy way of triggering the memory. The next time you are at your local department store or drug store, stop by the fragrance counter and be reminded of times gone by.  

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.