February 04, 2008

Splashed All Over

In these more enlightened days of personal hygiene, it's only 14-year-old boys who drench themselves in after shave and deodorant prior to those worrisome mixed-sex church hall discos, the park bench ciderfest, or scout hut circle jerk. Once upon a time, however, in the dark desperate decades we now call the 60s and 70s, after shave was not just a way of concealing undesirable body odours among the great unwashed: It was the sine qua non of virility, of a sophisticated, suave, New Manhood comfortable with his own sexuality and unashamed of his deviant tendencies, which in those days meant that he shaved.

A quick perusal of the Internet will show you just how tied up it is by Nostalgia sites constructed by parents who should really be spending their time spying on their kids’ surfing habits. Type "Old Spice" into Googoo or Yahole and you'll be presented with a myriad of options, from "theseventiesweregreat.com" to "imstillakid.co.uk" to "carminaburranaisclass.ie" However, as Walter Benjamin so wisely pointed out, "There is no document of civilization . . . that is not simultaneously a document of barbarism," and for every site that longs for a return to the heady days of Bay Rum and English Leather, there ought to be another that documents the dark side of that tale. Sadly, there is not. To remedy this in only the smallest way, then, allow me to record for posterity some of those discontinued after shaves unceremoniously erased from history like so many Trotskyites from Soviet schoolbooks:

Titan, by Guerlain

One of the earliest attempts at creating a scent aimed at men, Titan received widespread ridicule on account of its slogan: "Smell like a Giant!" Withdrawn in 1963.

Gaylord, by Givenchy

Popular in the 1950s, when its name still conjured up an aura of aristocratic noblesse. Withdrawn in 1964, the year after the Profumo affair.

Bomb, by Dunhill

An early attempt to cash in on the machismo of the cold war, Bomb was withdrawn in 1965 after protests from the German government that it was being widely marketed in the British media as "Bomb Cologne."

White Spray, by Fabergé

Withdrawn after it was pointed out that the original slogan, "The Essence of Man," combined with the scent's name, could be interpreted as a none-too-subtle reference to semen. Relaunched as Brut 33 in 1968.

Probe, by Antonio Puig

An ill-conceived attempt to cash in on the Space Race. Killed off in the early 1970s when alien abduction mythology popularised the anal probe.

Infallible, by Lentheric

Withdrawn in 1973 after complaints from the Vatican.

Flash, by Yardley

Withdrawn in 1974 after Ray Stevens's song "The Streak" and the concomitant rise in cases of indecent exposure.

Stallion for Men, by Lagerfeld

Withdrawn in 1976 after acquiring a reputation for being used exclusively by homosexuals. A journalist at the Daily Mail observed that the majority of straight men would prefer to be a stallion for women.

White Knight, by Jovan

Discontinued in 1978 after developing a devoted following among Klansmen.

Lady-Killer, by Gucci

Withdrawn in 1980 during the Yorkshire Ripper murders.

Trigger, by Pierre Cardin

Drawing on the popular, rugged, western theme typified by Denim and laden with a deliberate sexual double-meaning, Trigger was discontinued in 1981 following the first episode of Only Fools and Horses.

Purple Mist, by Shulton

Withdrawn after protests from women's groups at the original slogan: "She won't know what hit her when the Purple Mist descends." Relaunched as Blue Stratos in 1981.

Swordsman, by Armani

A particularly doomed scent, Swordsman was originally called Cavalier, in the hope of evoking the dashing, romantic followers of King Charles I. Thanks to feminism, a cavalier attitude to relationships came to be regarded as politically incorrect, hence the change of name, selected on the basis that it would not entail radical re-branding. Subsequently, however, "swordsman" became a term of dubious merit associated with film actors endowed with a large organ or who otherwise developed a reputation for promiscuity. The scent was relaunched in 1979 as Thrust, which was in keeping with the sword-fighting theme, but now accompanied by a cruise missile motif that was deemed "excessively phallic" by the company's marketing department in 1980. It was completely withdrawn in 1982.

Cobra, by Dolce & Gabbana

Laughed into oblivion in 1988 thanks to its motto: "Bring Out the Snake."

Hannibal, by Kenzo

An attempt by the Japanese to cash in on the popularity of the Hannibal Lecter movies in their own inimitable way. Discontinued in 1994.

Ricardo, by Antonio Puig

Wags at rival perfumiers commented “For when ordinary dick just isn’t enough.” Discontinued in 1995.

Cyclone, by Adolfo Dominguez

Withdrawn in 1996 after acquiring a large neo-Nazi fan base who took its name to be a reference to the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

Fine Grooming, by Cussons

Withdrawn in 1997 following the Cleveland child sex abuse scandal, which introduced a new definition of the verb "to groom" into the public vocabulary.

ManDate, by Kenneth Cole

"For the man who knows himself." Where does one start? Withdrawn 2001.

Narcissist, by Chanel

Still going strong, which suggests, sadly, that not as much has changed as we might like to think.

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