Taking a wrong turn in Singapore’s sprawling Mustafa Centre a few months back, I ended up in 1978. There, facing me from the shelves was a line-up of fragrances that I hadn’t seen in the same place for years: Denim, Old Spice, Tabac and Brut: the fab four of Seventies fragrances. Sure, the livery had changed on a few of them (though I don’t think the Tabac Brand Artwork team has been that busy in the last 40 years) but they were still easily recognizable. Cheap, too. So what does an Afterworder do when he finds himself in a shop with cheap stuff that other folk haven’t been interested in since the 70s? He buys them of course, and here are my reviews.
Denim: For me, the most disappointing of the four: very, very light scent, as if a bottle of Smirnoff had been left open in a flower shop for a couple of hours. This used to be for the man who didn’t have to try too hard. What happened?
Old Spice: Probably the brand that’s had the highest profile over the last 40 years and it had a bit of swagger (it was actually on another shelf by itself and I had to move the can there for the photograph). Reminded you of a well-preserved/botoxed lead singer being reunited with his former band mates. I liked it, but I didn’t hear Carmina Burana.
Brut: Like Denim, it’s changed a bit, with a lighter scent than Henry Cooper would remember. Perhaps it was trying to evoke the ocean, or perhaps it was just cost saving. Better than the Denim, though.
Tabac: Now this was an experience, a fragrance that seems to be entirely composed of long lasting base notes. You could put it on on Monday, and still be all Tabaccy on Friday, even if you have a shower on, say, Wednesday. Perhaps the most Proustian of the four, a couple of dabs of it and the world went a bit Kodachrome. Also, you can’t see it in the picture, but the bottle was exactly the same as the one that sat cold and shivering for years next to the Matey bottle in our bathroom. You can’t buy these memories with 180g reissued vinyl.
So how about you? Were you an acolyte of any of these? Or perhaps you were an Eighties go-getter with Insignia? Or a post-modern 90s lad-about-town with your Lynx?