Perfume Directory

Old Spice (1937)
by Procter & Gamble (originally by Shulton)

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Old Spice information

Year of Launch1937
GenderMasculine
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 446 votes)

People and companies

HouseProcter & Gamble
Originally byShulton
PerfumerAlbert Hauck

About Old Spice

One of the classic men's fragrances. Introduced by Shulton in the thirties.
Many collect Old Spice memorabilia, such as shaving bowls and bottles.
The Old Spice brand is now owned by Procter & Gamble.

Reviews of Old Spice

The original bracing after shave that started and defined my journey into the world of scents.

My dad had a bottle of this in his medicine cabinet which he used faithfully and showed me what a good-smelling man smelled like. When I was of shaving age, I tried to use a couple dabs from his bottle; no one told me about the alcohol burn that I had to first endure wearing this!!

It was my bona fide rite of passage into men's cologne.

My folks then gave me a bottle of Old Spice Fresh Lime one Christmas in the mid-1980's, which continued the post-shave Old Spice utilization AND opened new vistas of fragrant experiences that continue to influence how I judge citrus-musk scents to this very day.

So count me among the many men who credit Old Spice for leading me to after shaves and colognes of all sorts for many decades now. Hats off to you. :-)
24th August, 2018
Old Spice is simply a juggernaut in the realm of men's fragrance, and for many generations of American men specifically, it was the ONLY men's fragrance there is to use. Most learned perfume collectors know the truth that would probably horrify a good cross-section of these men, and it is the not-so-curated secret that Old Spice was originally marketed as Early American Old Spice for Women (1937), with the Early American Old Spice for Men (1938) appearing a year later in the famous "buoy bottle" adorned with sailboats, but eventually being switched out for just "Old Spice", which was the original feminine formula bottled the same way as the initial men's variant. The best part about this whole thing is it just reaffirms that fragrance has no gender and marketing does the real work in convincing us what smells "masculine" or "feminine" from a cultural standpoint. Early American Old Spice was composed by William Lightfoot Schultz himself, based on inspiration from his mother's potpourri. Albert Hauck is actually responsible for retooling the scent into it's initial masculine flanker, which was just a more bottom-heavy variant with less aldehydes and citrus, but men could barely tell the difference and often just grabbed the feminine version by accident, which was more common anyway. This ubiquity among both sexes of the feminine version, coupled with the gradual adoption of the scent by more men than women, and sales figures indicating which version these men were actually buying, created the catalyst for the infamous decision to kill the "Early American" nomenclature and just sell the female-marketed formula to men. The men's scent was already abbreviated as "Old Spice" for it's stint as part of military care packages (alongside Hershey bars and packs of Lucky Strike cigarettes) given to troops during World War II. When the soldiers came back home, the buoy bottles now filled with the lady's perfume in cologne strength awaited them at the local drug store of their home towns, devoid of the "Early American" prefix, and they couldn't tell the difference. Having the stuff sort of shoved down their throat as the only way to smell good in a field of battle with no amenities probably helped men of the Greatest Generation actually come around to liking fragrance when they returned stateside, which probably helped a few bottles of English Leather (1949) or Brut (1962) sneak into their medicine chests when those competitors came out later on.

The brutal truth is most guys who grew comfortable with Old Spice never grew beyond it, and a blue-collar toiletries empire was created from that complacency. Additionally, most Old Spice created after the discontinuation of the "Early American Old Spice" name, along with Early American Old Spice for Women itself, fits the description of what people think Old Spice smells like, with decreases in quality when we move farther into the future as older ingredients were replaced with modern alternatives. Modern juice maintains the personality of the older stuff, but is a pallid and washed-out impression made to pinch every penny, and doesn't even come in a glass bottle anymore. Since the variation is so great from era to era (far more than most other long-lived scents with lots of reformulation), I'll make it clear what I'm describing is middle-era Shulton, which is stuff from the 1950's until 1990, before Proctor & Gamble took over to morph the brand into a men's grooming division. Anything from roughly the 50's to the end of the 80's made by Shulton in a white glass bottle will be as I describe it here. Old Spice opens with orange, lemon, nutmeg, clove, star anise, clary sage, and aldehydes, forming that classic barbershop oriental accord every American man knows. Cinnamon, carnation, geranium, jasmine, heliotrope, and pimento berry form the middle. At this stage, Old Spice has much in common with feminine orientals made by Jean Carles, such as Shocking by Shiaparelli (1937), Tabu by Dana (1932), and Indiscret by Lucien Lelong (1936). The deciding factor setting Old Spice apart from these peers is what it does with it's spices, and that gained it favor with men. The orchestration of it's characteristic baroque base also helped reassure men of their masculinity in the dry down. Vanilla, nitromusks, cedar, frankincense, styrax, coumarin, oakmoss and amber all sent Old Spice into woody animalic overdrive once they show up. The original "Early American Old Spice for Men" version by Albert Hauck was a little darker and drier than the feminine formula, but as a slight alteration proved irrelevant as mentioned above, since this William Lightfoot Schultz-penned formula became the only one used in time. Classic prime Old Spice doesn't smell quite like anything else, and despite being an oriental, has an odd "coolness" to it's opening and transition to the middle due to it's use of sage, geranium, and jasmine, which greatly contrast the warmth of the orange, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and vanilla in the mix. Old Spice doesn't have a true "cool" or "fresh" note per se, but the counter-balancing plays tricks on the nose. Without Old Spice, things like Pierre Cardin Pour Monsieur (1972) or Obsession for Men by Calvin Klein (1986) would have never gained traction.

Old Spice is still an oriental, and still therefore quite warm, so it can be very cloying in heat regardless of it's iconic smell, which makes me wonder how guys made it their one and only signature scent during blazing summer weather. However, the biggest problem with Old Spice isn't it's lack of versatility, but it's ubiquity in the US. For all intents and purposes, Old Spice was the successor to bay rum, which is also quite heady with it's bay leaf and clove interplay, and was a favorite at the turn of the 20th century when it caught on like wildfire in the US. Old Spice was unintentionally the next step in taste evolution for men because of it's similarity to bay rum, even if minty "clean" products like Skin Bracer (1932) also coexisted alongside it. Old Spice's rich mulled orange aroma and musky woods base just hit the spot better than competing fougères with Americans already familiar with bay rum, and it likely became the de-facto scent even for US guys not deployed in WWII, then passed down from father to son. It's pretty hard to wear Old Spice stateside in the 21st century, even if using the more-synthetic newer juice, because that thick semi-virile and assertive aroma, while pleasing in it's own right, is just so closely associated with everyone's father or grandfather now that many walking past will be taken back to a previous point in their life which not everyone wants to revisit. This is part of the problem Old Spice has to somehow overcome: the monster that is it's own legacy as a former monopoly on the smell of the average American man. Obviously Old Spice seldom has such problems in overseas markets, and it once dealt with this issue by having a dozen flankers that Shulton doled out in the late 60's through 80's, until Proctor & Gamble came knocking. P&G's solution to battling this beast was to pimp the name of Old Spice itself into a line of unrelated young men's body sprays, grooming, and bath products, all with cheekily-themed names like "Wolfthorne" or "Swagger" and hideous commercials to match, which succeeded in making Old Spice (the brand) seem cool again but destroyed whatever dignity remained of the original scent's legacy. After all is said and done, the Old Spice most people know is still just a period-correct women's oriental perfume that appeals to guys; once you wrap your head around that concept, then everything else just falls by the wayside, and you either like the stuff for what it is, or you don't. Obviously a thumbs up from me, but don't let that sway you from reaching your own conclusions.
07th August, 2018 (last edited: 16th August, 2018)
Easily among the all-time best bargains in fragrance. It’s amazingly well-blended. Even modern formulations retain a high degree of sophistication and style. Don’t be put off by its supposed “grandpa” or “too common” reputation. Just splash a little on for the sheer enjoyment. Don’t be surprised if women lean in a little closer to catch a whiff. Old Spice is widely regarded as a “daddy” fragrance. There are times when being perceived as daddy isn’t a bad thing at all. A soft vanilla/carnation scent, Old Spice would smell great on beautiful, confident women as well. It’s maybe the male-marketed equivalent of Chanel No. 5 in terms of worldwide fame and instant recognition. Old Spice, a well-worn pair of jeans, a flannel shirt. . . straight from iconic style heaven.
27th February, 2018
The modern juice is still a true performer with excellent value. A fantastic blend of scents with a very appropriate moniker, as well. This could easily be the king of all barbershop scents except for the frugality of the average barber. Its cheap but was never cheap enough to meet their requirements. Instead OS made its way big time as an over the counter frag. I would consider it to be a prized gem if it were not so darn common. So, I still must have it about, it was dad's scent on those rare days that he wore one. I truly enjoy this one off and on in the privacy of our home.
I wish I could find something very similar yet different enough to wear out and about.
09th February, 2018
Rugged, manly and
Disturbingly feminine
To this post-niche nose.

Life barely hiding
That Fashion subverts itself
By very Nature

Proving that Fashion's
Time and gender both cannot
Be precisely known

Theorized somewhat
Originally by those
Loud boys called Blue Cheer

Whose STATEMENT ABOUT
NOW AND THE NOWNESS OF CHANGE
Was apparently

Not lost on Coco
In her prior researches
On Time's wavy locks

Lovingly set free
When she trimmed her own one day
And Blue Cheer didn't.
21st December, 2017
Despite its low price and ubiquity, I think it's still one of the best fragrances ever constructed. It's top notes, which remain for only a few minutes, are citrus and cinnamon (the cinnamon lasting longer than the citrus). Its heart a warm rose, and its base a creamy amber. The dry down is powdery. A truly wonderful scent that has earned its place as a classic. Unfortunately, it isn't something I would feel comfortable wearing out of the house due to it's perceived cheapness and lowliness. A more refined example of this spicy, oriental would be Guerlain's Habit Rouge, which is more leathery and waxy, but it's a much more sophisticated example of this class of scents.
05th October, 2017

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