Wearing fragrance is nothing new. In fact, some historians date modern perfumery as far back as the late 1300s. But as time marched on, the scents we put on our skin changed dramatically. You may no longer be able to spray yourself with a medieval cologne, but you can still find great options from the early to mid-20th century that are still in production and on the shelves of your local department store. We picked one scent from each decade, starting with the 1950s, to trace how men’s tastes have evolved.
1950s: Chanel Pour Monsieur
Chanel’s first-ever men’s scent, created in 1955, has earned a vaunted place among perfumers as the so-called “reference chypre,” thanks to its skillful blend of citrus and wood notes. Then, as now, the actual guys who wear it praise it for its under-the-radar nature. Like the era that inspired it, it’s subtle and confident, suggesting that masculinity and discretion walk hand in hand.
1960s: Dior Eau Sauvage
The original ad for this 1966 fragrance featured a sketch of a man in nothing but a towel, cocking an eyebrow at the viewer. Eau Sauvage is just as fresh as that cartoon’s attitude: it’s lemony, with hints of rosemary and vetiver, an earthy grass scent. But instead of coming across as insouciant or overtly sensual, this fragrance’s underpinnings enable it work in a variety of settings, making it the classic it is today.
1970s: Polo Ralph Lauren Green
If prior designer fragrances relied on citrus and herbs for their crisp, refreshing scents, Polo represented a sharp turn away from that tradition. Its blend of leather, tobacco and patchouli make it a distinctly rich and unquestionably masculine alternative to most other colognes on the market — even today.
1980s: Armani Eau Pour Homme
After revolutionizing the way well-heeled men dressed in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, Giorgio Armani forever changed the way they smelled, too. In 1984, he introduced his first men’s fragrance, Eau Pour Homme. Its blend of citrus, spice and patchouli hasn’t changed since it was introduced. Perhaps that’s because it’s so closely linked with the era’s trappings of success.
1990s: Dolce & Gabbana Pour Homme
Dolce & Gabbana’s first men’s fragrance, released in 1995, spoke volumes about the way guys saw themselves in the era of irrational exuberance. Its packaging was minimal and clean, but its smell (a blend of neroli, bergamot, lavender, tobacco and cedar), was forthrightly sexy. This attempt to bottle the essence of an Italian lover produced an award-winning fragrance that men still wear today.
2000s: Hermès Terre d’Hermès
In 2006, Hermès released a fragance named for what it was supposed to convey. In this case, an earthy blend of orange, pepper and cedar — with just a hint of minerality — seems to suggest that men in the aughts had the desire to get back in touch with nature.
2010s: Creed Aventus
Inspired by the extraordinary life of Napoleon, Aventus has dominated the conversation about men’s fragrance since its release in 2010. In eight short years, this unexpectedly masculine blend of pineapple, jasmine, patchouli and vanilla has become the company’s best-selling fragrance — an achievement made even more impressive by the fact that Creed has reportedly made scents since the 1700s.
The safe road to finding a new fragrance leads back to those favored of men since passed, time-tested and gramps-approved. All of these vintage scents are still in production, proving that some things truly never go out of style. Read the Story