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Get Lost In These Vintage Cologne Commercials

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Perfume commercials are pretty slick these days. There’s Sofia Coppola’s Miss Dior campaigns, and those Prada Candy confections featuring Léa Seydoux. Baz Luhrmann and Joe Wright both have a few Chanel spots under their belts (as does Brad Pitt). In the '90s, even David Lynch lent his neo-noir eye to the promotion of YSL’s Opium. Even at the other end of the spectrum—take the Axe Body Spray, which falls a tad short of “inspired”—it's easy to get sucked into the YouTube hole of aimless wandering with videos of people endeavoring to smell good. So for the sake of institutional memory (and maybe a little purposeful procrastination), let's walk down memory lane a little further to marvel at the wonder that is the vintage cologne commercial:

Hai Karate

Tagline: “Be Careful How You Use It”

I must give credit where credit is due and thank my well-groomed dad for telling me about this gem, which burnt itself into his fragile teenaged subconscious years ago. After watching, I understand why it’s so unforgettable. Hai Karate really does drive women right out their damn minds! While it’s hard to say whether the full-body combat going down in this swingin’ '60s apartment is foreplay or felony, there is one way to find out: Hai Karate has been rebooted and is available for purchase once again. So watch out (or, hi-ya?), ladies and gentlemen.

Canoe

Tagline: “Can you Canoe?”

In the land of Canoe, men have it so easy. Take our first example—all this sailor has to do is hoist a bunch of pennants and a willing young sea-woman scuttles her way over to his yacht, etc. And here, though we’re told it’s the cologne “for men who aren’t kids anymore,” this riviera rat’s ladylove is cutting his hair and feeding him. “Fascinating” indeed—it must smell really good.

English Leather

Tagline: “All My Men Wear English Leather”

English Leather appeals to gentlemen consumers by using spokeswomen at two very different stages of life. There’s the sultry pool shark in the one-piece. So free, so fierce. And the flanneled five year old. So…family oriented? Excellent work, English Leather—you win creepiest campaign by far.

Old Spice

Tagline: “The Mark of a Man”

Everything about this ad makes it my favorite: The über-dramatic Carmina Burana opera score, the gnarly waves spliced with lady waves, and the husky throated daily affirmations: “You’ll become yourself. You’ll have success.” Oh, Old Spice, if it ain’t broke…go back to it.

—Lauren Maas

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