In need of new spice

Isaiah Mustafa, the new face of Old Spice.
Isaiah Mustafa, the new face of Old Spice. 

Once upon a time there was Brut and there was Old Spice and that was that.

Because my Dad said he didn't want to smell like a lady, he used Old Spice. Every year he'd get some stick deodorant for Christmas, or an aftershave pack with an Old Spice shaving bowl, and some socks.

And it was he that taught me how to shave - shaving soap, bristly brush, single-blade razor, up and down not - ow - side to side. He also advised me on how to get my hair cut - at the barber's, short back and sides, side parting and all. Gave me some of his leftover after-shave and deodorant. And that was about it.

Gentlemen, the experts tell us, are not like ladies. One way we differ is with our grooming habits. While women will chop and change, men stick with familiar habits - especially ones they learnt at a young age.

Decades later and things have changed for me, if only slightly. Shaving I still do with a (Tweezerman) badger hair brush, some soap and a razor, albeit a triple-bladed one, not a "safety" razor.

Yet the piece of classical music from my youth that still resonates the most for me is Carmina Burana. And the reason isn't that it is a top piece of music but because it was once the music of Old Spice after shave.

In the olden days, Old Spice adverts weren't horsing around, they were riding a wave. That chanting, swirling chorale (it also popped up in The Exorcist) fitted the exotic bill to perfection.

In his 'ABC of Men's Fashion' (from 1964) British tailor Hardy Amies says: "I do not think there exists a woman who does not like a man to smell nice; by nice she means a smell which is as far removed as possible from the kind of scent she uses herself."

The other day I saw that Carmina Burana was being performed in the city and I couldn't but think of the Old Spice smell. It was like being transported back in time. The decades roll by but the olfactory memory lingers.

Another thing Amies wrote was: "as with many men past the first flush of youth, my skin is inclined to get dry". Mine too. I use a cleanser (currently L'Oreal's Hydra Energetic) and Guinot's Longue vie Homme moisturiser (a gift) after shaving.

And I still like a stick deodorant - the greener, and most Old Spicy in appearance the better. My tastes here have gone via Lynx deo (yeuch) to today's current top pick Unforgiveable by, of all people, Sean John (aka P. Diddy).

The face and other areas are one thing but those experts also tell us that a man's major grooming concern is his hair. We don't wear makeup so there's not much more we can do. It is, they say, what we spend most of our "beauty dollar" on.

We're a lot more keen to shell out on hair care than women and much more easily swayed by informed advice.

Men "won't hesitate to invest in whatever product the stylist recommends," says Natalie Perkov of L'Oreal. "They take your word for it and if they like it, they stay with it forever."

For my part I prefer the salon treatment to the short back and slap of my youth, even if I can hear my now-late father telling me that he'd "never be seen dead in a place like this". I like the time taken and the cuts are better.

But with shampoo and conditioner I'll just grab whatever's on the shelf and no matter who advises me, expert or partner, I rarely use hair "product", waxy or otherwise. One thing my dad didn't give me was the gene for male-pattern baldness, so I've nothing to artfully disguise.

Have the ways you groom and style yourself changed drastically or are you still doing the same old things you learnt as a callow youth?

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