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Jewish World Review May 15, 2002 / 4 Sivan, 5762

Lenore Skenazy

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Consumer Reports

A Little Too Spicy | Old Spice.

Just the name conjures up masculinity. Kinda ... older masculinity. Maybe even grizzled.

Maybe even dead.

But no, turns out the 64-year-old aftershave and cologne is still the country's best-selling fragrance, and has been since its debut in 1938.

"It is the No. 1 selling fragrance in history," says Derek Bowen, Old Spice brand manager at Procter & Gamble. And now this venerable product is poised to conquer a whole new generation of red-blooded American males.

With wipies.

Towelettes. Wet naps. The kind of swabs you used to get with Kentucky Fried Chicken, except thicker, quilted and impregnated (as it were) with masculine scents such as Old Spice Mountain Rush, Pure Sport and Fresh.

Somewhere, the ancient mariner is weeping - and so is the marlin on his wall.

While one can only respect a brand that has clearly captured, if not the American imagination, at least the American man from his Adam's apple up, there is something perverse about encouraging guys to start swabbing themselves sweet between showers. Between rest stops!

Could Jack Kerouac have hit the road toting a tub of towelettes? Could Jack Nicholson?

Most men come equipped with sleeves, and that's sweat control aplenty. Can it be Procter & Gamble has never heard of pheromones, those hormones that holler, "I'm male, I'm available and I'm close by - just ask your nose!"

Wipes wipe all that out.

"Real men should not be 'freshening' themselves with perfumed wipies," fumes Scott Hildula, a dad in San Francisco. "In my day, you wore a circle in your wallet with a rolled up condom and a ring in your jeans from a can of snuff! I pity the sorry wimp who wears a hole in his pants pocket - probably Dockers - with a little perfumed packet."

Chris McLemore in Kansas is even more disturbed by the development.

"It's an encroachment on manhood," he says. "The Old Spice audience is the hard-core, open-a-beer-with-your-eye-socket crowd. They wouldn't be caught dead with a fancied-up towelette. It's like making A-1 Steak Sauce pink, or emblazoning the side of John Deere riding mowers with images of the Powerpuff Girls."

But over at Procter & Gamble, Bowen insists that so-called Cool Contact Refreshment Towelettes are something men have been clamoring for.

"Guys were looking for a way to better manage their sweat," says the Old Spice peddler. "Because actually, guys produce more sweat on their foreheads, backs and back of neck than they do in their underarms."

Whoa. I guess that's something I'd sort of suspected all along but never really researched. Now that somebody at P&G obviously has, we are all about to be reeducated as to the sweating habits of the human male, and why these must be reined in - and dabbed off.

Soon, a glistening brow will be as unacceptable as a drooling mouth. And we, as a country, will be perfumier for it.

"I'd much rather be near someone with that end-of-the-day aroma than someone doused in a heavy scented smell," says Pamela Gregg, a writer in Dayton, Ohio - who, by the way, guys, is single.

And I'm with Pam. A man who has banished every drip, drop and whiff is about as sexy as anti-bacterial soap - the soft kind.

Bring back the ancient mariner, marlin and all. And while you're at it, hit 'em both with a splash of the old Old Spice.

JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2002, New York Daily News