28 April 2012

Worth Every Penny: Proper Aftershave

As fussy as I can be about so many inconsequential things, I've never been fussy about bathroom products. Ivory soap and Old Spice had suited me just fine for most of my life. Until recently, that is. Lately I find that I have developed an appreciation for better personal grooming products. This isn't to say that I now spend outrageous sums of money on numerous "artisinal" pseudo-luxuries, but a small collection of well chosen, time tested products can be worth every penny.

For the longest time, I was not the least an aftershave kind of guy. Despite the fact that I've been shaving with a safety razor since my teen-age years, and more recently sometimes with a straight blade, I always found a splash of ice cold water to be enough. Then I reverted back to Old Spice, because it was nostalgic and cheap. After mentioning it in a blog post a while back, a disgruntled reader informed me via email in no uncertain terms that Old Spice was a "stink bomb", low brow dime store junk worse than wearing no aftershave at all. And while I found his criticism to be more than a little overly harsh, it did get me thinking of the old fashioned scents I used to steal out of the sample bottles when I worked at Simon's in high school.

Bay rum is the fragrance I remember most. The bottle on the left is Ogallala Bay Rum out of Nebraska, $32 for an 8 oz. bottle at Leavitt & Pierce tobacco shop in Harvard Square. It's spicy and herbaceous, even a little sweet. It's bracing on the face right after a wet shave, providing an old school cool burn that is invigorating, stopping just shy of being painful. I prefer the Special Reserve Double Strength. It tightens the skin nicely, leaving it very smooth. The scent comes on strong at first, but quickly fades in to a mere pleasant suggestion. Very masculine, very old time barber shop. Plus, the 19th century apothecary look of the bottle is just something nice to see on the shelf.

On the right is Royall Lyme, the original scent from in the Royall line. Made from a Bermuda recipe using lots of Caribbean limes, its brighter, fresher and lighter than the bay rum, making it an ideal choice for warmer weather. Like the bay rum, its bracing and astringent, leaving my skin feeling tight and fresh. At nearly $47.50 for a 4 oz. bottle at the Andover Shop in Harvard Square, it sure ain't cheap, but this bottle will last me from now until September for two years running, so that really isn't so bad. You can get it directly from the Royall web site for $40 if you like, but to me the extra $7.50 is worth going to a men's shop and buying it properly, by which I mean wearing a coat and tie in place full of coats and ties and handing over the cash, not gawking at the lap top in your pyjamas. There is still, after all, something to be said for that. Besides, all this thrifty living I discuss here is meaningless without an indulgence now and then.

This stuff makes my skin feel better and puts me in a good mood in the morning, and my little 3 year old girl always says I smell nice. Its worth every penny.

p.s. stay tuned for an upcoming dissertation on the pleasures of (gasp!) hippie soap.


Christine said...

I discovered Royall Lyme when I was in my early twenties and worked for a couple of years in the men's department of a local specialty shop. I had never heard of it before, since most of the boys I went to school with wore Polo -- bleh. While my husband doesn't wear after shave, it's the only one I'd ever want him to wear. It smells wonderful.

Dutch Uncle said...


I, too, am a fan of bay rum and Royall Lime, though I would add English Leather, as well. , I can't, however, deny the pleasure that Old Spice gave me over the years.

By the way, if you're looking for the authentic,
old-fashioned barbershop smell (even more so than bay rum), it's Pinaud Lilac Vegetal, amazingly still available:


SFO Trad said...

The keyword is "proper", a word that has disappeared from generally-used vocabulary, although we used to use it to refer to behavior, manner of dress, and way of speaking. Clearly, it's not just the word, but the concept, that has disappeared. Even in the UK, only those above a certain age refer to a "proper cup of tea" anymore.

WSTKS-FM Worldwide said...

Love the Royall Lyme! My grandmother gave me a bottle for Christmas once many years ago (the late 80s), and I have been a fan ever since. Great stuff and well worth it. I've always been surprised though that it is never mentioned by Roetzel and others in their various books on dressing and style.

Best Regards,

Ulrich von B.

Roger v.d. Velde said...

Straight after a shave I started using Alcolado Glacial, made in CuraƧao. It sounds cheapo (and it's not that dear) but it has a great smell and nice little astringent kick.

I've always wanted to try Bay Rum it even sounds old-time barbershop, but it's not that available here and I can't be sending off for bottles over the internet.

Anonymous said...

If your aftershave is "bracing" to the face, it probably contains alcohol. That's not good -- it dries your skin out the same way a night of drinking leaves you dehydrated. I hope you subscribe to the idea that wrinkles make a man look distinguished.

Anonymous said...

Tasteful selections; I've used both Royall Lyme and Royall Bay Rhum and have been very happy with them. I would still be using them if I hadn't happened on a Caswell-Massey aftershave deal.

One caveat: the notes of an aftershave or cologne once the bottle has been opened tend to flatten after about a year. An aftershave bottle a year works about right.

Main Line Sportsman said...

Clubman aftershave or the Osage rub....both from Pinaud. Great,classic stuff.

Young Fogey said...

I find it hard to believe there's such a thing as "hippie soap." After all, Tom Wolfe observed what happened in San Francisco after the hippies decided that concepts like personal hygiene were "old-fashioned," even "bourgeois":

"At the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic there were doctors who were treating diseases no living doctor had ever encountered before, diseases that had disappeared so long ago they had never even picked up Latin names, such as the mange, the grunge, the itch, the twitch, the thrush, the scroff, the rot."

Is it possible that the hippies learned something in the Great Relearning?

Regardless, great post, and I do look forward to reading about the soap, too.

Tobias said...

Both can be found for cheap on Amazon.com

Giuseppe said...

Anon. 10:08,

I used to smoke a pack a day. Now I don't smoke at all. I'm not all that woried about the wrinkles I'll get from a splash of old fashioned aftershave.


Perhaps hippie soap is a misleading term. Stay tuned.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I used to use Royall Mandarin but I now use Royall Muske. Excellent stuff.

Very curious as to what else is in your shave kit -- looking forward to those posts.

Anonymous said...


oldmoney said...

Great choice of scents! If you like those, you should try Proraso shaving cream. Also worth every penny in my book.

Anonymous said...

My father wore Royall Lyme. I love that scent and it always brings up his memory. He bought it on a trip to Bermuda in 1961 and when I was old enough to shave about 16 years later, I loved to splash some on. For some reason, I have never bought any, and I don't as a rule use aftershave, but I may start again. Also, just found some homemade recipes online, so may go that route. Much less expensive.