What can you say about a fragrance that markets itself so boldly as an aphrodisiac? Jovan’s Sex Appeal for Men boasts being “more than the usual promise in a bottle. It’s more like a guarantee.” Why this relic from the late 1970s exists is a mystery to me, but I’m glad it does.
Sex Appeal for Men was launched (with a “for Women” counterpart that is no longer in production) in 1976, and everything about the packaging makes that apparent. The economy-sized bottle and the bizarre essay on the blue and mirror-finish box that exhorts men in 70s-era script to splash it on—“Man can never have too much”—all of it screams sleaze. It’s worth quoting the box copy in its entirety:
Now you don’t have to be born with it.
This provocative stimulating blend of rare spices and herbs was created by man for the sole purpose of attracting woman. At will.
Man can never have too much.
The back of the box varies. The spray bottle packaging has instructions for “How to make the most of it” (“Spray it right on. On your chest. On your arms. Or wherever else you want more sex appeal.” Wink wink.)
The splash bottle, which I have, says this:
Splash it on. The more you use, the better.
Because it is truly sex appeal.
(and man can never have too much).
Sex Appeal by Jovan. For the first time in the history of the world… We bottled it.
And yet despite all of that retro hyperbole, it smells good. It’s like a spicier, less powdery Old Spice.. Some people compare it to Pierre Cardin for Men. As Tania Sanchez writes in Perfumes: The A to Z Guide, “You know, this is what guys who smelled bad used to smell like. It’s great.” She gave it four out of five stars.
After reading Sanchez’s hilarious and glowing review, I spotted Sex Appeal at a Brooklyn drug store. My girlfriend and I joked about it a bit, but we were curious. Could it really smell good? Could it, um…will it really turn women on? She got me a bottle for Christmas, and while it smells fantastic, it seems to have no real magnetic effect on her. Oh well. At a mere $16 for a hefty 4 ounce bottle (typical colognes are 3.4 ounces), it’s worth it.
I imagine the target market for this fragrance was once a combination of naïve, pimply teenagers and mustachioed womanizers of all ages. The kind of guy who might name his 1976 Camaro “The Love Boat,” and never do the top three buttons of his silk shirts. But who buys this now? If Jovan had any sense, they’d pay some geeks to come up with home-made video ads for this stuff and let it go viral on the web. I guarantee irony-loving hipsters and the nostalgia-gripped aging womanizers would buy it by the crate. –Harry Sheff