Cartier - Santos (1981)

Back in the 1980s, men were wearing Kouros, Paco Rabanne and Polo Ralph Lauren. All excellent fragrances that have more than stood the test of time - except for when Cosmair became something else.

If you wanted to be a little more unique, to stand out with the girls (and as a twenty-something guy that was all that mattered to me) then you went to somewhere more up-market than Boots (a UK Health and Beauty chain store), winced at the price, imagined how that honey you'd been scoping for months would ask you "What's that?" and duly bought a bottle of Cartier Santos.

Back in the 1980s, Santos was more a niche fragrance - something you had to actively seek out.

In its original vintage form, it can be summed up in three words: sophisticated and sexy. It is the fragrance for someone who’s confident around women, especially beautiful ones. It says one thing very carefully: Relax. You’re with a better man now. At the age of twenty, I fell for that hype but sampling it when I recently took a bottle for a spin again, I began to wonder if Cartier weren’t actually right all along. Not a scent for the summer, it’s a trifle heavy. Best for winter walks along the back streets of Paris with some beauty on your arm - presumably the image Cartier wanted in their ad campaigns. The original vintage 80s formulation comes in a box like any other except there is a touch of magic inside that seems to have been lost in the modern age.

Another box inside awaits you.

It's fittingly similar to the jewellery cases that Cartier used around that time. A kind of faux leather to remind you that back in the 80s you'd just parted with the better part of a week's wages - considerably more than that now if you're hunting it in this form on eBay.

Lift the lid and you'll find a 'felt-like' white interior and if you're very lucky, a document explaining how the refill container works. This design ethos was later employed with Cartier Pasha but only in the luxury editions.

The instructions include Japanese too. That's surprising to me as I have been living in Japan sporadically since the end of the eighties but don't recall ever seeing it in boutiques in Ginza. As a matter of point, Cartier fragrances are not currently on sale in the country at all.

The current Santos is still easily available both in a regular and concentrated form in most parts of Europe and the USA. Again, the usual vintage rules apply. Try to find something before the turn of the millennium. The last really good bottle I tried was purchased in 1995. The edition in the photographs was purchased in 1986. Packaging and reformulations have interfered with Santos to an extent that would probably bother purists.

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1986...

I had more hair back then. Slimmer too. I probably didn't actually need Santos.

Ah, the beauty of marketing.