Used by Gentlemen
I first stumbled upon Varon Dandy (Male Dandy) when listening to song recordings by 1930s Spanish actress and singer Carmelita Aubert. She warbles about his masculine allure in El Hombre Ideal. I needed to know more about this flawless yet elusive man.
From the lyrics of the songs it was clear that Varon Dandy is in fact the name of a cologne, and dear Carmelita is giving the brand a jolly good plug.
My initial bout of scattergun sleuthing joined most of the dots — or so I thought. Varon Dandy cologne was launched most likely in 1912 — although 1927 has been bandied about — by the Catalonian perfumer Joan Parera. Parera's company ceased operating independently in 1990 though the cologne still exists to this day as Varon Dandy by Parera. The sprightly dandy is getting on a bit. The brand now comes under the umbrella of Coty Spain (part of the British multinational Reckitt Benckiser) and is ever popular in Latin America.
Case solved? Not quite. It would be neat if we could leave the story here, with tidy dates and a nice linear history, but...
I then discovered information that would shake the very foundations of this investigation and leave it wide open to speculation and intrigue. Anonymous sources have informed me that Varon Dandy is also associated with a Luis Garcés Mantiña, a Spanish nobleman born in 1920 who died in 2011. His version was reportedly released in 1948 at the height of the Spanish Civil War. Mantiña was sympathetic to Franco and as a barber developed a style of hair parting that identified Francoists during the war. (Does anyone know more about Mantiña or this hair parting? Sounds fascinating.)
How could this be? Has my schoolboy Spanish let me down? I'm rather tempted to ignore this new evidence as it throws everything skew-whiff. I suppose we could keep the case open in case new witnesses come forward.
In Spain today, you will see one-litre pour-over-your-head bottles of Varon Dandy as well as more concentrated 100 ml bottles of this old-school scent. Newer versions, such as Varon Dandy Platinum, have been launched in recent years, but we stick with the classic. I slipped a smaller bottle (top photo) into my jacket pocket on my last visit.
The original aim was for a manly blend of soap, lavender, woods and spices all those years ago. Varon Dandy still has that spicy scent. Splashed onto cheeks, it summons up pleasant images of an old-fashioned barbershop with a scissor man in a white tunic and bow tie brushing talc on your neck and asking you if you require something for the weekend.