7 perfumes and colognes every ’80s kid will remember

Photo courtesy of Amazon

Just like the flamboyant fashion of the 1980s (hello, color-blocked neons, shoulder pads and costume jewelry!), the scents of that decade were equally bold. A 1988 article in the New York Times Magazine took note of the fragrance trend, saying American women had acquired a taste for perfumes that were “unusually strong and lasting.”

If my own photos from the decade were scratch n’ sniffs, they’d support that notion. They’d smell like the sweet, fruity aroma of Debbie Gibson’s Electric Youth perfume and a not-so-subtle note of Rave hairspray, which was just the sticky reinforcement I needed to keep my permed hair confined in its banana clip.

debbie gibson photo
Flickr | France1978

Listed below are seven scents that were total scent-sations in the ’80s—plus, where you can buy them today. Cue the nostalgia!

1. Electric Youth

These days, it’s common for celebrities to have their own perfumes and colognes. In fact, J. Lo, Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne, Rihanna and Nicki Minaj all have not one — but multiple — perfumes with their celebrity backing. But ’80s pop star Debbie Gibson was an early pioneer of celebrity perfumes, unleashing Electric Youth in 1989, timed with her single of the same name.

The scent: This perfume hits fruity, floral and amber notes, and ’80s babies will remember the neon-colored spring that ran through the middle of each bottle.

Buy it: Electric Youth (1.6 fluid ounces) is $60 on Amazon

Photo courtesy of Amazon

2. Stetson

Branded as a cowboy cologne, Stetson’s ads marketed this men’s fragrance with the help of lassos and cowboy hats. The guys at school probably didn’t smell like Stetson, but their dads might have.

The scent: Still in production today, the manufacturer describes Stetson’s scent as woodsy, with a citrus spice and notes of bergamot and musk.

Buy it: Stetson (2.25 fluid ounces) is $16 on Amazon.

Photo courtesy of Amazon

3. Obsession

Over the decades, Calvin Klein has made some iconic perfumes and colognes. Remember all the CK One-scented teens in the 1990s? Preceding CK One was Calvin Klein Obsession. The perfume and cologne debuted with sexy ads that pushed the envelope in the mid-’80s.

These days, researchers use the men’s cologne to lure elusive jaguars. No, seriously. A wildlife biologist told The Washington Post that the jaguars like the civetone and vanilla extract scents. (Consider this your PSA to not wear Obsession on your next safari).

The scents: The women’s version was bergamot with notes of mandarin orange and peach. The men’s fragrance was a blend of amber, spice and wood.

Buy it: Calvin Klein Obsession (3.4 fluid ounces) sells for $88 on Amazon. Calvin Klein Obsession for Men (2.5 fluid ounces) is $61 on Amazon.

Photo courtesy of Amazon

4. Vanderbilt

Not only did Gloria Vanderbilt make fashionable jeans in the ’80s, she also debuted a popular fragrance in 1982. For even more nostalgia, check out one of its classic ads on YouTube!

The scent: Carnations, rose and spicy florals define this perfume.

Buy it: Vanderbilt by Gloria Vanderbilt (3.4 fluid ounces) is $14 on Amazon.


Vanderbilt by Gloria Vanderbilt

5. Opium By Yves Saint Laurent

Technically, this iconic scent debuted in 1977. But, it dominated well into the 1980s and is still easy to find today.

The scent: A blend of florals, spices and woodsy notes.

Buy it: Opium by Yves Saint Laurent (3 fluid ounces) is $59 at Amazon.

Photo courtesy of Amazon

6. Poison Girl

Bold ’80s fragrances have been making comebacks. Last year, Christian Dior relaunched Poison Girl, though reportedly reformulated the scent so it’s not as intense.

The scent: The latest rendition has notes of bitter orange, sandalwood, rose and tonka bean.

Buy it: Poison Girl (3.4 fluid ounces) is $87 on Amazon.


Photo courtesy of Amazon

7. Exclamation

This perfume was launched by beauty brand Coty in 1988 and was packaged in an iconic black and white bottle that was shaped like an exclamation mark.

The scent: Sweet notes of apricot and peach blended with amber and sandalwood.

Buy it: Exclamation (1.7 fluid ounces) sells on Amazon for about $9.

Photo courtesy of Amazon

Did you used to rock any of these scents back in the day?

Want even more ’80s nostalgia? Check out our lists of toys all ’80s kids will remember and the school supplies we all had back then.

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About the Author
Brittany Anas
Hi, I'm Brittany Anas (pronounced like the spice, anise ... see, that wasn't too embarrassing to say, now was it?) My professional writing career started when I was in elementary school and my grandma paid me $1 for each story I wrote for her. I'm a former newspaper reporter, with more than a decade of experience Hula-hooping at planning meetings and covering just about every beat from higher-education to crime to science for the Boulder Daily Camera and The Denver Post. Now, I'm a freelance writer, specializing in travel, health, food and adventure.

I've contributed to publications including Men's Journal, Forbes, Women's Health, American Way, TripSavvy, Eat This, Not That!, Apartment Therapy, Denver Life Magazine, 5280, Livability, The Denver Post, Simplemost, USA Today Travel Tips, Make it Better, AAA publications, Reader's Digest, Discover Life and more. Visit Scripps News to see more of Brittany's work.

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