10/21/14

Play (Givenchy)



It might look like 1953, but it's really just two hours ago.


Work on my living room is, after four months, finally nearing completion. My classic wingback got reupholstered and delivered on Saturday, I finally found time to add the third bookshelf (and my books), and a fern was gifted to me, an unexpected but somehow totally appropriate addition to the space. On Saturday I did some wandering through antique stores in Seymour, CT, which is actually a little mecca for antique collectors, as there are literally ten or eleven shops within a two block radius. In one of them I stumbled upon a decorative bowl (sort of a cross between a plate and a bowl, seen above on the coffee table), and was told it was heavily discounted because it had some kiln damage, which honestly wasn't very noticeable. It was eerie how well it complemented the room. When I bought it, I had my fingers crossed that it would at least look good on the bookshelf, but it turned out to have all the colors in the room swirled together into one piece. Really fun stuff.

When you look at the picture above, you're looking at my living room, and I hope it evokes the fifties, a bygone era. That was my goal. Bringing that time period back to life is a lot more difficult than you might think. I know it was harder than I thought it would be, and frankly I didn't do that good of a job, but it's at least in the ballpark. There was plenty of cheating, of course. The wingback chair, now dark reddish-brown leather, is actually an eighties piece directly from the Reagan years, and those aren't real Stiffel lamps in the corners, but that didn't matter to me as much as capturing a certain feel of the time, something that could be put into a few simple words. After extensive research, the words that came to mind were, "Classy as shit." The fifties were years with a polarized aesthetic, as there were either very campy colors (bright pinks, seafoam greens, platinum blondes), or very stuffy schemes (greys and taupes, rough-hewn wicker, Tom Ewell's apartment in The Seven Year Itch). I decided to go for stuffy, simply because it's easier to live with than campy. At least stuffiness, if done with attention to detail, can slip quietly into the realm of a classiness reserved for people with limited means, but good taste.

Givenchy's mall offerings are usually not my thing, but Play is, to me at least, a bit of a throwback scent. It took me three months to figure out what it smelled like, and then it hit me: Cotton Club. Play has the exact same fancy aftershave vibe, something only a wetshaver can truly appreciate for what it is (and what it isn't). The ergonomics of perfumers is hard to understand, but I don't think it's unrealistic to suppose that many of them resort to imitation to save time, and in this case Emilie Coppermann and Lucas Sieuzac were turning to the old-fashioned alchemical pizzaz of Barbasol-and-Styptic. Someone was thinking of their dad when they threw this together, and I say "threw" because it smells like an intentionally hackneyed scent, a handful of musky aroma chemicals with requisite notes of saccharine citrus, simplistic florals, and thin woods that were incrementally measured, mixed together by hand, and left to sit for forty-eight hours before being pushed off to the marketing department.

With Play, try to ignore the blurbs about its notes, and tune out the salesman. Ignore even the Basenotes and Fragrantica pyramids. There's no serious coffee note in this scent, nor is there "tobacco blossom," or "amyris." There's linalool (or something like it), literally a half dozen musks, a very faint woody amber, just enough citrus aldehyde to give it lift, and not much else. Its overall tonality is a couple shades darker than Cotton Club's, but otherwise they're both colors on the same paint strip. Despite its casual airiness, the old-school aftershave approach is always an unpretentious, no-bullshit, classy direction for a fragrance to go in, and I have to award a major thumbs up to Play for keeping it real. The only problem of course is that this sort of fragrance costs ten times as much as your average aftershave, but in this case you're paying for better longevity, and hopefully a firmer presence in this shameless world we live in.



10/19/14

The Dust Collectors: Why No Sales?




In the previous post, I wrote at length about the odd nature of Patou Pour Homme's "legacy" among collectors and would-be collectors. My thesis here is simple: if people didn't buy it then, there's no reason to believe they'll buy it now. Defenders of those astronomical Ebay prices like to roll out the usual arguments about the normalcy of capitalism in these matters, and how "fans" of discontinued fragrances are the ones contributing to their posthumus commercial success. But as I pointed out, those arguments, while semantically feasible, are purely examples of stupidity in action. These arguments, when transposed upon the filaments of 2014's fragrance economics, simply don't align. The "Capitalism Explains The Price" argument is a "one size fits all" contention that is entirely impossible to generalize into all markets.

To recap what I mean by this, just look at the car market. Remember the Yugo, also known as the Zastava Koral? When it was first released in 1978, it was handmade by the classier brand Fiat as the Fiat 127, and was intended to be a bold new low-cost, low-maintenance town car (with sport potential). The joke was on Fiat; Americans created their own catchphrase for it: "Yugo Nowhere." This was followed by, "It's a good hand-warmer." Yugos broke down a lot and had to be pushed, but hey, at least the rear windows were heated! Despite its many commercial issues, the Fiat namesake had a following, the car sold just well enough to survive in the American market until 1991 or 1992, and it even has an actual fan club. Like perfume, cars are a technologically designed commodity, a product of commercial innovation, with most of their working parts invisible, yet their benefits serving a specific social function.

Although foreign production is still in progress, Yugo ceased being imported into the United States over twenty years ago, and Western models are no longer manufactured. The car we knew back then is essentially extinct. If we apply some of the false tenets of perfume economics to the Yugo, we immediately see problems. First, and like Patou PH, the car came from an esteemed lineage, a very competent background of means. It had commercial viability. It was released. It was briefly embraced by Westerners as something that might be worthy of use, but they tried it, disliked it, and rejected it. It was discontinued. It now has a fanclub. There's even talk by its manufacturers of bringing it back someday.

Yet old Yugos do not command even a 100% price increase, not even by dollar inflation standards (1987 - 2010). This article is a beautiful example of how people react to a lame attempt at tripling the inflationary value of a 1987 Yugo. The writer posits that "America's cult love-affair with the cheapest car in the market quickly dried out after customers realized that they got what they paid for with sales plundering to just under 4,000 units in 1991, the last year the Yugo was imported to the States." He also points out that this model could be purchased new back in '87 for $3,990, but now the asking price is $14,500!

As you can see in the comments, there are some reluctant defenders of this sort of price inflation, but they don't even bother to come right out and state their position clearly. They simply try to cut through the backlash, and the backlash is pretty succinct in its overall tone. One person writes:
"The dude is asking $14500! That awful garbage is worth $800 at most. Not the price of a brand new Chrysler."
That's an interesting point, because here the quality of the car can be clearly seen in the pictures, and yet this person is seeing past them, recalling that the vehicle's quality was far below average. Another person writes:
"Owned an 85 Yugo GV. First car right out of college. Had it 4 years, took care of it, and did the maintenance when it was due. Had 56000 miles on it and it never broke down. Other than tires and brakes I had no issues. Would love to find one I can work on with my son. But not for $14,000!"
This is an even better perspective, because it's clear this person owned and really liked the vehicle, and would actually purchase it again if he had the chance. Yet he feels the asking price is not reasonable in this instance. This is sanity talking. And then there's this comment:
"I want to buy this car, but it's nowhere near worth $14,500, my older brother had one brand new and only payed $1000 for it. So now I wouldn't even pay that, I would only pay like $300 for it, maybe $500.
This comment gets to the core of the issue. When a designed article is appropriated by society, and then recycled through its shelf-life, its value should remain relative to its usefulness. There is sizable depreciation. That is, of course, based on usability, being that these are DESIGNED products.

This is why chairs, plates, silverware, some articles of furniture and houseware, all appreciate in value over the years. Few moving parts. Often very little wear and tear. Sometimes repairs on things like broken plates are so adequate that the damage is invisible. So time is, literally, on their side. But things like cars, which have two hundred thousand moving parts, and perfumes, with millions of volatile molecules in perpetual motion, suffer with age, and rightly their value should depreciate. If the value does increase, it should be at pace with inflation alone - the '87 Yugo in 2010 dollars would have been $7,658 new, half of what the Vegas dealer in the article was asking. Search for Yugos on Craigslist, and you'll see that the average asking price is around $1,000. Those prices are well explained by everything we know about Yugos. The Vegas dealer's $14,500 price? Inexplicable.

I find that the notion that vintage perfumes should be privy to price inflations by hundreds of percentage points contradicts two aspects of classic capitalism, the first being supply and demand, and the second being product value. In the first instance, discontinued perfumes went largely unsold, as their audience failed to warm to them, hence the supply should be inordinately large compared to the demand, which would be relatively small. In the second instance, with perfume being a volatile example of product design, the quality should dictate diminishing returns with every passing year, in any commercial setting, be it internet or brick and mortar sales. Obviously a citrus fragrance that is forty-three years old is not going to have the same quality and performance as a citrus fragrance that is three years old. So why pay three times as much for the forty-three year-old scent? Its usability is highly questionable, and its collectibility only extends to the cosmetic preservation of the bottle the fragrance is housed in (a skunked bottle can be refilled with colored water).

My questions here are, why were people not buying certain perfumes to begin with? What was the reason that people rejected them? What drove them to discontinuation? What made them rare in the first place? And why are people assigning absurd values to them now?

Examining possible answers to these questions is not an exact science by any means, and probably isn't a science at all. This just comes down to being brutally frank with what we're smelling, and not romanticizing things and blowing them out of proportion. I've comprised a short list of discontinued fragrances that have become very expensive on Ebay and elsewhere, yet have never been brought back by their manufacturer, and remain extinct. Here's my take on them.

1. Relax, Davidoff (1990) This is my favorite discontinued posher, a fragrance which today only the well-funded are allowed to enjoy, it seems. Released 24 years ago, it was an almost instant commercial failure, and in some ways that actually pulls its current high prices closer to the breast of reason. One can argue that Relax never had a chance for people to embrace its beauty, as it was pulled too soon. Sometimes brands do that, pull a product because they didn't do adequate market research on it, and can no longer justify the distribution costs. Unfortunately though I think Relax was out long enough to catch on, simply because there's such a preponderance of bottles out there still, which tells me that the world's stock was extensive enough for at least one or two large countries to shine to it. That simply did not happen. It was not moving units. But why? The answer is in the scent itself. Davidoff, like Joop! and many other designer brands, has a signature synthetic accord that is reminiscent of rosewood and pipe tobacco, a very burly little number that is quite nice. Zino has it, even Cool Water has a hint of it. Relax had it too, but that was all Relax had, the basic two-chord aroma wafting gently from under a sweet mint top. What does that amount to? A good perfume, certainly, but rather like an overdone Skin Bracer. Was it worth $20 an ounce back then? Not to consumers. So should it be worth $125 an ounce now? Regrettably not. Pretty bottle, though.

2. Zino, Davidoff (1986) Davidoff discontinued most of their older scents, and Zino may have been a victim of overproduction. I would guess that what happened in the middle of the 1980s, here in the States and in Europe, was symptomatic of most problems with these oldies. Zino was an excellent fragrance in its own right, a very brisk lavender/rosewood extravaganza that smelled dark, mysterious, sexy, a little dirty. All good things, but look out! Here it comes: it's dated. I wore Zino on a weekend in Prague with a woman very dear to my heart, and she hated it. She didn't have the heart to tell me. She wasn't one of these "I Love Pink" bubbleheads, either. She loved the darker things in life, and she was extremely intelligent, and a very modest dresser. But this fragrance made her wrinkle her nose and walk out of the room every time I put it on. One has to wonder what she would have said if she hadn't been more polite, but I think it would have gone something like this: "Bryan, your cologne is not good. I mean, okay, it smells like maybe good for an older cologne, but today? No. Just wanted to tell you that, dear." Ouch. I've included Zino in this list not as an example of a perfume that now commands ridiculous prices, but to show that even a decent, inexpensive oldie had a reason for being axed, and that reason applies to many of the old ones that are now gone.

3. Derby, Guerlain (1985) Maybe it's my opinion of Derby. Maybe it's the fact that I don't cow to other people's bullshit when it comes to how "great" certain perfumes supposedly are. Maybe it's just that Derby really doesn't smell all that good. To this day, I'm mystified by how anyone could think this perfume is worth hundreds of today's dollars. There's one on Ebay right now, a 3.4 ounce square-bottle, for $800. This is an okay perfume. It smells fine, in a very safe, conventional, no-frills guy sort of way. The nutmeg was done before by Cacharel. The woody citrus thing? Done by many others, and most of them better. Guerlain's own Vetiver, in the older formulation, is but one example. But it's Guerlain, so shouldn't it be worth a gazillion dollars? Guerlain is notorious for having been mismanaged over the decades, as many of these older French concerns seem to be. Perhaps the discontinuation of Derby was one of those bad managerial decisions, but I think people really didn't like it. I'm amenable to this sort of breezy, Warren Beatty-esque old-school masculine, but I don't like Derby. Why don't I like it? I don't think it's very good. If I had to guess - and with its discontinuation in my corner - I'd say I wasn't alone in my assessment. Even the reissued version smells better. If not enough people were buying it in the eighties, and old stock doesn't smell very good now, why in the living fuck would I shell out $800 for it? You tell me.

4. Jules, Dior (1980) Reading the reviews of this one tells me all I need to know (I've never smelled it). People can't mention Jules without mentioning Kouros by YSL. A common meme in the world of vintage perfume fantasy is that the extinct species closely resembles a living specimen. In this case, the survivor was clearly the better perfume. Why does the world need a proto-Kouros? Every pre-war wetshaver masculine had already filled those shoes, but Jules tried and failed to win hearts with nostalgia. The Kouros family resemblance continues to bear out in the survivors with the lowest price tags, things like Lapidus PH and even smaller bottles of Balenciaga PH. Jules was always pricy, originally just under Kouros' price-point, before Ebayers ratcheted the costs up to $270, $350, and $500, as can be seen on there today. You'd be better off buying vintage Kouros for the same amount. At least you're getting the genes that nature perfected in that one, all of which are traceable to Creed's Orange Spice, if Bourdon is the author of that scent as well.

5. KL Homme, Karl Lagerfeld (1986) Prices for this one have been steadily rising over the last twelve months, which tells me that people are beginning to weed through their perfume collections to find things they can "bank" on, and make room for the shit they'll actually wear on a regular basis. I paid less than $40 for my 2 oz bottle a little while ago at a store here in CT, but the same size is going for around $75 now on that awful Bay, and larger bottles are over $100. This is a clear case of a perfume existing for no reason, other than to make money. KL Homme is a very well made, very likable powdery oriental, with a robust amber accord and very competent citrus elements on top. Yet it does nothing new, truly adds nothing to conversations about orientals, and isn't very memorable. It's just a nice fragrance to wear. But $75 - $100 nice? No. There's no doubt in my mind that KL Homme lost market share to Calvin Klein's Obsession for Men, which used to be a very rich citrus/incense fragrance, made with materials that I find to be of equal, if not better quality. I still have my vintage bottle of Obsession, and though its notes are no longer separable (time has ravaged it), the basic premise serves memory well: exciting, sexy, worth owning. KL Homme? Smells nice, but not as complex, and more than a little dull. Did guys agree back in the day? Without a doubt. Does it smell more complex and interesting in 2014? Only barely. Hey, if you want to spend three or four times more than the perfume is worth because you think it's "aged well," I can't stop you. Personally I'd wait until I spot it at a real market price ($25 - $35) in a brick and mortar, but that's just me.

6. Joint Pour Homme, Roccobarocco (1993) I almost forgot to mention Joint! Funny story: once upon a time, as in a year ago, Joint was on Ebay for astronomical prices. You couldn't get an ounce without spending at least $100, and 3.4 ounces were priced at $200, easy. At least, that's what they were asking. Then a funny thing happened - nobody bought it. Why? Because nobody's ever fucking heard of Joint, that's why. So in round six of dumbass perfume economics, let's break it down. A perfume is made. A perfume is barely marketed, if at all, and then nobody buys it because nobody knows it exists, and the few who do only buy it once because once they wear it, they realize it's just another eighties clone holdover, this time mimicking Zino, but with civet and heavy, vanillic castoreum. It has an impressive dusky, burly, animalic/woody structure for about three hours, and then the cash runs out and it fuzzes into nothing, a surprising and disappointing end, even for a clone. Come full circle twenty years later, and for whatever reason a few guys on Ebay decide to try to put the chicken before the egg, and jack the prices on Joint. They hope that people will happen upon it, find it to be very expensive, research it, and think, "Okay, this one is for 'aficionados,' and I am an aficionado, because I will spend two hundred dollars on a three ounce bottle." But no, it doesn't happen. Why doesn't it happen? Because people in 1993 didn't know Joint existed, so why the hell would they know it exists in 2013? A year later, all those greedy buggers on the Bay realized that it's better to make a little money than no money at all, and the prices were corrected down to $38 an ounce, something that only happens with discontinued perfumes that LITERALLY NOBODY HAS EVER HEARD OF BEFORE, EXCEPT MAYBE SEVEN OR EIGHT GUYS ON BASENOTES. One or two of those guys might argue, "But Bryan, don't you think that what really happened is that a 'secret stash' of Joint was discovered and disseminated to the Ebay merchants somehow, and that's the reason for the price reductions?" My very wordy, drawn-out, Woody Allen-esquely intellectually stimulating answer? No. See the above.

7. Red for Men, Giorgio Beverly Hills (1991) Last but not least is my favorite old-school frag to criticize, and for good reason, as it's a very mediocre offering. Some have said they think it's a marvel, beautifully complex, relatively natural, and one of a kind. "Better than Niche." Yeah, right. First of all, the same people who say this often follow it by saying something like, "If you want something similar to vintage Red but without the synthetic aspect of the reformulation, try Preferred Stock by Coty." This comparison cracks me up. Actually, it's the statement that "Preferred Stock smells like vintage Red for Men" that cracks me up, to be specific. Why is that funny? Because it's exactly backwards: Red was released AFTER Preferred Stock. If anything, vintage Red smells like Preferred Stock, not the other way around. So why even bother with Red? Okay, I'll be fair enough and say that Red's older formula apparently smelled a bit more complex and textured than Preferred Stock ever did, but then why was it discontinued? This brings me back to the Jules/Kouros problem - fragrances competing with themselves. When two frags smell very similar, the better smell is bound to survive, even if it came second, as Kouros did. Red for Men was never worth any more than its standard retail price, but somewhere along the way people started thinking that its demand was sizable enough to warrant doubling, even tripling the asking price for 3.4 oz bottles. In recent years there was quite a bit of conversation about it on Fragrantica and Basenotes, and indeed I believe that there was a pool of consumers who remembered Red and wanted it back. Nostalgic pinings, one might say. That was enough for manufacturers to reissue the fragrance, but only at the hilariously discounted price of $20, roughly $6 an ounce. This makes it cheaper than its template, the still going, going, going energizer bunny Preferred Stock! The irony. In the end, I think the original Red was probably very nice, because Preferred Stock is very nice, and I'm sure it warrants its reissue, although the new version is not as nice as Preferred Stock ever was. The guy on Ebay right now asking $99 for a 3.4 oz bottle of the original formula can sit and spin, although I applaud him for taking a $50 fragrance and only trying to double his money, unlike the merchant blitz that went on five years ago, with guys trying to jack prices up to $500. Unlike Patou PH, you don't see those insanely-priced bottles of Red on Ebay anymore. Why? People bought the reissued Red, remembered why they stopped buying it in the nineties, and were "Reality-Checked." The fan club learned that it doesn't pay to view the past through Red-rosy colored glasses.

Before I close, I want to add one more thing. A friend of mine likes to point out that I'm unreasonable if I think that everyone values objects the same way, and therefore I should make concessions for those who actually do feel that the frags listed above are worth what they're being priced at. That's fair enough, and I concede that people are within the bounds of reason to spend whatever they want on whatever they want. But there's a name for the type of people who spend two, three, four, even five or six hundred percent more on something that was originally not valued enough to remain on the market. They're called suckers. I wouldn't be surprised if one was out there right now, wearing Patou Pour Homme while driving his $14,500 Yugo.





10/18/14

Green Generation Him (Parfums Mavive)




One of the many things about perfume economics that makes no sense to me is the drive to inflate prices for no clear reason, other than severely miscalculated greed. I've been told by other amateurs a few things about this, both in person and on the internet, and I'll paraphrase them here. The reasons vary slightly, but all share a theme: stupidity, both on the part of the seller and the buyer. "Perfumes are subject to capitalistic mechanisms like everything else, and why not increase prices to compensate for demand, especially if that demand is increasing daily?" Another good one is, "The market can sustain two, three, four, even five hundred percent price increases, so therefore such ratchetings are justifiable." Better yet, "There is always a legitimate reason to fork over a down payment on a car if the perfume has a 'fan base.'" And one man told me over coffee that it's "like any other art, I guess."

None of these reasons are true. Perfumes are indeed subject to capitalistic mechanisms, like everything else, yes. But if demand for a product is high enough to justify pricing a one hundred dollar fragrance at six or seven hundred dollars, the perfume's original manufacturer, privy to all the consumer data on actual market sales of said product, would never have discontinued it in the first place. The reality is, demand for a discontinued scent was always too low. And to say that the market can sustain these dramatic increases suggests that these fragrances are seeing low turnover among buyers, but this is clearly not the case. If buyers were holding on to these "precious gems," Ebay and every other hawking site would have dried up long ago. People are actually buying and spending big dollars only so they can further inflate prices at resale. They're essentially hoping they can turn a profit by buying something ostensibly desirable that they have no real desire for.

The "fan base" argument is the one that truly reeks of intellectual idiocy, but only when placed in the appropriate context. Let me use Dr. Seuss as an example. Seuss started out in the 1920s publishing commercial art and cartoon strips for newspapers and journals, and eventually began dabbling in books. His first manuscript was rejected by every publisher he approached, but a chance encounter with a friend - a "connected" friend - gave him the "in" to publishing his first, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. Four publications later, each on rather shaky commercial ground, he still lacked a dedicated fan base, but in 1939 Random House published his one and only daringly illustrated story for adults, The Seven Lady Godivas, a poetic morality tale involving seven women, all represented, from cover to cover, entirely in the buff.

The book was unsurprisingly a flop. Seuss himself admitted he could not convincingly render women in the nude, and it was his last attempt at adult fiction. Subsequent children's publications steadily grew in popularity, and eventually The Cat In The Hat made him a household name, a full eighteen years later. Seuss built a strong global fan base for himself by continuing to write and illustrate friendly, colorful children's books, and throughout the forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, and most of the eighties, The Seven Lady Godivas was shunned and allowed to go out of print, one of only two Seuss books to do so (the other was some sort of Cat In The Hat songbook). To review his bibliography and even his commercial design history, one would suppose that if The Seven Lady Godivas were no longer being printed, its value would have skyrocketed, now that Seuss has such an established base of fans, both young and old.

In all actuality, it was briefly reissued in the late 1980s, and can be found today on Ebay for $12.99 with $4 shipping. You can buy the eighties publication for pocket change. BUT, if you want the first edition from 1939, expect to pay about $300 for it! Why so much for a failed "adult" story book? Easy: Seuss has a fan base, something he developed over the course of fifty years of publishing. He offered an initial product that was rejected but minimally preserved, then followed it with products that were accepted and universally loved, and the world came full circle back to his initial offer with renewed interest and appreciation for something it once disliked.

Compare this commercial dynamic to the work by Jean Patou, for example. Patou released its only masculine fragrance, Patou Pour Homme, in 1980, and it endured a decade of commercial struggle before its demise. Very few men alive today actually know what Patou PH smelled like new out of the bottle in 1980, and even fewer can think of anyone they know, family or friend, who wore it with them. This brand did not have a long line of successful masculines, nor did it have any real interest in catering to male tastes beyond this perfunctory "signature" release. Nothing came before or after it. It simply existed in a vacuum of negative perfume space, a bubble floating in a sea of feminines (most of which were just as commercially unsuccessful), and then it ceased to exist, due to poor sales numbers.

Currently a bottle resides on Ebay for $630, "or best offer." It's been there for two days so far, and no winning offers, but it's only a matter of time before another merchant buys it and adds it to their inventory, priced at an additional one hundred and thirty dollars. The margin of profit isn't even that great with this perfume, but it continues to exist as a supposed bastion of perfume legend, a masterpiece worthy of rent money. Why? There is no reason. Patou never established a "fan base" with men. This perfume does not rest on the laurels of other greats. No other greats followed it. It was not desired enough to warrant continued production by Patou, hence its discontinuation. To its credit, Patou cashed in on the recent "niche" craze and issued a new perfume under the same name, supposedly sharing many similarities with its template, but by many accounts the original was "better." Yet the formula was never called upon by Patou in the nineties or the naughts. If this perfume was truly so great, so worth $630 in 2014, then think of all the money lost in those years it was absent from stores.

One could argue that the "fan base" for Patou Pour Homme comes with the Patou name alone, but that doesn't wash. Try telling me with a straight face that heterosexual, beer drinking, football-watching American men care about Jean Patou. You can't do it. You can't even tell me that homosexual American men care, and Europeans? I've been to Europe, and hung around many of their guys. They don't give a shit, either. Of course, this isn't surprising, as Patou's brand was never successful in catering to men on either side of the pond. The "fan base" doesn't exist beyond perhaps a handful of guys who don't have anything better to do with their money, most of them bidding on that overpriced bottle so they can resell it a year or two later at a profit, right back to the guy who sold it to them in the first place. Like I said, an incarnation of idiocy.

At this point, no one can even say that Patou PH's vintage bottles are increasing in value, because they keep popping up, time and time again, right there on The Bay, with absurd asking prices, at the tail end of 2014. Isn't stock limited? Haven't all extant vintages been purchased by now by die-hard lovers of this perfume, to be held onto and cherished forever to the very last drop? Evidently not. There are ten bottles up for auction today alone, not including a slew of aftershaves and even a couple bottles of the reissued version.

This brings me to Parfums Mavive and the Green Generation line of perfumes, released in 1998 in partnership with Weruska & Joel. Parfums Mavive is not the original manufacturer of any of the Pino Silvestre products, as the brand was purchased from Silvestre sometime in the eighties or nineties. Pino Silvestre has a fanbase that extends almost as far as Dr Seuss' - the original fragrance was issued in 1955, and has been an impressive commercial performer ever since. There have been a few variations on the theme, but nothing too dramatic or long lived. Men simply enjoy this perfume, both here and in Europe, and they continue to enjoy it. It has a huge fan base that took decades to create.

Granted, it was never a "luxury" brand like Patou, but Silvestre's scent was the only true pine-centric perfume a man could wear, giving it huge market share in that corner of the men's department (and without containing any actual pine). Pino Silvestre Extreme, Fifty, Ice Water, Blue, and Green Generation Unisex were all late twentieth century spin-offs that sold moderately well for brief periods of time, before the money dried up. Right now the only available flankers are PS Sport and three new releases that seem to have nothing to do with the original, called Oud Absolute, Rainforest, and Underwood. I'd hazard to guess that none of them will live to see 2020.

Green Generation Unisex is the only discontinued fragrance in that sub-line by Mavive that perfume connoisseurs are aware of, it seems. For a long time, it was the only one I was aware of, until I stumbled across Green Generation Him at a local brick and mortar. That's when I discovered that the GG lineup includes a "His" and "Hers," and sure enough, basenotes lists them. Yet nobody talks about them. They're not even on Ebay. They're not on Fragrantica. There are no threads dedicated to them. No blog posts. It's like they never existed. Very strange.

Stranger that something bearing the Pino Silvestre name would slip under the radar like that, given the brand's visibility. But the economics behind it all are not strange. The economics make sense. I purchased the 3.4 ounce bottle for $29. It's been out of production for at least fourteen years, and surviving bottles are extremely rare to boot. But the perfume was a commercial flop in 1998, both here and in Europe, and there is no consumer memory of the product to add to that. Despite having a fan base, the Pino Silvestre name was not enough to justify inflating the price of this rare and wonderfully made perfume. That's almost a shame, because if anything deserves to have a three-digit price, it's Green Generation Him. Unlike the original scent, this is a very smooth, dry, brazenly synthetic, yet classy fougère.

If you want a blow by blow description of it, see my review on Fragrantica. Here on my blog, I'll just relate the important stuff. The first thing you need to know is, your chances of finding this perfume anywhere are slim to none. That shouldn't deter you from looking, however. If you are miraculously lucky and do find a bottle, the second thing you need to know is, you should buy it. The third and perhaps most pressing point is that you need to wear it. Don't store it in a drawer and covet it, and then put it up on The Bay for three hundred dollars. You buy and own perfumes for the love of perfume, right? Then in owning this, you own the fact that you'll be wearing something that no one else in a five hundred mile radius is wearing. It's a brilliant composition, admittedly a bit rocky in the first two minutes from the atomizer (not sure if age is a factor, but it's likely), yet it dries down to a suave, subtle, woody base after several hours of pleasant citrus, lavender, black currant, violet leaf, tomato leaf, anise, pine, and Calone notes. It's fresh, it's dark, it's modern, and it's a pleasure to wear.

I'm not familiar with the smell of Green Generation Unisex, and I doubt I'll ever encounter it, or the Her version, but I hope I do. Parfums Mavive had their finger on the pulse of the fashion world in the late nineties, and channeled the successes of things like Drakkar Noir, Green Irish Tweed, Cool Water, Horizon, Aqua Quorum, Claiborne Sport, Polo Sport, and even Eternity for Men. Fans of those kinds of old-school aromatics should consider Green Generation Him to be their El Dorado. I feel fortunate, for today I am wearing gold.




10/13/14

Eau des 4 Reines (L'Occitane)



My brother happens to be a huge fan of L'Occitane's fragrances, and owns five or six of them, making the brand his number one choice. He only has eight to ten frags. He's not a huge fragrance enthusiast, so this seems about right. For some reason, L'Occitane is the gateway niche brand of Connecticut, and the go-to for young guys and gals who don't know a lick about perfume, but want to wear something "fancy" and "obscure." The Danbury Fair Mall has a sizable shop frequented by New York Staters and western Yankees of means, and last I checked it was as pricy as ever, given what you get (basically your average mall scent).

Eau des 4 Reines is the third L'Occitane I've worn, putting me considerably behind my younger sibling with this brand, but it inspires no urgent need to catch up, as I find it to be a disappointment. I should make clear though that I think it's a good perfume, and worth checking out if you're a lover of rose scents. There's nothing wrong with it, quality-wise. It's made of decent, long-lasting synthetics, and possesses a delicate floral character that is at once abstract and regal, postmodern and stuffy. That's an odd balance to strike. The most direct comparison I can make is not to any single perfume, but to one part of a perfume, the base of Creed Spring Flower.

Spring Flower opens with a barrage of sour fruit notes that become somewhat sweeter with time, before dissolving into an intricately delicate and transparent floral bouquet, mostly light nuances of rose, jasmine, muguet, and freesia. The effect is very fresh, green, yet also watery and sheer, reminiscent of a toned down version of Tommy Girl's "fresh" notes. It is quite dynamic for what it is, and note separation is very good if you pay attention. It also smells much more natural than it is given credit for.

Eau des 4 Reines is a significantly less dynamic recreation of Spring Flower's bouquet, with the same emphasis on delicate petals and clean, watery freshness. I guess the idea was to capture the essence of roses in a fresh vase of water. This is fine and well, but for some reason the balance is off, and the watery aroma chemical overcomes the florals, creating an unfortunate hand soap effect. An hour into the drydown, the light rose and jasmine notes of Ed4R are smudged out completely, and there's no longer any point in searching for anything distinct.

As I said before, the rose note is decent and rose lovers should at least give this a try, if they can find it. I believe it's been discontinued, but like any discontinued scent, its ghost haunts the grey market. Just don't expect anything along the lines of Perfumer's Workshop Tea Rose or Jo Malone's Red Roses, both superior roses in every way. And if you enjoy the basic idea of this fragrance, but wish it were more interesting, Spring Flower is the answer.




10/10/14

"Getting" Turin's Opinion On Cool Water




The Good Doctor took a lot of flak for his famous reviews of Green Irish Tweed and Cool Water, and back in 2009 I had little sympathy for him. After all, Green Irish Tweed is beloved by many, a truly wonderful masculine that is both impeccably made and historically significant in ways that only the most entrenched industry insiders can fathom (ironclad verification of who actually created it is still pending, to this day). Turin and many in the fragrance community believe that Pierre Bourdon is the nose behind GIT, and I tend to agree with that, although Bourdon himself has never publicly taken credit for the perfume. In a recent interview aimed at shedding light on his work for Malle, he stated that his best work was not realized in his commercial efforts, and suggested that his niche portfolio was far better. What puts many of us at odds with that suggestion is that Creed is technically a commercial designer perfumery, steeped in tailoring tradition, and now entirely about raking in perfume profits on a clever mass gray-market scale. If GIT, a product of Creed's, is not an example of Bourdon's best work, I and many others have no idea what is. Bourdon's self assessment is more tellingly marred by the fact that he is the author of Davidoff's Cool Water.

Turin felt the heat when he awarded five stars to Cool Water in Perfumes: The Guide, but only four stars to GIT. Many felt this was simply a slighting of Creed, as a disdain for the brand is clearly perceptible in Turin's writings. Others wondered if Turin had taken his "technical" appreciation of chemical perfumery a touch too far, lauding Davidoff's scent for its innovative spirit alone. This is where my take diverged a bit from some of the conversations that were had elsewhere. Although I agree that Turin has a derisive approach to Olivier's firm, I disagree that Cool Water is the lesser of the two perfumes. This blog post exists primarily to announce that I officially feel that Cool Water is, in both vintage and current formulas, superior to Green Irish Tweed, and the more desirable perfume. In fact, despite the fact that I own a few bottles of GIT, I can safely say for the record that I enjoy it considerably less than Cool Water, for a few key reasons. Before delving into those, I want to explain why the bloom is off the Creed rose here.

I've been wearing Green Irish Tweed off and on for five years now, with only a passing appreciation of it prior to 2011. I've been very familiar with Cool Water for at least twenty years, and I owned a small bottle at some point. Back in the old days, as a high school and college student, I didn't particularly like Cool Water. I remember it was too soapy, too strong, too strange. It smelled like shampoo dialed up to eleven, with extra wattage in the green apple and peppermint departments. For some reason those notes did little for me as a teenager and young adult. Of course since then I've grown into appreciating this fragrance, and many others like it. My enjoyment of it stems from a recognition that few other perfumes for men walk the line between masculinity and femininity so well, and even fewer do it with such overtly bright and "happy" notes. Fizzy mint and green apple, a hint of sea spray, blond driftwoods and purpley violets all conspire to make Cool Water a mess, yet Bourdon managed to pull them together into something special. If you want to experience how this type of fragrance can smell when done poorly, take a sniff of Wings for Men.

There was a long stretch in the 2000s where I didn't really dabble at all with this type of fragrance, mainly because I had other interests and priorities, but ironically I wore Allure Homme every day for the better part of ten years, a scent very heavily inspired by Cool Water and GIT. I remember smelling GIT for the first time, and thinking, "That's it?" It was so familiar, so ordinary, so stunningly synthetic. It smelled of spiky green synthetic notes of no discernible origin in nature, and then it flattened into a very smooth woody/musky base that was excellent in its own right, but certainly not exciting in any way. I liked it, but the drydown grew on me, and there were times where I wondered if I was falling in love. Let's face it, when it comes to fresh, crisp, friendly accords, few do it better than Creed, and GIT is nothing if not fresh 'n friendly. The fragrance literally sparkles out of the atomizer, full of violetty esters and ambery richness. Of course I was aware of its reputed similarity to Cool Water, and I smelled that, but I was willing to forgive it, because it was so smooth and refined and rich.

Then, just for kicks, I revisited Cool Water. I figured it would be a pale shadow of GIT, designer grade, in no way genuinely comparable, save for a passing resemblance. What surprised me with the cheaper scent was how intensely similar to GIT it smelled at its price-point, a perception I was sure would fade as I got reaccustomed to it. Instead of fading, that perception strengthened, until I found myself reaching for Cool Water more than GIT. After about three years of doing this, I finally stopped to reassess the two scents and decide what had happened. My enthusiastic feelings for the expensive (and slightly older) aromatic fern were waning, despite its originality and sophistication, while whatever vestigial sentiments I had mustered for Cool Water in days past had been resurrected and given new life. I turned it over for a long time, parsing texts, doing side-by-side sniff comparisons, quizzing friends and relatives, and simply road-testing them for reactions. The results were fascinating.

Over the years, and throughout all the personal and professional relationships I've forged, none of the reactions were as telling as those of Danielle, my girlfriend in 2011. I'm not going to get into who Danielle is, because I don't want to dissect our relationship here. I'll only divulge her reactions to GIT and Cool Water. The first fragrance I wore around her was Green Irish Tweed. We went on a movie date, and she mentioned that I smelled good on the way, and that was it. Then I switched to Green Valley for a month or two, which she seemed totally indifferent to, as she never said a word about it. By the time I got back around to GIT, our relationship was starting to hit rough waters. I wore it to dinner out one night, and her only two reactions were (paraphrased):
"It's nice, but why do men's colognes always smell like deodorant?"
And:
"Okay, now your cologne is starting to give me a headache. It's so strong I can practically taste it."
Pretty damning comments, considering we were eating at a Thai restaurant. I learned the hard way that GIT cuts through curry. I didn't wear it around her again.

I did, however, wear Cool Water. There's a conversation I had with Danielle that still sticks in my memory, with her recounting how she hated the colognes worn by the boys at her high school. She rattled off a few, I think Drakkar Noir, Acqua di Gio, and maybe Brut were mentioned, but she made it a point to single out Cool Water:
"The one I couldn't stand the most was Cool Water. It smelled like shit on every guy who wore it. I don't know why they couldn't wear whatever you're wearing today, because THAT smells amazing."
Oh, the bitter irony. I was wearing Cool Water. With a Chesire Cat grin, I informed her of this, and she was visibly embarrassed. She gave me the old Rodney Dangerfield, "It smells good on you, though." Naturally I went into a little monologue about how Cool Water is related to GIT, yadda yadda, and her eyes glazed over, she fell asleep, etc.

Every time I wore Cool Water after that, she commented on it, telling me how good I smelled. I had a hard time understanding her. I was still of the mindset that GIT was the better perfume, and Cool Water was the poor man's travel edition. It hadn't dawned on me yet that my thinking was based on a fallacy. Danielle's only complaint about GIT was that it was too strong, yet Cool Water, no shrinking violet (pardon the pun), was just fine. This stuck with me.

It was sometime last year that I finally reckoned with this. By that point I had been wearing GIT sporadically at work and in social situations, and had never received a compliment on it, yet every other month or so I would get an enthusiastic compliment on Cool Water, invariably from women. The cheaper, "more synthetic" fragrance was beating the shit out of GIT in the compliments tally. Indeed, Cool Water is a cheaper fragrance, but in price only. I returned to Green Irish Tweed last fall, wearing it with a vengeance, trying to flush out the compliments I knew had to be out there for it. I even took walks in a nearby state forest, thinking perhaps one of the few dozen hikers that frequent the trails might catch it on a breeze and say something. Although it did make a dog heel, no attention was given to this fragrance by my fellow human beings.

Last week I wore Green Irish Tweed to celebrate the beginning of October, and it was the first time wearing it at this particular company branch, where I've worked for only a year now (I spent several years for the company elsewhere). I figured someone would say something at this place. We're in closer quarters, there are more young women (and a few gay men), it was bound to happen. Day one, no compliments. Day two, nothing. Day three, a younger woman mentions with a positive tone of voice that she can smell my fragrance as she enters the room. The only problem: it was a really, really large room, and I was a good thirty feet away from her when she entered it. Despite that, she really didn't compliment me on it, just remarked that she could smell it from afar. What the fuck?

Then today I gave Cool Water another go after work. And as soon as it hit my skin, I recognized the issue. Green Irish Tweed is often considered by amateur enthusiasts like myself to be "more natural" than Cool Water. Years ago I could relate to that impression, because GIT is definitely a richer, denser, and arguably smoother composition than the Davidoff, which in turn smells a bit more textured and complex, at the expense of smoothness. I say "a bit" because the whole textural difference is very minor, only noticeable in exacting three or four additional notes not shared by GIT, like cedar, tobacco, and jasmine. Despite being richer and immeasurably louder than Davidoff's scent, GIT is, in my opinion, just as synthetic as Cool Water. There is nothing in nature that smells like Green Irish Tweed.

When you take the "more natural" argument off the table in conversations about which of these two fragrances is better, things start to get hairy for GIT. If it's not more natural than Cool Water, what is it? Why is it so much more expensive? What possible reason could there be to choose it over Cool Water? I can only approach these kinds of questions from my own vantage point. I still own and wear GIT because I like it, and I like that it is subtly different from Cool Water, making it fun to pick apart with each wearing. I also like that it came before Cool Water. Released in 1985, GIT was on shelves a full three years before those blue-green bottles started popping up everywhere. Whenever I wear GIT, I feel like I'm wearing the first of its kind. Bourdon officially took the bitter, slightly sinister citrus and violet leaf concept of Grey Flannel and stepped over an invisible line into Cary Grant territory, making something that smelled more versatile, approachable, and accessible.

Aside from its coming before Cool Water, I see no other reason to choose GIT over the twenty dollar scent. Despite being much cheaper, Cool Water is no more synthetic than its progenitor. It was designed by one of the greatest noses in the business, and the man put every effort into making his greatest artistic statement before the nineties hit, perhaps foreseeing the messiness that would follow perfumery out of the Reagan era and into the Day of the Microprocessor. Whatever the case, Davidoff's release was more popular, more widely known, and more meaningful to people than its template, which was still relatively unknown well into the nineties and naughts. A slightly broader awareness of GIT's existence began to emerge around 2005 and 2006, but it wasn't until people started marveling at the similarities between Creed's then $185 perfume and its $25 counterpart that people realized something was up here - the Cool Water we thought we knew had surprising origins. Instead of being a successful accoutrement to a smoker's lifestyle, Cool Water was a distinctly singular cultural artifact with an esoteric ivory tower heritage. This really put the "cool" in Cool Water. Hey, you can wear this for twenty five bucks if you buy it online, and smell really, really similar to rich guys who wear that expensive perfume with the sleek bottle and quirky name that no one ever heard of before. Who knew?

Whenever anyone mentions that they think GIT is the best of its ilk, someone else pops up right alongside them to convey that really, Cool Water smells too much like GIT to justify paying the extra cashola. It's this little yin-yang thing that had me screwing up my eyes with every sniff and examining every conceivable detail of both fragrances. Green Irish Tweed is richer, yes. Green Irish Tweed is richer in that it is a heavier, louder, more powerful concentration of very synthetic accords, all of which smell very good. GIT also lasts longer, its woody notes lifting over the course of a few days on fabric, leaving behind this sublimely pleasant grassy-floral note, still heavily tinged in violet. Cool Water is thinner, significantly weaker, does not carry over across days in the same manner as GIT (although its sweet musk can still be felt at least 24 hours after), and prone to the sort of deliberate aesthetic criticism that comes the way of every "fresh" aquatic since AdG. That's to be expected, since Cool Water has a distinct salty sea-spray element pervading its pyramid.

Yet Cool Water's added transparency lifts it out of the eighties, and keeps it feeling modern and relevant today, twenty-six years after its release. When I wear this perfume, I feel like its green minty violet-leafy notes are moving, alive, unpretentiously cheap and chemical, yet holding those qualities up as examples of how coherent and concise aroma chemicals can be when assembled with such skill, such keen judgment and selection. Alone, its shampoo-grade green apple note is banal and forgettable, but when paired with the other aromatics in Cool Water, it becomes crab apple: bitter, green smelling, with an oddly woody aftertaste. Smelling synthetic is the whole point of this type of aromatic fragrance - the idea is to depart from nature using analogs of natural materials.

Green Irish Tweed does it just as well, but does it a touch too loudly, and here is the main reason why I don't enjoy it as much as Cool Water. I'm more self conscious when I wear GIT to work. I've literally apologized for it twice in one week, because the same woman keeps mentioning that she smells it, NOT that she likes it, from many feet away. That makes me feel like my fragrance is too loud, and possibly a bit vulgar. It won't stop me from wearing GIT because I know the stuff smells good, so even if there's too much of it, it's not the end of the world. But with Cool Water, I can relax a bit more. This stuff isn't Cary Grant in a tuxedo, it's Robert Forster in a sweat shirt. Still refined, still classy, but not as overly eager to please. Cool Water makes itself known at three or four feet away, but unless you literally empty an entire bottle on your head, it's not going to greet you from thirty feet away.

My other problem with GIT is that it's simpler than Cool Water. Much simpler, actually. Lemon verbena, a hint of lavender, Granny Smith apple, a cloud of octin esters, synthetic amber materials, synthetic ambergris for that trademark bitter-metallic Creed musk, and a bit of natural sandalwood, perhaps in microscopic doses under all the Ambrox, are what comprise the entire scent. Lovely for what it is, but not exactly a precision instrument. Cool Water defies all explanation by yielding dessicated citrus, green apple, a saline breeze, lavender, peppermint, and neroli, all in the top accord alone. These notes are followed by clear notes of jasmine, cedar, amber, violet leaf, violet, and more amber, with a drydown of woody amber and musk. If it was just a soupy blob, I'd say you're better off with the simpler, ostensibly more legible scent by Creed, but Cool Water is legible. Cool Water is very legible, actually. Coty's version is even more legible than Lancaster's.

All the suavest tones of GIT are mimicked perfectly in Cool Water's heart. If you want a sleek violet/amber effect, it can be had for three or four hours at a quarter the price of its competition. The similarities stem from the good things in the Creed, while the divergences are in the things that I want from GIT, but don't get. Therefore, I enjoy Cool Water more. Its additional complexity, its remarkable balance, its lower concentration, and its transparent (and more modern) characteristics carry it just over Green Irish Tweed's padded shoulders. And no, Cool Water isn't "more chemical" than GIT. It's just as chemical, but it does more with those chemicals.

In the end, I enjoy both of these fragrances. I think Cool Water's bottle should have been green, like the color of Davidoff's ill fated Relax, and I wonder why they didn't sell the formula to Creed as an EDT version of GIT. It is essentially a cleaner version of that billowy purple perfume from days gone by, and for that I am glad, and will continue to wear it long after the last drop of GIT has been worn and forgotten.





10/6/14

Jimmy Choo Man (Jimmy Choo)




I read a good article this morning by a female freelance writer for Salon.com named Ellen Burkhardt, who is twenty-six years old, from Minnesota, and apparently still a virgin. Her piece was about how difficult it is to be a twenty-six year old professional woman who is openly a virgin, and saving sex for marriage to the "right" man. I found it interesting because it struck a few inner chords for me, some conflicting, but as the day went on and I parsed the text further, everything evened out.

Ms. Burkhardt states early on in the article that she takes pride in her virginity because she feels it "separates" her from "other women," a statement that didn't go over very well with Salon's readership, judging by their comments. It seemed to attract the snobbiest, and even the angriest remarks, and I strongly suspect they are mostly from men. The issue is the idea that because she abstains from sex, she somehow thinks that she's unique because of it. This angers men because it seems to them to be a trivial reason to withhold what is, in their collective estimation, an important feature of any modern (or postmodern) relationship. In other words, to many of her readers, Ms. Burkhardt's virginity isn't worth it - to men.

The comments are generally negative toward her and her position. One person remarked that she's "weird" and that the world isn't interested in her because of it. Several others said that she's setting herself up for marital failure, for whenever she does happen to meet Mr. Right and marry him, the sex will be bad (she's too inexperienced to satisfy anyone), the man will likely be a homosexual anyway (who else would have that sort of patience with her?), and it'll all end in divorce, after which she'll be a sad, disillusioned, middle-aged divorcee now forced to start all over again and, well, not have sex until the next Mr. Right (which is implicity ridiculous). One of the most ironic comments read:
"The author has an extremely immature, overly-romanticized notion of sex. Sure, sex within a loving relationship is great, just like any fun activity can be enhanced by enjoying it with someone you love. But that isn't the ONLY way to enjoy . . . practice makes perfect. That is, sex is usually better after two people get to know each other sexually. The first time might be just fine--IF both parties know what they're doing. But it usually gets better over time. It simply isn't going to be 'glorious!' the first time. And the only thing 'life-changing' isn't the act itself, but just going from being a person who doesn't have sex, to one who does."
So in translating this gobbledy-gook, this hyper-realist is saying that it's immature to "overly romanticize" the most romantic act two people can share between themselves, because it's just another example of sharing a "fun activity" with someone else, and make sure to allot the appropriate amount of time in life to practice it, so you can get better at all that down-to-earth fucking. And let me ruin it for you by adding that your first time is definitely NOT going to be "glorious!" Because somehow I know that.

If bullshit were music, this person would be the whole brass band. Several years ago I slept with a woman who was literally ruined by having too many sexual partners, to the point that she couldn't really identify what part of our relationship was actually meaningful anymore, and she openly admitted it. All that bedpost notching caught up with her, made her untrusting, jaded, pensive, cynical. Of course it goes without saying that Ms. Burkhardt should ignore the nonsense being written under her piece, because none of it is based on anything other than people's insecurities, their personal vendettas against certain kinds of women, in this case virgins. These comments are perfect examples of people talking out of their asses.

What makes it even more heinous is that these commenters hide behind manufactured monikers, taking cheap shots at a woman with the courage to publicly write about one of her most personal decisions using her real name, and even a photograph of herself. She is a brave soul surrounded by cowards, strength surrounded by weakness, and all that weakness trying to pull her strength down to their level. I think little of morons who parade around blithely ignorant of their own stupidity, and even less of those who do it using pseudonyms.

I admit that I raised an eyebrow when I read her original statement about "separating" herself from other women. This seemed a little naive to me, for I've met a few women who opted to be virgins until marriage. In a sense, there's actually nothing distinctly separatist about being a female virgin, even in her twenties. It certainly isn't how the majority of twenty six year-olds identify, but I wouldn't consider it particularly unique. And I'll admit that there's a part of me that bristles a little whenever I read something by a woman championing the virtues of virginity.

For the majority of the male population, especially the average Joe on the street, the luxury of creating a long-game life plan for when we will and will not have sex isn't a reality. Attractive men can afford it perhaps, but most middle-grounders like myself will pursue sex and feel lucky whenever we can have it, simply because we really are like dogs after all. We really do treat every hay roll like it's our last (well okay, maybe not quite, but that's the emphasis we put on it). Then again, that very fact is probably the reason women like Ms. Burkhardt can customize their sexual lives to exactly their desired fit and finish.

Jimmy Choo Man is the perfume version of the naive concept of being new and different and unique by acting in a way that is plainly not new, or different, or in any way unique. One gets the feeling from Choo that releasing this very first masculine was like taking some sort of magic plunge for the brand, for *gasp!* it's a MASCULINE FRAGRANCE FROM JIMMY CHOO!!! You know Jimmy Choo, the guy who makes insanely expensive stilettos for women with too much disposable income! And he's selling something to men! Everyone get behind me, I'm going to faint.

I half expected the fragrance to smell like a feminine perfume, simply because I'm conditioned to only expect feminine products from anything bearing the Choo label. Imagine my surprise upon sniffing this thing. It comes in a drab grayish bottle, which I took to be an effort to not come off as too "girly" the first time around. Bland looking, but still appropriate enough at the price-point. The fragrance? At first I thought my guess was correct, because the top notes are sweet, almost severely so, loaded with synthetic fruit ester materials that scream pineapples and melons and berries and pink peppery fizz. It's that whole Spectorian wall of sound effect, for the nose.

Ten minutes later it evens out, and what do you know? It's Bleu de Chanel, his lanky blue bones of synthetic labdanum, vetiver, ginger, and citrus settled in a massive La-Z-Boy of fuzzy patchouli and woody ambers. This turns the proceedings more than a little butch, but does nothing for me. Recognizing a clone of Bleu slouched in between all the louder sweet stuff is like seeing Alain Delon in drag. Why muss up such chic masculinity with cheesy, borderline comical pretense? I don't get it. JC Man smells good in a very department store party-scent sort of way, and the BdC aspect gives it a bit of dignity beyond the call of duty, but why go halfsies here? Go gurl power or go superman, but pick one already. In the end, JC Man makes me want to smell the real Bleu de Chanel and call it a day.

The message I would impart to Jimmy Choo is the same message I have for Ms. Burkhardt: revel in your choices, but don't try to sell me the "unique" line, because there's no point. Whatever you're doing has been done before. It's 2014. You're not breaking any new ground. You're not blowing anyone's mind. You might be pissing off people who think they know better than you (many of whom don't), but let's face it, that ain't new either. I have no idea if Jimmy intended to imitate someone else's design in this fragrance, or if it's just a strange coincidence, just as I don't know how much of Ms. Burkhardt's essay was being played as straight as she made it seem, but in the end I begrudge neither of them for their chosen courses of action. No harm, no foul.





9/28/14

gs02 (Biehl Parfumkunstwerke)




It was a hot July day, probably about 110° Fahrenheit, but a dry heat, and I was on the isle of Capri with a handful of friends, looking for something to do. We wandered along the main Corso reading menus and taking pictures when we spotted her, a little old woman sitting on the pier at a folding table with a sign that read "RENTALS." Figuring she was sold out, my buddies elected me to venture over and mangle some Italian in an attempt to find out if renting a boat was even a remote possibility.

Turns out, it was. There, on the salt and sun baked driftwood pier, this seventy-something year-old Strega Nona clapped her aluminum credit card slider across our plastic and handed us a key. Out of nowhere, a young shirtless guy with skin the color of aged bronze hoisted himself onto the wood and started gesturing for us to follow him, babbling in an indecipherable dialect. He had a fifteen footer with a massive outboard, and in forty-five seconds he'd taught us how to start the thing and guide the throttle. Then he monkeyed back up to the pier and vanished. My buddy Dave fired up the engine and we were, to our sudden amazement, flying across the Mediterranean's indigo whitecaps, salt, sun, and a few thousand years of history spraying our bodies.

That evening we spent a night on the town, and the girls were amused by the rows of Vespas parked along the streets, posing here and there for pictures on them. Italy is the one country in the world where young women don't have to worry about offending men by taking liberties with their possessions. As an Italian American, I can say with some accuracy that our mindset is almost always focused on meeting the most liberated women on the planet. Needless to say, we had a lot of fun that summer.

Biehl's second perfume from Geza Schoen is the olfactory encapsulation of free-spirited Italian fun, a sumptuous blend of sweet Campari, slightly vanillic castoreum, angelica, mandarin orange, artemisia, tonka, and musk. The Campari and citrus mixed with subtle animalics lends the perfume a distinctly sunny vibe, while the artemisia and angelica give it a dusky, early-autumnal feeling, the scent of earth well scorched. This composition is flawlessly balanced and pleasing to the nose. It's not the least bit challenging or even particularly unique, save for its handling of an unconventional liquor note, and material quality is decidedly designer grade, but the effects of the notes and their arrangement are very enjoyable to me.

gs02 is something I reach for from time to time. Something about its fragrance reminds me of burnt hill tops and warm ocean waters the color of spearmint and sapphires. I just want to thank Mr. Schoen for that.