12/1/21

Denim Black EDT (Bellevue Parfums)




Givenchy released its famous eighties fresh amber thirty-five years ago, and called it Xeryus. Then, some twenty-odd years later, it re-released it in its Parfums Mythiques line. Having smelled both the vintage version and the newer PM, I can attest to the way the fragrance resembles Drakkar Noir. It has that smooth, dusky, lavender-like feel to it, and is certainly in the old-school barbershop tradition. 

Denim is the odd European drugstore toiletry brand that has accidentally cloned Xeryus with Denim Black, and that's a happy accident. It excels in both pyramid structure and ingredient quality, and smells about sixtyish percent similar to the Givenchy (the other fortyish is straight-up Noir Drakkar). Same brisk-green sage and citrusy accord on top, followed by a softer and somewhat vague spiced lavender, which mellows into what is almost the same warm fougere amber. The main difference to my nose is in the addition of Calone, which lends the woody basenotes a peripherally fruity effect reminiscent of New West. Also there's an aqueous note which runs throughout the drydown arc of the scent and lightens it up significantly, making DB more approachable and utilitarian than its pricier designer ancestors. It's the dusty sage note that wins me over. 

My guess is the word black on the label conjures up Guy Laroche's masterpiece, which would explain why everyone seems to think this is its clone. They're not wrong, exactly, as Xeryus was a reinterpretation of that dihydromyrcenol bomb, but there's no mistaking the resemblance to the Givenchy if you have any experience with it. If you can't find Xeryus anywhere, Denim Black is a suitable substitute. Good for after a shower and shave, as long as you're okay with only two or three hour longevity. 


11/25/21

It's Okay to Remove Manliness From Men's Frags


A Transgender Actress and YouTuber

My fragrance collection, which can be seen in its entirety on Fragrantica, is basically a compendium of bottled testosterone. See for yourself. It should first be noted that I personally enjoy masculine fragrances, or colognes that are commercially marketed exclusively to men. Kouros is one of my favorites. Lapidus Pour Homme is right there with it. Boss One, Monsieur Musk, Lauder for Men, VC&A Pour Homme, Vermeil Pour Homme are all hairy-chested brutes, and I wear them (and their clones) all the time. So this post shouldn't be construed as being against manliness in perfumery. I'm an open advocate for men of all ages finding and wearing these gems, and many others like them. If you're a guy's guy with five ball caps and a muscle car, and you only own one fragrance, Kouros is pretty tough to argue with. 

I bristle at how modern society has successfully beaten down its men. But if there's one place where the trend of hairy-chested manliness can fade without bothering me, it's over in the fragrance aisle. Here's the thing: the classics are un-killable. After multiple reformulations and supposed neuterings, Lapidus, Boss, Drakkar, and countless others are still their formidable selves. Sure, some classics have experienced a reduction in concentration, or have had several key notes clipped out; perhaps the civet bite that we fondly remember from YSL's masterpiece is missed, or the oakmoss from Z-14. Sure, Balenciaga shouldn't have discontinued its flagship masculine, and Boss could've spared us a few of their apple shampoo releases of the last twenty years. But despite all of this, the survivors are mostly intact. Old Spice is a Corolla in perfume form.

In the absence of threat, I find no fault with evolving into a new approach for masculine perfumery. We should consider Plato's Symposium and the myth of Hermaphroditus and Salmacis. Plato earnestly explained that according to Aristophanes, human beings were wildly different before the final two forms of Eros, masculine and feminine, as there was a third Eros, androgyne, which hailed from the moon. Male, female, and androgyne were one, literally balled up together, and would roll around challenging the gods and pissing them off. The gods were reluctant to destroy them because they made constant offerings, forced them to question their omnipotence, and were powerful enough to attack and lose to them. So they opted to cleave them in halves, which resulted in male and female humans. The androgyne also survived in what has been rather crudely interpreted as a homosexual form, which ironically possesses traits of both sexes.  

The curse the Greek gods bestowed on us was the immutability of the human state. Modern interpretations of Plato's story vary. Some think he told it in jest, while others divine a darker meaning, one in which the many mortal pains and vulnerabilities of humankind are actually its life force, the essence of existence. Aristophanes contended that Eros was like a magnetized impulse drive that attracted human beings to all the things that could complete their imperfections, that inscrutable desire to couple with an unseen other. Carl Jung casually referred to this as the Shadow self, saying that it was a recognition of the darkness of our psyches; the television series character Dexter called it his Dark Passenger. But there's some danger in disengaging the androgyne from natural law by ascribing to it sinister supernatural powers. We might lose the point of Plato's pitch: we are naturally complicated, and because of this, the gods spared us. 

This ties into the curse of having perfumes marketed to us like we're children. Every day our complicated 1970s Jaguar engine identities are targeted by sly but simple-minded devils in two-piece suits with one agenda, to take our money. In the late twentieth century, it was an easier proposition. There were far fewer players in the game, which meant less competition to overcome. The reason boring fragrances like Polo and Le Male gained enduring footholds in the market is there were plenty of even more boring frags with no marketing budgets crumpled in a pile at their door. But the twenty-first century has confirmed what everyone in the 1990s suspected: people like to toy with gender expression. Yes, a man wants to smell like a man, and corporations can cater accordingly. But that isn't the only box men want to be stuffed into. Men recognize the versatility of classicism. They understand the durability of their own machismo. And they do not fear the urge to explore, or at least they shouldn't. 

If classical fragrances for men were largely sweet, musky florals, and manly men are secure in their masculinity, they have no reason to avoid sweet, musky florals and whatever else the market throws at them. But I'll take it another step further - we can consciously dissect the powerhouse balls-to-the-wall masculines, toss out everything that made them "for men," and replace those elements with the most delicate floral and gourmand accords imaginable, and guess what? They'd still work on a large number of men. It's done all the time, but western sensibilities tend to overlook that fact. Take the basic Eau de Cologne concept, for example. It's a crisp burst of gender-neutral citrus, followed by whatever smattering of kitchen herbs the brand favors, and nearly always rests on a fairly substantial floral base, often of neroli, jasmine, and rose. Men wear this stuff all the time, and nobody says anything because it's short-lived and rarely noticed fifteen minutes after application. Doesn't stop men from applying it, though!

It's true you get odd guys like me who have spent years studying the social connections American society has with perfume, and how the landscape is ever-changing and full of curve balls. And guys like me are well aware that there's a whole community out there that won't fret wearing olfactory drag. But what if we look beyond our community and think a little about what erasing the twentieth century archetypical masculine fragrance would mean, and how it might impact the broader culture. 

I'm not a behavior analyst, but I know that one of the key rules of behavior analysis is that you can't eliminate a behavior without implementing a suitable replacement for it. So it stands to reason that we can't expect things like Drakkar Noir and Boss Number One to disappear from men's wardrobes unless there's something more useful for them to wear. When I say "useful," I mean it. Fragrance has its uses, and I've gone into that in other posts. But to sum up, they're meant to attract, they're meant to neutralize body odor, they're meant to express identity. These tie into the ego of the wearer. They communicate to others. And they unravel some deeper desires. But what would be the right way to change the paradigm of masculinity and masculine olfactory tropes? We've seen some acceleration into these questions already. Fragrantica recently did a piece on Jardins de la Bargamote by the Egyptian indie brand Nilafar du Nil, in which the beauty of bergamot is showcased in a polished green-floral mode. It's marketed as unisex, but we know that men have appropriated bergamot. 

Unsurprisingly, it's flanked by neroli and petitgrain, making this a very bergamot tree-centric thing for the postmodern male to wear. I'd say this is step one in the new direction men may go. After the fougeres of old, the palate is cleansed by a CK One done with big dollars behind it. It clears the way for step two: a template for something to complement the scowling charisma of today's Clint Eastwood, found in Xerjoff's Ipnotica. With notes of peach, quince, tuberose, orange blossom, jasmine, and vanilla, one might suppose the idea here is to bring the classical feminine into modern orbit. Men with money will wear this, and the patchouli and musk can ground the often transient fruit notes, and tame the florals if they're dosed over. But peach? Quince? This is feminine territory. Marketed as unisex.

I think step three is reached at the point where the unisex branding is removed, and the Fleur de Male approach becomes standard in men's marketing. We're already two-thirds of the way there already. But consider what it means if almost every new fragrance resembles that template. Suddenly the essence of classicism is revived, and men's florals have officially made a comeback. I've spent months and months extolling the virtues of Victorian lilac and rose waters. You have to remember the key element about those things: they were signs of good grooming in an age when most people were lucky to have a bar of lard soap. Imagine a time when even clean people smelled bad. We really wouldn't be so picky about our style of cologne! A man who smelled of lilac water smelled good. Because surprise of surprises, lilacs smell good. 

But yeah, I know, back then there wasn't much to choose from, people didn't read into that stuff as much, yadda yadda. Today we have different standards, true, but some of the old ideas, from Plato's day to today, retain their cultural cache. Nineteenth century men were killers, cowboys, heathens, archetypical antiheroes. The equivalent today are our armed servicemen, policemen, farmers, hunters, and artists. There's nothing wrong with balancing out that level of testosterone with something gentle, delicate, a little floral, a little green. The contrast of that sort of fragrance to that kind of character is only a benefit, because it isn't superfluous. It isn't redundant. If anything, it accentuates the wearer's masculinity. Contradistinction is a virtue here.

Lastly, let's address the elephant in the room when it comes to gender today. I'm on the record as being pro-transgender rights, and generally being fairly open-minded about transgenderism, which runs counter to my Republican street cred. I view trans people as being like everyone else, with varying degrees of success and failure in their quest for self-actualization. Some fall short, while others can simply astonish (see picture above). Sadly, we live in a time where science is on the line. People doubt the efficacy of vaccines (something I simply don't understand), believe statistics are racist (yet another), and claim there are inarguably two genders, as if anyone is arguing otherwise.

On that last point, I think we can have our cake and eat it, too. Yes, there are only two genders, if we're going to be perfectly honest here. But it's 2021, and human beings can switch between them, and with the advantages of modern science, transition to a near-perfect embodiment of whoever they want to be. Physically it's impossible to entirely transition, but we are what we do. If we do feminine, we're feminine. If we do masculine, we're masculine, and we're perfectly capable of transitioning to a different plane of masculinity, one which may readily overlap with the feminine, simply by splashing on a little rose cologne before the big game. 

Master Witch Hazel (Master Well Comb)



The search for a superior witch hazel continues, and I may have found it. It's funny to consider how public opinion changes. When I started reading Badger & Blade's forum posts in 2009, its members were enthusiastic about a polyol compound called glycerin. Men were adding glycerin to their aftershaves and boasting about it. Many were adding glycerin to aftershaves that already had glycerin in them. Glycerin was mentioned all the time. Guys wanted glycerin. Guys sought it out. Guys prized it when they found it, and added it as a magic ingredient, and nary a day passed without someone opining on its wonders. Like menthol crystals, glycerin was a hot wetshaver accessory.

Today, glycerin is the boogeyman. I'm always reading comments: "Too much glycerin," "The glycerin ruined it for me," "I prefer (x) because (y) has glycerin," etc. I suspect it's one of many reasons for why Master Well Comb has been struggling (the brand recently shuttered its website). The company seems fond of glycerin, and adds it to most of its products, including its double-distilled witch hazel. While the tacky drydown is debatably annoying in their other stuff, I find that it provides an ideal balance here: enough alcohol for the plant extract to work as an astringent, and just enough glycerin to prevent it from drying out my skin. Nice work all around, and very hard to find fault with. 

Cut-rate Hamamelis Vernalis beads all across my unprepossessing mug like raindrops on a freshly-waxed Studebaker Dictator, due to my reprehensibly oily and authoritarian epidermis. Pricier witch hazel behaves like aftershave and seeps in. Masters' formula is just witch hazel, water, alcohol, and glycerin, and it feels the nicest out of everything I've tried thus far. One might argue that it's too expensive, but I got 15 ounces for ten bucks even, and I'm lucky to get twelve for eight everywhere else, so this is yet another eBay purchase that I do not regret. Try to find vintage if you can, just for the cool label. 

11/20/21

Candie's Men (Iconix Brand Group)

A Candie's Shoe Ad from the 1990s

This stuff was everywhere when I was a teenager, yet it seemed to vanish with my teenage years, and had become a memory. The Candie's brand was synonymous with the nineties, but proceeded to follow the decade into sweet oblivion, much as the movie careers of stars associated with a certain decade tend to do. It was no coincidence that Jenny McCarthy, nineties bombshell and the then-face of Candie's, would gradually slip into obscurity by the middle aughts, or that sugar-sweet froot-chemical colognes would lose traction with subsequent generations. Its time had come and gone. Candie's was a thing of the past. The brand was losing too much money to recover. Story over.

So it's a little surprising that Iconix Brand Group has resurrected the men's cologne in 2021. What gives? One might well ponder how a forgotten and defunct brand could be viable with the youthfulness of a new audience, and I would argue that the suits at Iconix are targeting these inexperienced kids' noses in the hopes that Gen-Z money will validate their potential moneymaker. But to my experienced eye, they have the math all wrong. In 1999, Candie's Men was a synthetic watermelon/lavender thing that was just sweet and dumb enough on top to appeal to teenage girls (which should be the primary goal of every true masculine fragrance, including those aimed at adults), and just Boys Locker Room enough in the drydown to appeal to the teenage boys wearing it. 

In 2021, Candie's Men smells like a chemical spill, with nearly no discernible element to focus on. It yields a bright, nondescript "fresh" effect on top, which becomes vaguely sweet and froot-like, yet it can't shake the dreaded Windex vibe of badly conjoined accords. At times it smells like someone grafted a franken-pineapple to melon, but I'm told by Fragrantica that it's the coriander I'm meant to be smelling there. Then the cheap linalool and white musk base kicks in, and that faint herbal edge is signaling that I'm wearing a cheapo men's cologne. Gen-Z has moved past this already. Gen-Z is into no fragrance, or something with $200 oud and nail varnish in it. On top of that, the Candie's imagery, with its multicolored bottles and Marvel-meets-Vargas ad campaigns, can't compete in today's Woke environment. A blond cleaning a toilet? Fashion sin. Let the clothing and the fragrances go already. Fun is so two decades ago. 

11/14/21

Karl Lagerfeld Pour Homme (Karl Lagerfeld)

I always find it amusing when people on basenotes or Fragrantica praise a fragrance for smelling like a total mashup of other inarguably better fragrances. Aspiring fragrance writers take note: the least persuasive argument for fence-sitters is the one that relies on the phrase "it's like a cross between." Take, for example, the utterly superfluous Karl Lagerfeld Pour Homme, Lagerfeld's dull 2014 masculine, regrettably released at a time when the late designer was beginning to slip into fragrance obscurity. 

Whenever I smell this one at department stores (on paper and skin), I smell mediocrity incarnate. It's your average, unsurprising, predictable, and entirely forgettable jock juice, a semisweet lavender and woody amber concoction that adopts Lagerfeld's trademark powder bomb for the sake of brand fidelity. Yet online reviews beg to differ with me. One person writes, with remarkable confidence: 
"Chanel could put this in a bottle and charge $250 for it, people wouldn't doubt them or complain. It's a very fresh blue scent. To me it smells like a mix of Bleu de Chanel and YSL L'homme Cologne Bleue, for a more mature consumer (35+). 

Another says with considerably less aplomb:

"I can see why it's unliked, but I like it. It has a resemblance to Joop Go or Jump . . can't recall which one.  

And yet another dismisses the "hate" with prejudice:

"Well I am a bit confused over here with all these bad reviews, to me this is a straight cross between Bleu de Chanel, Invictus, and Black by Kenneth Cole. It got me many compliments."  

Does any of that sound good to you? No? Me neither. Look, I get it. I really do. When designers release generic crap to stopgap their losses on older stuff (in the absence of better stuff), they get what is usually undue shit thrown at them. It's very easy to crap all over inexpensive designer fare. Nearly all of it is forgettable, indistinguishable garbage, so how fair is it to single something out? 

Not fair at all, except this stuff just contributes to the degradation of our global culture. It's 2021, and we're acting like a virus is going to end the human race when we have multiple vaccines for it. It's 2021, and after eight decades of breathtaking movies, we're almost entirely out of material for competent films. I haven't seen a good new film in at least six or seven years. Hollywood and international studios have succumbed to this new Netflix wokefest zeitgeist, in which men aren't allowed to be men, and women must be the ass-kickers no man ever wanted. 

I recently watched this Dutch horror movie on the Shudder app, Tailgate, in which the writers thought it was important to impart to their audience that a father who stands up to a menacing bully to protect his family should end up suffering the just karma of being covered in chemical burns, naked and ashamed in the shower, shivering in fear in front of his disgusted wife and daughter. What a reasonable message. How dare he be a protective and dominating father figure of a man? The bully sure showed him. I can't help but wonder if he'd have fared as well if he'd menaced Basic Instinct Detective Nick Curran instead. You know Nick, right? A real character in a real movie.

Music has been showing some signs of intelligent life lately, which is surprising, but not enough to get my hopes up. Maybe it's the tunes, or maybe it's just the curves behind the chords of Dua Lipa and Doja Cat that appeal to me. I'm listening to AC/DC's Back in Black as I type this, and the days when people knew how to write songs this good are long over. And the thing that kills me is that they're not even that hard to pull off. It just takes the right kind of talents meeting and collaborating, but with the "metaverse" on our horizon, people don't exactly go out and meet anymore. Thanks a lot, social media. 

Granted, this "new" perfume is from 2014, so it's not entirely fair to align it with today's shortcomings. But I'm not saying anything about that. I'm just pointing out that it's a brick in the wall. Perfumery isn't immune to the garbage culture. The IFRA's neutering of thousands of twentieth century classics has led to a new generation of aroma chemical perfumes that aren't thinking outside of their technological boxes. When a brief is given today, the aim is to let the dumb bean counters do all the thinking, including dictate how creative the company is willing to be. Never mind letting the perfumer work that out first. The results are these boring and unoriginal olfactory twiddlings. 

If you're looking for an inoffensive woody lavender with those requisite hits of dry citrus and white musky powder, you can do worse than Karl Lagerfeld Pour Homme. But I somehow doubt Karl, with his black leather gloves and white ponytail, had anything to do with this insipid anti-everything potion. I can't even blame Millennials for it; this npc juice is the brainchild of those born after 1990. How do I know? Nobody can compare it to anything more than ten or fifteen years old. Yikes. It's likely an empty off-the-rack suit at whatever subsidiary concern managing Karl's rapidly dying perfume division phoned it in between Redtube videos and TikTok binges, and forgot about it*. Maybe its fans will benefit from that techno-induced amnesia. It's a money grab. Remember that before attempting any academic comparisons. Those gentle licks of floral-soap sweetness that chime in during the drydown were organized and tagged, so that future reformulations will be as easy as emailing a factory the line-item accords to veto. 

*Yeah, yeah, I know TikTok wasn't around in 2014. But I'm pretty sure Gen-Z is the first generation to successfully time travel, and look how the little fuckers wasted it. 

11/6/21

Joy (Jean Patou)




The celerity with which a forty year-old vintage of Jean Patou's Joy develops on skin makes a hangry adult Cheetah seem laggard by comparison. Despite this, the fragrance maintains a core fidelity that is, as far as I can tell, unshaken in its years. The sparkling aldehydic peach of what were once luxurious top notes is now simply a candy-pert sweetness, and just seconds after application a true onslaught of jasmine tsunamis the senses. The floral chords are lush, and the beige resinous woods supporting them are representative of a perfume rarity: natural materials. I do not own a bottle of vintage Joy, but was fortunate enough to wear the contents of one, and I have some thoughts.

We should pause to absorb the sad (and frankly avoidable) development that Jean Patou, a brand that tailored clothing and manufactured perfume for a century, no longer exists. It is now just "Patou," and while clothing is still pitched, accessories for olfactory pleasure are not. I don't know who gets the blame for this. Patou's Wikipedia page stops short of painting LVMH as part of the story of their demise, while Fragrantica seems hellbent on blaming the boogeyman. You don't need a boogeyman for this one; if I ask a tenth grader why a ninety-two year-old perfume for wealthy Depression-era women no longer exists, the answer would accurately be something along the lines of, "Because wealthy Depression-era women are pushing up daisies right now." 

But do today's daisies for yesterday's jasmine blossoms sound like a fair trade? The fragrance community is plagued by rumors of countless products being crammed with natural materials, and Joy is no exception, save for the fact that the rumors are mostly true. It really did require the essence of an ungodly number of flowers, reaching well into the thousands, to yield a single ounce. And you can smell it. Henri Almeras, French perfumer for Patou, was trained by the legendary Ernst Beaux of Chanel No.5 fame, and he understood how the interplay of aldehydes and lactonic fruit esters can elevate an otherwise dowdy white floral arrangement into a "modern" sphere. His work in Joy is aggressive. The jasmine is rich, fluorescent; the rose note lends an interesting coolness to balance their tropical balm; the sandalwood and hints of animalic musk are a smooth foundation for such a poised model. 

This sounds textbook by classical French perfumery standards, but I needed all of three minutes to realize that I was wearing the fragrance equivalent of what the Japanese call kanawa tsugi, or the joinery of building materials without the use of nails. Everything in Joy is familiar, everything is conservative and terrestrial by today's standards, yet the entire composition is a pristine example of obsessive fit and finish. Where the majority of feminines, including Joy's contemporaries, rely on heady mosses and musks to make sense of the fruits and flowers, Joy lets the secondary traits of each material match up with the next. Aristocratic names employ little more than pins, while the rest rely on railroad ties. Joy simply allows the overripe edge of peach to introduce the indolic facet of jasmine, which in turn finds the tawdry skank of civet, with the ensemble melting into the dried earthiness of resins and woods. This is as close to art as it gets.

As someone habitually critical of vintage and discontinued fragrances, my grey matter was operating on overdrive throughout the wearing experience. All the usual pitfalls were present - the aforementioned drydown speed, the slight muddling of accords, the unbalanced base - and though they jumped out at me, I didn't care. The sweetness of whatever was left of the top notes was uplifting, and, pardon the pun, "joyful," and the floral notes were so clear and realistic that I couldn't bring myself to feel disadvantaged by my proximity in time to this perfume's original materials. Sure, the petals were plucked decades ago, but they still felt as fresh and dewy and alive as they ever did. This is either the result of finally getting my nose on something good after an eighteen month pandemic, or Édouard Pinaud's words from his memoir are true, "Perfumes are really the most delicate beholders of our past life." 

Or perhaps it's both. 

11/1/21

Cannes TFWA 2021: Are You Out On a Yacht, or Out In the Cold?




As the real economies of the United States and nearly every western nation falter - inflation is on the rise, energy and food supply chains are straining, unemployment is snowballing - the perfume world continues to flourish. For those who've been observing the industry for years now, this is no surprise; the proliferation of niche brands in the last decade has far outpaced growth in virtually every other industry. Designer brands have also done well, mostly by diversifying their portfolios and widening their stances on flankers, luxe lines, exclusive offerings, and international releases. The money is there, the money is financing big dreams, and as usual, the money is flowing up. 

As I hammer out these grim words under relentless late-October Connecticut rains, in Cannes, France, a few hundred perfume industry insiders (perfumers, publicists, press) are enjoying chilled rosé and Beluga caviar on gluten-free cauliflower toast as they glide gently across sixty-five degree Côte d'Azur waters on rented yachts. It's a pleasant scene, where the founders and perfumers of countless legacy niche brands pitch their newest juices to the Fragranticas and GQs of the world. They speak of fantasy accords, unicorns, dancing roses, and the supernatural beauty of the Northern Lights. They aren't selling perfumes alone; their mission is to ignite your imagination via fantastic concepts designed to relieve you of unsatisfying jaunts across Côte d'Azur waters, and thrust you into the satisfying wonders of last-minute bullshit marketing jargon.  

Most of their perfumes cost in excess of $100 an ounce. Most of their North American distribution network is through the grey market, which reduces their operating costs down to the bare minimum, which in turn are devoted to their gold-plated boutiques in Luxembourg and Montenegro. With the exception of perhaps five feet of counter space at a Neiman Marcus in California, these visionaries can't be bothered to pander to American rubes. Their wares are not priced for middle class budgets. You work hard? You toil for forty, fifty, sixty, seventy hours a week, and then shop at stores that are half empty thanks to Biden's insane economic policies to put food on your family's table? Serves you right. Who said you deserve a job? Who told you to have children? Nobody promised you grocery stores would stock food. Good luck buying our perfume. 

These perfumes aren't really priced for you. They're priced for good people. People who actually work hard. They spent thirty hours a week in modern office buildings wearing silk suits and tailored shirts, talking on their iPhone 13s, and delegating. They tell their assistants, publicists, and accountants what to do. When they aren't telling people what they want, they're forced to travel. Do you have any idea how grueling it is to fly first class from Paris to Dubai every week? To take private jets to private clients and scrawl notes on what they want their next bespoke attar to smell like? To try and source a five pound chunk of natural ambergris for the next twenty years of bespoke attars? Between prawn salads and fingers of thirty-five single malt scotch, there are social media posts to write, public appearances to make, and five-star hotels to book rooms in. Life is hard. You have no right to judge. 

The perfume world has become the playground of the wealthy, more so than it was in past eras, while the rest of us have little choice but to peer in at it from the cold horrors of a relatively impoverished outside. This might sound like a very stupid progressive, far leftist approach to the industry, which may in turn surprise readers who are familiar with my awful right-leaning perspective on things. But the right is the true champion of the people. It is the Republican party that seeks to lower people's taxes, and thus increase their net pay. It is the Republican party that tries to support the working man, the guy who has never worn anything more expensive than Bleu de Chanel, and help push him toward a higher tax bracket. As a conservative, I see Fragrantica's latest post, and I bristle in anger. Every day I hear about "widening income inequality," but have to search to see how this inequality is actually operating, and who it operates for.

Here's the truth about wealth in today's world: if you have a spark, you have a fire. You bought a bitcoin in 2010 and held on to it? Welcome to $60K in 2021. You saved $20K back in 2013? Welcome to home ownership in 2021 (my personal status). You inherited $5 million from your family in 1985? You've forgotten about your three bottles of Creed hiding in the back of your third or fourth walk-in closet in 2021. 

For the bitcoin guy, the spark is enough for him to start a small business, and become much wealthier in years to come. For the $20K guy, the spark is enough for him to slip into some obscure tier of the middle class. For the $5 million guy, the spark was enough to make his holdings ever larger via market manipulation, interest, dividends, etc. He'll never know poverty. He'll never even know the middle class. Unless someone robs him blind, or he spends like Depp, he's permanent royalty. His perfumes of choice are Xerjoff, Guerlain bespokes, Creed bespokes. He considers obscure niche scents that are $175 a bottle to be his shave stuff. The industry is scrambling for his attention. 

There's nothing wrong with this. If the industry wants to pander to the wealthy, and ignore everyone else, so be it. But what happens when everyone else comes for the industry? Which side would be the prudent choice when the pitchforks are in hand? I'm not saying people have to limit their attention to hamburger and Diet Coke. I'm just saying it might be a good idea to remember the person who likes a hamburger and a Diet Coke while you're wooing the person who prefers rosé and Beluga caviar. It's time that niche brands like HFC and Xerjoff explored secondary brands that are priced for the middle class. Your regular lines cost $175 an ounce? No problem. But what about a line that costs $80 an ounce?

What the wealthy have forgotten is that the middle class can afford expensive things. That's why it's the middle. It's not the poor, the homeless, the destitute I'm speaking of here. I'm talking about people who drive Chevy Suburbans and wear Banana Republic. They shop at Whole Foods on Wednesdays, and Stop & Shop on weekends. They have disposable income. They have credit cards. They have thousand dollar televisions. They collect watches and hats and sneakers. They have iPhones, many of them iPhone 13s. But unlike the upper class, the middle likes the vague perception of value. They don't mind spending an extra Benny on a bottle if the product offers an exclusively superior fragrance, but they'd sooner spend an extra Benny on two bottles of something else if it's close enough. And with so many options, perfume is a close enough thing.

I know it's hard to have perspective on money when your annual net income is $9.7 million, but use a little financial calculus for a moment to consider that $50K a year for a single person is a good salary. Put two childless singles together, and they have a six figure income. I know, I know. It's not a seven figure income. There are plenty of things this middle class couple can't buy. But think of everything they can buy. Consider for a moment that most people aren't interested in collecting perfume. They just want to like something, and wear it. Then consider that their taste might overlap into yours. Wouldn't it be good for your bottom line to impress them? 

Wouldn't it be good to offer them something with a price tag that doesn't make them balk when they look at it? Wouldn't it be good to achieve the loyalty of a lot of people who repeat buy a $100 bottle, than the loyalty of a few who repeat buy a $400 bottle? Sure, your profit margins are fine with that latter calculus, because your mark-up is insane. The $400 bottle cost you $35 to produce, glass and cap included. Why not reduce your bling factor to minimize overhead and score a wider customer base with a broader market share? 

You might wonder why these companies aren't doing that. It's no surprise that French perfume companies are notoriously mismanaged, or that Emmanuel Macron is in charge of the country. These people aren't interested in doing things the smart way. These companies aren't run by people who have their bottom line at the top of their priorities. These are people who are more interested in projecting the images of wealth, of exclusiveness, of superiority, than of actually fostering these qualities. Until a real visionary emerges on the horizon of this postmodern landscape, people like Loris Azzaro, Zino Davidoff, Estee Lauder, we are subject to the meaningless whims of those who claim to pioneer niche perfumery. We're all left out in the cold.