In Defense of Masculines

Welcome to From Pyrgos, my fragrance blog. As a lover of perfume, I'm always exploring masculine scents and trying to find what basenoters refer to as the "Holy Grail". After three years of searching, I've come to the conclusion that Holy Grail fragrances are ridiculously hard to come by. I think I'd have better luck at finding the actual Holy Grail itself, even if drugged, blindfolded, and randomly airdropped into a desert of some distant third-world country. When I began exploring male perfumes, I did so under the misguided notion that gender marketing was meaningful, was something with artful rhetoric behind it. I know, I know. Naive. Heck, I figured ladies smelled like sugar and fruit and flowers, and guys smelled like motor oil and old wood. It never occurred to me that sugar doesn't really have a definitive smell, fruit comes in all sorts of edible and poisonous forms, and flowers are presented at virtually anyone's funeral, regardless of sex. 

To stereotype the three elements as being strictly "feminine" was not only silly, but patently false on all counts. Guys can smell sweet, fruity, and floral, and still maintain heterosexual identities and a daily regimen of shaving, chasing women, and shooting small game. Likewise, women can leave trails of motor oil, wood, leather, tobacco, and bitter greens in their path, should they choose to. Everyone's skin takes differently to the chemical compounds in perfume; even if Anais Anais smells of sunny and delicate flowers on me, it might come across as a sultry come-hither fragrance on you. It took a while, but after trying everything from Chanel N°5 to Yatagan, I finally realized the fact that most noses in the know have known since they started smelling: gender barriers don't really exist, and those that do are meant to be crossed.

With that said, there's a problem in the fragrance world, or as I see it, a misconception. It is something many bloggers and forum posters elsewhere in the worldwide web lament - the perceived lousiness of masculine scents. Luca Turin, famed biophysicist and co-author of Perfumes: The Guide feels that a man would do better to sample and wear feminine fragrances over almost anything within "his" fragrance domain. There's a general attitude swirling around out there, that masculine scents are basically feminine fragrances with all the heart and soul stripped out of them. This philosophy conjures images of soulless suits chastising their artistic perfumer underlings for daring to keep rich feminine notes of original fragrances in their masculine counterparts, and demanding that such elements be tossed and replaced by dull chemical woods, calone, and musks.

Western acculturation puts men at a psychological disadvantage when it comes to perfume. There is the stigma of smelling "girly" or just plain funny. There's the requirement that fragrance be tied into an old-fashioned guy's wetshaving routine, lest he be perceived as someone who has no reason for wearing perfume. Nowadays there's always a question as to WHY a man would wear something other than his shirt and blue jeans. Is he trying to pick up chicks? Is he playing for the other team? Is he just confused? We can thank the fact that most guys have no idea what perfume really is for their inability to capitalize on this cheap luxury and fashion statement. Once you go past Aqua Velva and Cool Water, or any other drugstore body spray or aftershave, most men-off-the-street glaze over when you bring up note pyramids and fragrance categories. Try pulling a random guy off a sidewalk in Boston and asking him to list his favorite chypres. Good luck with that.

To me, the tragedy is not in the general male malaise toward fragrance, but in the fact that yes, there is some truth to the lament of those who hate male fragrances. It's true, there are far too many banal aquatics, saccharine sugarbomb gourmands, and cheap chemical abominations posing as perfume. When I walk through Walgreens, I'm always amazed by how many Nautica, CK, and Axe products are available for testing. Who the hell wears that shit? Furthermore, who the hell thinks they actually smell good? Apparently the taste for that stuff begins in high school, and some either outgrow it and end up wearing Cool Water, or nothing. And so the idea persists - masculine perfumery is a wasteland, a place consigned to those with no sense of style, no knowledge of fragrance, and no care for further exploration of the subject.

I'm here to rip that notion to shreds. The world of masculine perfumery is full of very pleasant surprises. Many of these surprises will be reviewed by me here. But I'll offer a few examples of why masculine fragrances - defined as those fragrances that are marketed solely to men - can be wonderful. First, there's the fact that gender-crossing in regards to masculines, and particularly '80s "Powerhouse" masculines, requires of women a certain chutzpah, a distinct pizazz, an unmistakable quality of forward-thinking, steeliness, and magnificent style. One could argue that men need these qualities to don women's perfumes, and to an extent that's true, but not in the same way. I've smelled plenty of aftershaves that could double as women's perfumes. 

But for a girl to spray herself with, say, Kouros, requires nothing short of sheer determination to get one's point across. When you get into the land of masculine masterpieces, you enter a territory that anyone, man or woman, should be glad to visit. This is where Kouros, Yatagan, Grey Flannel, Green Irish Tweed, Pino Silvestre, Acteur, Zino, Chaps, Fahrenheit, Hammam Bouquet, Allure Homme, and Lapidus Pour Homme reside. It's a place where contradiction, olfactory expression, and the ultimate reward of knowing yourself comes together and helps to form a new and daring style. It's where you can have your cake, and eat it, too.

This blog will follow a simple format of providing you, the beloved reader, with direct and in-depth reviews of all kinds of fragrances. Much of the photography is my own. I invite you to keep reading, and look forward to providing you with insights into my olfactory explorations!