Red Jeans (Versace)

When I think of the nineties, memories of discontent abound. America Online, dial-up internet, The Spice Girls, and Seinfeld pretty much defined the decade. Oh, and Shania Twain music videos. Culturally, it was a time where once-awesome things started wimping out. The edgy rock of the eighties, acts like Peter Gabriel, Scorpions, the Greg Kihn Band, all got wiped off the table and replaced by The Gin Blossoms and Oasis. The Great American Slasher Flick also took a hit, getting a dose of reverse-adolescence with tepid teasers like Scream and Ice Cream Man. Quite a far cry from Prom Night and the original A Nightmare on Elm Street. Anyone who had ever been a bad-ass growing up suddenly became a dork, or was forced to apologize. 

It was, however, an interesting time for fragrance. Everything got . . . sweeter. As the decade progressed, the basic classical structures remained, but old-standby notes like sandalwood, rose, clove, and civet were replaced with fuzzy ambers, sugared fruits, and as much ginger as Jamaica could harvest. Even flowers were remade into blatantly chemical amalgamations. Which brings me to Red Jeans by Versace.

Both Blue and Red Jeans were released in 1994, with the latter the feminine scent. Red Jeans opens with a bright burst of nondescript fruit and aldehydes, which rapidly transition into heart notes of jasmine, violet, and water lily. Don't for a moment think that these flowers are accurately represented. I was disappointed that the jasmine didn't hold up longer. It's relegated to a supporting role under an explosive Parma violet accord. An hour into Red Jeans has the floral elements receding into a chamber orchestra of vanilla, lily, sandalwood, and a surprisingly well-blended dose of amber, musk, and a fig-like dry fruit. The fruit and lily tinge the base with shades of green, while the vanilla and sandalwood, both frighteningly synthetic, cover everything in a layer of syrup. The overall effect is youthful and fresh, with a touch of earthiness tucked under a sugary overture. Red Jeans is the definition of a fruity-floral eau de toilette.

I'm struck by the idea that this fragrance is a precursor to a slew of like-smelling products, things like Ralph, Incanto, and even Paris Hilton. You could gather every fruity-floral teen spritz made since 1995 and attribute some aspect of it to the headstrong composition of Red Jeans. While certainly not the first in the genre, Red Jeans was a standard-bearer for bringing feminine perfumery into contempo-casual sweetness. Even Tommy Girl takes cues from it.

Red Jeans is suitable for the under-25 crowd of college girls, those who possess the strange knee-jellying power that ladies under 25 have. For those who remember the eighties (i.e. those who were alive in the '80s), I encourage you to stay strong. They say fashion is cyclical . . .