It's hard to argue that Halston's brand is anything but the definition of "cool." The fashion, the fragrances, the man, all contoured the hazy, drug-addled blur of Studio 54's 1970s. Much of the designer's clout has faded with time, but current trends in fragrance are the clearest sign that Halston's fragrances are still cool - no one really wears them anymore, yet they endure. Elizabeth Arden holds the licenses for them, and I'm glad. EA Fragrances has generally done a conscientious job resurrecting yesterday's classics and keeping them as true as possible to their original formulations. Grey Flannel and Red for Men are wonderful, and Halston Classic meets the same high standards. My only gripe is its alcohol-free formulation . . . its oily solvent has a somewhat dirty feel and transports me to a patchouli-laden netherworld full of dead disco dancers. Weird.
A perusal of store shelves is a challenge to stay calm, to not get angry. Bottle after bottle of endless chemical musks crowd the field, olfactory equivalencies of plastic feathers, brilliant pinks, reds, blues, neon lettering everywhere, overwrought and aimless decors, and total dependency on calone, sugar cubes, and fruity esters. Apparently today's mature woman is still a 16 year-old girl. The sight of anything with organic elements like oakmoss (gasp! what's that?) and treemoss (eeew, I think it's fungus?) renders a 37 year-old fragrance completely alien, utterly out of touch with the current aesthetic, colorless, vague, and a little scary. To this point: the Marshalls that I frequent is run entirely by women in their 20s who are constantly re-stocking the fragrance shelves, and they have yet to figure out which gender Halston Classic is meant for. I got my bottle from the men's section, but I've seen bottles in the women's section. I expect to see it in the men's section again in the future.
I guess I can understand. Halston's box is a refreshingly blank beige, and its lettering offers no hints. The usage of "cologne," a term generally applied to men's scents, seems to suggest that it's a men's fragrance, but if you're an employee who likes to peek, the bottle inside certainly leans feminine with its narrowly curved neck and softly rounded glass. If you're an employee who likes to sample, you'll end up just as confused as before you ever opened the box; Halston's peachy top notes and dry mossy base are smooth and amiable, but altogether unisex. It's too floral for men, and too earthy for girls. Yikes, just put it in both sections then. Guys will buy it and give it to their girlfriends, girls will buy it and give it to their grandmothers. Their grandmothers will wear it for a while, decide it's too sexy, and resume wearing their dusty old bottles of Charlie Blue instead.
My take is much less flummoxed. I like that the scent has survived the decades, but understand that the alcohol-free cologne is a pale shadow of the original perfume. Still, it's a clear shadow, well defined in the glare of all that white musk surrounding it in the store. Perky bergamot and soft peach mark the opening. It's feminine, a little girlish even, but concise. Eventually the flowers and mosses push through the semi-sweet intro and sweep Halston firmly into a bitter chypre territory. Everything is blended and the green notes are abstract impressions of grass, leaves, muguet, and oakmoss. Treemoss is used to tinge the drydown's fuzzy edges with a gentle sweetness. It's comforting, and easy to wear.
Androgyny was thematic to fashion and pop culture in the '70s, and the best chypres of that time are very androgynous. Halston is no exception - it's probably a little too floral for most men, but it's no more feminine than Calice Becker's tea floral, Tommy Girl. Any guy who is comfortable in his own skin can wear Halston and get away with it. I can wear Halston without qualms because I often wear green fragrances, and this is one incredibly green chypre. The rose, marigold, and mint notes are offset by a leafy mossiness that fits me perfectly. Thank you Mr. Halston, for making this fragrance and building it to last. And thank you Cindy Crawford, for all your nakedness. I'm much obliged to you both.