Tommy (Tommy Hilfiger)

The 1990s belonged to Alberto Morillas. The man single-handedly defined the decade with fragrances like Acqua di Gio, CK One, Pi, Pleasures, and Tommy. Acqua di Gio was a blatant clone of Creed's Millésime Impérial, yet it charted the course of masculine fragrances, and became the highest-selling cologne in America. CK One made Calvin Klein relevant again. Pi became the poster-boy for what not to do with amber notes. Pleasures . . . well, I don't know what the hell to say about Pleasures, except that it wasn't a predictable release by Lauder. And Tommy was simply lovely. All of these fragrances were fresh, clean, shimmery. They're the olfactory equivalent of silver gelatin print photography. Freshness reigns supreme.

I wore Tommy Girl today, for two reasons: it's hot, and I wanted to. I like Tommy Girl a lot, and I think it's the brand's best fragrance, hands down. It's one of a precious few blatantly feminine aquatics that I feel comfortable wearing, and always smells amazing. But one thing that bothers me about Tommy Girl is that it doesn't exactly represent the quintessential American fragrance style. I applaud Luca Turin for giving it five stars, and I totally get what he says about it. Tea Florals have their hero.

But Tea Florals aren't what the majority of Americans gravitate to when buying personal fragrance. These perfumes are a little too sophisticated for us. I'm of the persuasion that the scent category pulls its soul from Paris and the hills of Europe, and the whole "composition fell neatly into several native American varieties of flowers" jive is just about passing polygraph tests. When I sniff Tommy Girl, I think, "if only women in America really wore stuff like this." It's a popular perfume, still made, still selling, still getting over-applied by teenagers and twenty-somethings here and there. But when women in America shop for perfume, they're not saying, "Hmmmm, wonder what the latest tea floral is like." You get my drift.

Tommy, the masculine progenitor to Calice Becker's formula, seems significantly more honest on that front. It brims with the scent of apples and cranberries, with hints of cinnamon creating an apple pie effect, and wildflowers lending the fruity cleanness an herbal breeze. Think Litchfield county, Connecticut, on a warm day in July, and you have the basic idea. Tommy opens with a burst of bergamot, orange, and lime, softened by a nondescript floral note, and a slight aqueous element. Maybe the aldehydes are dialed up higher than I give them credit for, but this scent is mysteriously bright. Eventually the fruits step in and weave their way past the freshness, contouring the heart. Without them, the scent would collapse under the weight of all that bawdy "clean." It's masculine, it's fresh, rather fougère-like, although with an oriental flourish. A hay-like drydown is tinged with lavender, amber, and the last remnants of kitchen spice. Maybe it's coumarin; I don't know what's in there. But it's very nice.

Tommy is harder to find now, and is seemingly eclipsed by Tommy Girl and all the weird and dismal flankers of these two scents. If you see a bottle, grab it. Wear it. Alternate between wearing it, and wearing Tommy Girl. You'll smell what I'm talking about, and it won't detract from either scent in the least.


  1. I enjoyed reading your take on this. I have always puzzled over the discussion of it in The Guide, and your comments add a dimension that helps them make a little more sense for me.

    1. I'll be finally getting a copy of the Guide from Amazon in about a week's time. I recall their having some words for Tommy (and better words for Tommy Girl) but don't quite remember exactly what they wrote. Will be interesting to read, I'm sure.


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