Claiborne For Men (Liz Claiborne)

The more fragrances you collect and wear, the less tolerant you become for things that fall short of true love. At least, that's how it is for me. As everyone who regularly reads my blog knows, I happen to be a huge fan of Irish Spring soap, and well-made soapy fragrances in general. Things like Grey Flannel, Sung Homme, and Taxi really tickle my fancy. Sung Homme in particular is a truly amazing fragrance. Yesterday I got out of bed, showered with Irish Spring soap, applied the new Irish Spring deo-antiperspirant stick to the pits, and then spritzed myself a few times with Sung. The overall effect was simply incredible. If you're an Irish Spring fan, it's a must-try experience.

Claiborne for Men, an oldie from the same year as Sung, is also a fresh, soapy chypre with a good reputation for using synthetics to achieve a briskly-clean effect, with some masculine darkness in the eighties tradition. I was eager to wear it and knew my local Marshalls had a few bottles, so I went there and basically stole a day's worth for myself. It's gotten to the point where I don't even buy certain fragrances anymore if I know Marshalls has it, because the place is staffed by teenagers and college students who could care less if you try without buying. I knew what to expect with Claiborne, and went forward with some biases. I'm not inclined to like Liz Claiborne products because I've owned a few Claiborne shirts, and they always wound up tearing or staining in the wash within a week after purchase. In four words: Claiborne products are cheap.

Claiborne for Men gets fair marks from several highly respectable noses in our post-Perfume Renaissance blogosphere and on Fragrantica, and I'll qualify my review by saying that everything written here is subjective to the hilt. I can see outside of my own experience and expectations, enough to realize that Claiborne for Men is appreciated for being fresh, smooth, green, a little leathery, mossy, and soapy. People recognize it is synthetic and not top shelf in ingredient quality or construct, but they like how it moves, they don't mind its synthetic nature, and appreciate its musky-woody drydown as a fine cheap thrill. Kudos to them, but I just don't like this one at all. To me it smells harsh, chemical, raspy, sometimes very thin, and like the epitome of bad "cheap."

It opens with a grandiloquent array of synthetic citrus and herbal notes, which are powerful and stick around for a while (much longer than citrus notes should). Everything is sanded down and buttressed together to form a very slick chemical accord of so-called "fresh" things. The lavender is blue, fresh, scratchy. The green notes are a little powdery (read: chalky), but I'll admit that they lend the early phase of this fragrance some much-needed appeal. There's a sense of experiencing a cold bucket shower while camping in the mountains of Maine. The brisk fruits, eighties-styled lavender, and soapy greens work pretty well together. But then the heart stage appears, and the bucket empties, the water runs out, the cold-shower effect fades. Hello weird, plasticky rose-jasmine note, and an odd, ambery laundry musk thing that won't go away. Pretty shabby.

People have commented that Claiborne is one of those masculines that has been through the wringer with reformulations. That might be, but I get the feeling that whatever this was before they cheapened it still wouldn't speak to me. It's soapy, yes, but for a soapy chypre I'd rather wear Grey Flannel, Tabac, or Sung Homme. If I want a more complex green experience I'll reach for my bottle of Silences, or my generous sample of Chanel N°19 EDT. As far as Claiborne for Men goes, I see no personal reason to wear it, but you never know, it might appeal to you, so the next time you find it at a discount store, give it a try. Whatever you do though, don't buy a Claiborne shirt, unless the Fred Flintstone look is what you're after. Just saying.

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