Je Suis un Homme (Etat Libre d'Orange)

I've come to find that certain marketing tactics adopted by niche brands are clumsier and more unintentionally transparent than those employed by designers. For Je Suis un Homme, the strategy is especially maladroit: make a clone of a famous seventies designer masculine, in this case a leathery chypre, and then claim that it's an eau de cologne inspired by antiquity (Napoleon's time, to be exact). Why not just admit that it's a copy of a great seventies chypre, you ask? Because then everyone would revisit the original, only to find that it's better. The hope is that some of the template's greatness will carry over into our impressions of the niche product, while the little fairly-tale about Napoleon distracts us away from associating it with something superior and cheaper. I say nice try, Free Orange State, but yours is no eighteenth-century cologne.

Je Suis un Homme is little more than a deflated Halston Z-14. It has the same crisp lemon top note as Z-14, and segues just as rapidly into the same cinnamon-leather base accord, which hums along dryly for a few hours before fading into a woodsy musk. From beginning to end, this fragrance mimics Z-14 with a shamelessness that would put Creed to shame. I say that because Z-14 is one-eighth the price of JSuH, and one hundred times better. While Free Orange State's chypre has perfect balance and fairly high-quality materials, it lacks depth and complexity. It possesses zero mossiness, and no floral notes to speak of. I'm doing a side-by-side sniff of JSuH and the treemoss formula of Z-14, and it's remarkable how the latter's jasmine note jumps right out. It's also strange that Liz Arden's materials seem just as vibrant as JsuH's. I think we're looking at a difference in mark-up here, not in materials.

As long as they keep selling the treemoss version of Z-14, I can't in good conscience recommend Je Suis un Homme. I appreciate that Antoine Lie considers Z-14 to be the essence of a man, and I like that he paid homage to it, but his version feels flat and more than a little boring in comparison. If you're going to do a woody-citrus, you want the citrus to be strange, i.e., an enhancement of its woody aspect, and you should marginalize the spices with heady flowers and moss notes. Throwing a conventionally dry lemon note on top of an equally-dry cinnamon-birch-musk accord is okay, but a little too simplistic. When all is said and done, Je Suis un Homme is a nice fragrance, but grossly overpriced for what it is, and no match in the manliness department for that boisterous brown blood cell from 1976.

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