Hugo (Hugo Boss)

Remember Hugo? It was 1995. Bill Clinton was president. Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi duked it out in the US Open. Pierce Brosnan was James Bond. And we all had a few short months left before the Spice Girls ruined our lives. It was a good year, made better by Hugo Boss. Their fresh chypre reinstated some backbone into a market increasingly overrun with citrus chypres in the wimpy CK One and L'Eau d'Issey caste. It wasn't another glorified lemonade/sage/amber fragrance. Hugo had an earthier countenance, with more than a few nods to Cool Water, Sung Homme, even Aqua Velva, backed by a brusque melange of floral and woody notes. It was its own trendsetter, a template for a few dozen spicy-fresh chypres in the years to follow.

Despite Bob Aliano's talent and Hugo's cheerful demeanor, I could never get into the Hugo Boss brand. It seemed a little downmarket to me. Of course, back in the nineties I had no idea Boss No.1 existed, nor could I foresee the future arrival of Baldessarini. Hugo, Boss Elements, Boss Bottled, and Hugo Dark Blue were pretty much all I knew of the line, and I thought little of them. The nineties belonged to Hugo Boss, and I hated the nineties. So Hugo, while duly noted, made a vague impression on me. Fast-forward eighteen years, and I'm smelling this frag with a new nose, and finding it to be quite nice. It's nothing amazing, mind you, but it's very well balanced, smells fairly natural (although it "feels" synthetic overall), and has admirable complexity. Its structure is a true chypre - bergamot, labdanum, and oakmoss - but those bones are buried under loads of green apple, lavender, sage, mint, patchouli, cedar, geranium, fir, and nutmeg. There's a healthy slug of white florals in there, too.

This was popular when I was a freshman at Notre Dame here in Fairfield, Connecticut, and I can see why. Hugo is inoffensive, crisp, spicy, a little sweet, a lot woody, with a pleasant woody amber and plenty of laundry-grade musk upholding the pyramid. It's the sort of fragrance that a jock can spritz on before a party, and have all the girls treat him like he's wearing Dior or Chanel. I was never a jock, and wore Tommy by Hilfiger on the rare occasions when I wore anything at all, but I guess I could have made Hugo work for me. Then again, there's something a little anonymous about it, like it's trying a bit too hard to keep its array of herbs and woody notes in line, letting nothing stand out and take charge. The guy who wears Hugo might be introverted, shy, even overlooked, and we all know anonymity is a terrible fate for anyone in high school.


  1. I have been smelling Hugo Boss quite a bit lately since I became aware that a discount grocery chain had come up with a knock off that was an uncanny dupe - or a very good dupe, certainly. For the equivalent of $5 it can't be beat. Happy to send you a sample if you are curious, though some might say it is a highly cheeky manoeuvre on the store's part...

    1. Hi Vanessa, that's interesting that there's a good knock-off of this frag. Thanks for the offer on the sample but I've experienced a few decent dupes of this one myself, so that would be more trouble than necessary - but thank you again, I appreciate that offer. I agree it's cheeky of stores to replicate fragrances like this, but then again until there are copyright laws and stricter regulations for perfume, I guess it's all legit. If you ever get a chance to write about Hugo Boss on your blog, I'd love to read it!


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