10/28/13

Stetson (Coty)



Stetson is one of those rare fragrances that is targeted for one demographic, and works better on another. I've always had a clunky rectangular bottle of Stetson "cologne" (really an EDT) splash, and I've never liked on it my skin. My bottle is at least fifteen years old. On paper it smells great, a pleasant medley of citrus and woody notes against a dusky amber backdrop, an olfactory expression of Spanish siesta. I've always felt it smelled more "spaghetti western" than American western, with the European flourish of animalic musk in the base, layered under an interesting honeyed patchouli. It is unmistakably an oriental, although I've heard people call it a leather, perhaps because its name and packaging evokes images of gallon hats, boots, spurs, and saddles. Ultimately it reads as a cheap citrus-oriental to me, but its quality surpasses its price. With Stetson you get more than you pay for.

On my skin, the fresh lime-lemon-orange accord is immediately urinous, smelling flat, fetid, and downright disgusting for the better part of an hour. Eventually the honey note takes responsibility for that, and separates from the top as the fruitier elements evaporate. The amber is just okay, a little spicy, but overwhelmingly comprised of blurred woody notes and a heaping dose of sweet vanilla. I attribute the spicy-woody vibe to patchouli, and since it's the only texture in the amber, my sense is that there's quite a bit in the formula. Later the musks arrive, with a brighter musk briefly segueing from the amber before darkening into a skank-fest, at least on me. Whatevs - this stuff is surprisingly complex for a cheap cologne.

I recently gave the latest formula a wearing, and found the citrus accord to be much brighter and "fizzier" than of old. It lasted longer too, a full fifteen minutes on skin. The amber felt simpler, with that familiar vanillic sweetness offering a lighter, airier presence, enshrined in peppery carnation, and sitting atop a simple white musk. No frills, no surprises, and nothing to suggest a thirty year-old perfume, aside from perhaps the unusually-hefty dollop of patchouli still lurking under the amber. The new version doesn't go all sour on me, but it's still uncomfortable to wear, and it took me a while to figure out why. It wasn't until I wore Shalimar again that I realized there's something intensely feminine about Stetson, to the point where I'm amazed they even market it to men. It doesn't share anything in common with Shalimar except bright citrus notes and a "warm" amber accord in the heart, but that's an old-fashioned feminine style that somehow crossed over to the men's aisle in the early eighties.

I'm glad it did, but unlike the equally-femme English Leather, Stetson has a cushy warmth and musky sexiness that's probably better on Rachel Warren than Jed Cooper. For a more masculine, more sophisticated alternative, try Obsession for Men instead. For comparatives between the older and newer versions of Stetson, see the scent prisms below, and note the size of that massive Old-Spicy carnation note in the heart of the new stuff!




One other thing to note about Stetson is that it has become increasingly downmarket in recent years, with larger bottles selling for $18 at Walmart, instead of the $30 of yesteryear. I'm not sure what accounts for this, but I have some theories. One is that most young men and women are not buying Stetson, and it has become a big Christmas gift cologne, purchased primarily by people's grandparents. That means it's not moving units during non-holiday seasons, and the price has dropped with the demand. Another theory is that this style of fragrance has simply seen its day. It smacks of classic fifties orientalism, the sort of thing powdered women in mink stoles wore in their cleavage to cocktail parties. It definitely exudes a touch of antiquated glamour, and being that out of step with the times is bound to hurt sales. It's a shame, because it's a good composition made with materials of fair quality, and it should see a revival, perhaps with a different name and by a different brand.







4 comments:

  1. I've been wanting to try Lady Stetson, which Tania Sanchez favorably compared to Chanel No. 22 in P:TG.

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    1. I've heard that and I want to try Lady Stetson, but would have to try 22 also.

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  2. "equally-femme English Leather" means this could double as a femine perfume as well ? English Leather ?

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    1. Yes, the original English Leather was basically a feminine floral-leather with sweet notes, packaged and purposed for men, much like Old Spice. The current formula of EL is considerably more masculine because it's dryer and more citric, but the basic chypre structure is still there, and still hearkens back to its old ways.

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