Eternity for Men (Calvin Klein)

This was my brother's signature for several years. He's an interesting fellow, a graduate of NYU with a Masters in social work. In recent days he gravitates more to L'Occitane fragrances than to anything by CK, but I do believe he still has a bottle of Eternity on his shelf. There are likely millions of young men and women who have worn it in the last twenty-four years, most of them of high school and college age, which is a plus and a minus. On the plus side, it makes the fragrance forever associated with youth, sex, and fun times. Many adults look back fondly on their earliest adventures whenever they revisit the fragrances of that time period. I'm sure that revisiting Eternity brings back memories for many people. However, when the majority of a scent's wearers are barely old enough to vote, it robs it of any sophistication it might have had. That can be a notable minus.

Most of the fresh fougères of the last thirty years share a common characteristic: frankness. They are fragrant one-liners, the olfactory equivalents of Jack Nicholson's famously-quoted movie comebacks. If some asshole pisses on your shoes and says, "this is power," piss on his and say, "this is asparagus." Or just wear a fresh fougère. You can cut through everyone else's b.s. but simply smelling better than them. Of this particular freshie, Luca Turin wrote:

"It smells good but cheap, which would be fine if the overall structure were unpretentious as in Cool Water, whereas it is distinctly aspirational."

I agree with him. The biggest drawback to wearing Eternity for Men is not its associations with beer pong and backseat whoopie. Its Achilles Heel is its attempt to be something more than it can possibly be. The whole point of a one-liner is for the message to arrive short and sweet, without any over-arching meanings tagged to it. In discussing Boss Number One, I stated that its simple soapiness prevents it from adopting any unwanted pretense (indeed, it is one of the soapiest fougères I've encountered), and I look to Eternity to achieve the same level of cheerful cheapness, with the same level of self-acceptance. It scowls and goes all serious on me instead.

Eternity is a fresh fougère that smells quite good, with a rather abstract rendition of lavender, coriander, sandalwood, geranium, basil, rosewood, amber, and musk. All the notes are blended together nicely, and like Boss, it smells quite soapy and clean. However, there's a seriousness, a grimness almost, that bogs it down. I sense whenever I wear it that Eternity wants to be more refined, conservative, stately, with all those muted spicy-herbal notes placed precariously atop precious woods. Yet its mid-grade designer ingredients really don't allow it to go that far. Perhaps if this fragrance were reinterpreted by an upscale firm like Creed or Parfumerie Generale, it would take on a convincingly sophisticated characteristic, but at its current price-point, it's far too cheap to pull it off.

Carlos Benaim's creation, like many of his works, is good. He might have tried to reinterpret the Ivy League elegance of Polo in his composition for CK - I don't know what his goal was here. Ultimately the fragrance tries too hard. Unlike Boss and Cool Water, two fougères that are very comfortable in their own skin, Eternity is a kid who thinks his smell makes him a man. "Aspirational" sums it up nicely.

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