Play (Givenchy)

It might look like 1953, but it's really just two hours ago.

Work on my living room is, after four months, finally nearing completion. My classic wingback got reupholstered and delivered on Saturday, I finally found time to add the third bookshelf (and my books), and a fern was gifted to me, an unexpected but somehow totally appropriate addition to the space. On Saturday I did some wandering through antique stores in Seymour, CT, which is actually a little mecca for antique collectors, as there are literally ten or eleven shops within a two block radius. In one of them I stumbled upon a decorative bowl (sort of a cross between a plate and a bowl, seen above on the coffee table), and was told it was heavily discounted because it had some kiln damage, which honestly wasn't very noticeable. It was eerie how well it complemented the room. When I bought it, I had my fingers crossed that it would at least look good on the bookshelf, but it turned out to have all the colors in the room swirled together into one piece. Really fun stuff.

When you look at the picture above, you're looking at my living room, and I hope it evokes the fifties, a bygone era. That was my goal. Bringing that time period back to life is a lot more difficult than you might think. I know it was harder than I thought it would be, and frankly I didn't do that good of a job, but it's at least in the ballpark. There was plenty of cheating, of course. The wingback chair, now dark reddish-brown leather, is actually an eighties piece directly from the Reagan years, and those aren't real Stiffel lamps in the corners, but that didn't matter to me as much as capturing a certain feel of the time, something that could be put into a few simple words. After extensive research, the words that came to mind were, "Classy as shit." The fifties were years with a polarized aesthetic, as there were either very campy colors (bright pinks, seafoam greens, platinum blondes), or very stuffy schemes (greys and taupes, rough-hewn wicker, Tom Ewell's apartment in The Seven Year Itch). I decided to go for stuffy, simply because it's easier to live with than campy. At least stuffiness, if done with attention to detail, can slip quietly into the realm of a classiness reserved for people with limited means, but good taste.

Givenchy's mall offerings are usually not my thing, but Play is, to me at least, a bit of a throwback scent. It took me three months to figure out what it smelled like, and then it hit me: Cotton Club. Play has the exact same fancy aftershave vibe, something only a wetshaver can truly appreciate for what it is (and what it isn't). The ergonomics of perfumers is hard to understand, but I don't think it's unrealistic to suppose that many of them resort to imitation to save time, and in this case Emilie Coppermann and Lucas Sieuzac were turning to the old-fashioned alchemical pizzaz of Barbasol-and-Styptic. Someone was thinking of their dad when they threw this together, and I say "threw" because it smells like an intentionally hackneyed scent, a handful of musky aroma chemicals with requisite notes of saccharine citrus, simplistic florals, and thin woods that were incrementally measured, mixed together by hand, and left to sit for forty-eight hours before being pushed off to the marketing department.

With Play, try to ignore the blurbs about its notes, and tune out the salesman. Ignore even the Basenotes and Fragrantica pyramids. There's no serious coffee note in this scent, nor is there "tobacco blossom," or "amyris." There's linalool (or something like it), literally a half dozen musks, a very faint woody amber, just enough citrus aldehyde to give it lift, and not much else. Its overall tonality is a couple shades darker than Cotton Club's, but otherwise they're both colors on the same paint strip. Despite its casual airiness, the old-school aftershave approach is always an unpretentious, no-bullshit, classy direction for a fragrance to go in, and I have to award a major thumbs up to Play for keeping it real. The only problem of course is that this sort of fragrance costs ten times as much as your average aftershave, but in this case you're paying for better longevity, and hopefully a firmer presence in this shameless world we live in.


  1. I love your 'stuffy' 50s look - it's also very manly. Oh, and they have done a good job of recovering the wingback chair. I recently picked up a small occasional chair with ridiculously long arms for an absolute song (30s or 40s, it seems). Now upholstered in a cream crewel damask. It's fun, this playing houses lark! Looking forward to your kitchen next...

    1. You're the second woman to tell me that! I had to really butch up the living room because the bathroom is very pink and purple I'm afraid. Your chair does sound very 30s, you have great taste!


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