Poppy (Coach)

The effectiveness of a fragrance depends entirely on who is wearing it. By "effectiveness," I mean its ability to attract positive attention to whoever is wearing it. On a social level it is counter-intuitive, which is interesting to me because fragrance seems like a direct thing. But it's true: fragrance goes against the grain. Nice people should wear mean perfumes, and mean folks should wear pleasant scents. Young people should wear sophisticated stuff, and old fogeys should sport youthful breaths of fresh air. Hard guys should wear soft scents; soft women should wear tough-guy fare. When you wear what you think you should wear, your self-perception is comfortable, but everyone around you feels something is "off."

Poppy is a typical "girly-girl" frag of the last five years, a crisp, extra-sweet powder puff of fake white flowers and even faker "precious" woods. I know a couple of young ladies who paint their toenails and wear Poppy, thinking it's a fitting accessory for them, but really it's just redundant. Certain femme perfumes still work on them, but Poppy is so far to the pink side that I can't stomach it - unless it's worn by a butch, androgynous cement spitter, a woman so hard that it takes active learning to decipher her femininity. Think Joan Jett. What would work on her? Not a gasoline leather like Grand Cuir or even a browned Bronson spritz like Puig's Quorum. Again, redundant. No, Jett and women like her are sexiest when they smell like Cher from Clueless.

The perfume is an essay in obscene gender typing, its nostril-flooding barrage of candied cucumber suggestive of chartreuse vinyl and toy dogs with hundred dollar dietary needs. It is decidedly anti-feminist, but feminism is too elusive a concept for people, and why smell vague when you can smell vacuous? Freesia becomes apparent after fifteen minutes, then gets watery and loses ground to ethyl-maltol and fuzzy sandalwood, like Joop! Homme wearing a dress (would that be double drag?), essentially an olfactory plea to not be taken seriously. Yet there's a hidden message in all the sweetness, just like in Joop! - "What you see is what you get." Like Jett, the authenticity behind all the fakeness is ironic, if worn by a straight shooting take-no-prisoners type who never compromises.

For guys like me, Poppy is a tough sell. I'm masculine, but not a tough guy by any stretch of the imagination. I'm not conventionally masculine, either. No guy who wears Cabotine could claim to be. Poppy is an extreme smell, one that literally has nothing to do with actual poppies, and it takes an extreme sensibility to pull it off. There are millions out there with that kind of persona, and this is a fragrance for them. It won the wrong audience, but then again I doubt the suits at Coach had rocker chicks in mind when they made it. I doubt rocker chicks themselves would think to wear it. Too bad.

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