10/8/17

A Few Thoughts On "Fragrance Derangement Syndrome", Super NES vs. Vintage Fragrances On Ebay, and The "Panty Dropper Scent"




I remember a few years back, when Dior released Sauvage, there was the usual trepidation from bloggers about the scent being too commercial and generic, along with a healthy smattering of optimistic writers who looked forward to trying a new release from an esteemed brand with a long history of successes. As more time passed, polarities of opinion were easier to distinguish than any majority concensus, and thus Sauvage became a "love or hate scent," with haters holding an edge.

By the end of 2016, one thing was crystal clear to me: the haters had won. Sauvage was to be critically lambasted at any opportunity, its pedigree as a Dior scent was to be dissected and demeaned, and any suggestion that it was a "good" release was fair game. Personally I found the fragrance a bit dull, although I thought it was a pleasantly coherent citrus leather masculine done in the current postmodern style, every bit worthy of faint praise, if not outright damnation.

And then I began to see the "fringe element" of the critique circles take shape. From the long lines at the complaint department emerged a very particular yowl, that of people suffering what I call "Sauvage Derangement Syndrome." Such voices were not content to simply criticize Dior for their unabashedly boring release, nor were they satisfied to do as I had and damn it with similar faint praise. These critics had to dwell on their negative criticism, and even dwell on any positive reviews people had for Sauvage. One blogger wrote thirteen articles about the scent, with many posted before he even smelled it!

Creed has recently released Viking, and although I have said my piece on that one, others are perseverating on Viking the way they perseverated on Sauvage. Apparently one or two critiques aren't enough; the point isn't adequately made unless a complete volume of sarcasm and negativity has been penned. I wonder if in 2020 we'll still be reading blog posts about how niche lovers and "Creed fanboys" delude themselves into loving Viking when there are hundreds of "super cheapos" that smell the same or better.

Perhaps I can dispatch at least one blogger's derangement by simply saying this: if you can't afford to purchase a bottle of Viking, just admit it and move on. Stop pretending your criticisms of the fragrance (and of how people review it) are predicated on an actual distaste for the fragrance. You were writing negatively about Sauvage before you ever smelled it, and apparently the same is happening with the Creed. You constantly compare expensive scents to drugstore fare, and are obsessed with singling out specific aroma chemicals, as if you could discern their identities in isolation (identifying them in complete fragrances is apparently too easy for you), so just admit that you wish people would heap the same praise on your cheap Playboy collection as they do on Sauvage and Viking and be done with it already.

Now on to the Super Nintendo Classic Edition, which is currently being sold through brick and mortar outlets like Walmart and Target. Why is this video game system (and the 8 bit NES Classic from last season) so interesting to a fragrance connoisseur like me? What I find fascinating about the NES Classic Editions is not that they're selling out within hours of each shipment's arrival, nor that they're getting all kinds of hype on blogs and news articles.

What interests me about them is why they're being purchased. I happened to watch a recent review of the Super NES on the YouTube Channel Cinnemassacre, and in that video one of the reviewers remarked on an experience he had while waiting in line to buy a Super NES. He said he overheard many of the conversations going on around him in the store as he waited, and he noticed something incredible: none of the people in line were talking about wanting to own the Super NES. They were talking about how excited they were to sell it on eBay for at least twice as much money as they were about to spend in the store.

This dismayed the reviewer, who went on to say that he felt like he was the only one in line who actually wanted to buy the Super NES to play it and enjoy it. Why weren't there more people like him in line? Where were all the other video game enthusiasts, eager to acquire a digitized HD repackaging of their favorite childhood games? Why was everyone around him focused solely on buying the product to resell it at a profit?

This Cinnemassacre video reminded me of my position on vintage fragrance sales on eBay. This person's experience in a line at wherever he purchased the Super NES reflected the exact reason why I put so little stock in claims that vintage fragrances are actually selling to their "fan base" for hundreds of dollars on eBay. Despite its advanced age and good reputation, the Super NES isn't selling to its "fan base" anymore, and neither are super-expensive vintage fragrances on eBay. The same economics that apply to the NES apply to vintage frags.

People are mostly disinterested in playing their Super NES because it's 2017, and 16 bit video games are essentially perishable goods that spoiled two decades ago. Video games have moved on. But that doesn't change the fact that people see the Nintendo brand as a "vintage" product. There is no question that the name "Nintendo" evokes nostalgic memories of the eighties and nineties, of playing games in your pajamas on a rainy Saturday with friends.

This nostalgia creates an internet presence of its own. Video game bloggers and news articles unite in making excited prognostications about the fate of these game systems. A renewed interest is kindled, and before you know it, people are poking around stores, looking to buy them.

Nintendo stokes the fire by issuing an egregiously limited quantity of systems to stores, knowing they'll be sold out within hours, or even (in the case of the 8 bit Classic) mere minutes. The perception among people who aren't interested in video games is that there is still a huge fan base for vintage Nintendo, because hey, look at that, the units are sold out!

But then something really interesting happens. Ebay postings for Nintendo Classics shoot through the roof, as do their prices. Before you know it, units are selling on eBay for $100, $120, $180, $200, $250, and so on. The number of eBay listings for Nintendos far outstrips the supply in stores, but the prices have more than doubled. Even now, the units are posted for outrageous prices.

For a while it seems that people really do enjoy these vintage games. But then a sliver of truth slips out, like the one in the Cinnemassacre video, and it all becomes clear: people aren't interested in playing these vintage games at all. This isn't a vintage to be enjoyed in your pajamas on a Saturday morning. This is a vintage to be resold at a steep profit. This is what I call a "currency vintage," i.e., an older item prized solely for its resale market value.

I've been saying for years now that this is what happens in the fragrance market. We see vintages like Molto Smalto, Fendi Donna, and Patou PH being posted on eBay at luxury price points, and it's tempting to think that these fragrances have significant fan bases that wish to purchase, wear, and enjoy, but in reality things bear out in much the same way as they do with vintage Nintendo. It isn't the fan base that keeps these vintages in circulation. If it were, they wouldn't stay in circulation, because within a few years all remaining bottles would be used up.

What keeps these bottles circulating is a subset of buyers who are simply looking to make a profit. They buy a bottle of Patou PH for $300, hold it for a few months, then post it on eBay for $500. These are currency vintages that are really more like olfactory Bitcoins or shares of stock than bottles of perfume.

On this note, I thought I'd end today by mentioning that my girlfriend loves Chrome Legend. She comments favorably every time I wear it, to the point where I must get another bottle (she has excellent taste). However, I've worn a number of far more sophisticated fragrances around her - she happens to really like Versace L'Homme, and even gifted me a bottle - which I find remarkable given how old that one is. Yet she also lights up around Chrome Legend, and tends to gush when I wear it. Versace's scent is the epitome of old-school citrus, while Azzaro's is a very good example of postmodern "fresh." They couldn't be more different, yet they garner the same response.

One of the more misogynistic terms used in the community is "panty dropper scent," which is the implication that a fragrance can make a woman want to have sex with you. I tend to think that when it comes to "dropping" things, this term needs to be dropped from our broader lexicon.

Let's not diminish the ways in which women show their partners affection by reducing their desires and emotional responses to olfactory reactions. The difference between Chrome Legend and Versace L'Homme is pretty stark, and a simple acknowledgement that a woman in my life appreciates both is a quick example of how fragrance appreciation is an intellectual pursuit for both genders, and not an expression of female sexual desires.




7 comments:

  1. I think it' interesting that the net this article casts catches both the 'currency vintage' and the (hell, I can't bring myself to type it) 'let's-just-say-ladykiller' term (and how it needs to vanish, but probably won't.) Both talking points are about synthetic desire... Well, OK, let's back up: all desire is to some degree synthetic (as in syncretic), but depends on authenticity to define its centre of gravity. The longing to recreate Sundays in PJ's makes perfect sense to me, as does the notion that the further one gets away from this time in one's life, the more that this brand of good, clean fun is overlaid with other forms of desire (lost youth, family home, the simplicity of only caring about one thing at a time, etc.) The point at which this synthesis of desire results in the fetishizing of a gaming console in the way that becomes contagious (this is 'it'!) is that by-now-too familiar point in which basic desire metastasize into projected echo-chambers of speculative therapeutic consumerism in a way that reminds me of how some French theory guy or another (Baudrillard?) used to say that all transactions on the internet are fundamentally pornographic. You don't need to be a French savant to see how this relates to the 'panty-dropper' myth. As for fragrance derangement... It seems as if we get upset when the balance between just-enough-authenticity vs. synthesis and not-quite-enough (an envelope ambitious designers are obliged to push) fails us; then one so-so fragrance stands in for all the ills of the industry. Very likely part of the reason Sauvage 'fails' is because of inattentive marketing. Are we rubes for still caring? Are the guys working the hype and the auctions the ones whose response is in fact the most idiomatic to the times? If so, then this conversation is about irony, which, as we learn in high school English class, is symptomatic of defeated expectation.

    I think there's a point worth digging into in your anecdote about what your girlfriend likes and doesn't like. I've asked my wife plenty of times if she likes some new thing that has my attention, and sometimes she does and sometimes not (still other times it takes time for the impression to form and set...) Why it matters to me can't just be some urge to affirm favour in a relationship that's been going strong for a couple of decades... On the contrary, it's whether this new smell is wort being another part of a very big story, one that projects back through many varied kinds of desire, from the point of a present tense that is centred on something fulfilling.

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    1. From the natural biological desire to please our mates comes an unnecessary desire to attribute our successes to something external, an accessory that can be "re-upped" or repeated. Fragrance is an easy one in that regard. Unfortunately it isn't really that easy, as attraction relies on factors that are often inexplicable.

      Sauvage by most measures has been a success, and I think that people are rightfully drawn to it - it's a good fragrance that almost any guy over the age of 18 can pull off, although I would caution younger bucks to go as easy on the trigger as humanly possible. But in the fragrance world, the rubric is different. We don't look to top-down design, glittery commercials with A-List celebs, or company issue notes lists. We use our points of personal reference within our wardrobes, and every so often we even stray outside our wardrobes and just ascribe impressions to things we've generally encountered, which appropriately yields the phrase, "It's generic."

      The buying public at large is satisfied with things like Bleu and Sauvage. I personally prefer Bleu, and have received very positive feedback on that one - it smells less like a cologne, and more like a shaving ablution, a vague, nondescript, yet irresistibly pleasing "man smell." But ask the snobs on basenotes (or in some corners of Fragrantica) and they'll poo-poo it and Sauvage to death. The standards are not consistent, not the same, and not really shaped by honest appraisal. It's more of a d*ck measuring contest. Sauvage smells better on me / no, ME!!! - or - I find Coromandel far more satisfying, blah, blah, blah. My readout is, okay, maybe the $200 niche scent smells better, but what does that have to do with the scent you're addressing? If you like a fragrance to death, another fragrance (out of the tens of thousands of existing fragrances) is guaranteed to smell better. If the standard for measuring quality is whether or not something can contend with individual experience, then objectivity really is dead.

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  2. An insightful read, as always. Keep 'em coming. R

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  3. This marketing technique - "issuing an egregiously limited quantity of systems to stores, knowing they'll be sold out within hours" is being used alllll over the place now.
    There's new "Limited Editions" almost weekly makeup collections of all sorts, handbags, shoes,- I have even seen "LE" packaging in skin care. Then magically within a few weeks of the big sell out there's a 'rerelease' or some other nonsense & the "LE" product surreptitiously becomes permanent.
    Welcome to the 21st century- the age of never ending hype & hyperbole.

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    1. In the case of Nintendo, the limited supplies aren't really due to limiting editions. It's just bad commercial planning. If Nintendo had its head on straight it would forget about distributing systems to big box stores and sell directly from its own website. Guaranteed profits, with zero losses to the grey market, where last year Nintendo literally lost as much money as it made (and then some) on systems sold through eBay.

      It's just incompetence and bad planning, and to make matters worse, the latest system isn't even being cycled through the grey market for its function. It's literally become a bargaining chip for Internet jackals who are desperate for a buck.

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  4. Hello Bryan, about your "pantydroppers" comments and misogyny (2 last paragraphs), you sounded very patronizing. How about taking these comments with a tad of humour ? Do you really think people who use this expression take it seriously ? Or just make a kind of half-statement, half-joke ?
    Also, maybe you're a little naive about how women speak of men when we're not around. They know very well the effect cleavage and mini-skirts do on us and giggle about it. They make fun of us, too. Would you condemn this as "misandry" ? Should women also amend their manners when they speak of men ?

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    1. If your idea of being patronizing is my refusal to accept that women can be reduced to primitive sexual impulses simply by smelling something they like on an attractive man (at the very least with no intellectual bias attributed to her), then you should refer back to your dictionary and relearn what patronizing language is. And if you find this response to your comment patronizing, you're off to a good start - the absolute stupidity of your words prevents me from further commenting on (or publishing) anything you have to say.

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