3/2/18

Lustray Coachman (Clubman/Lustray): Why?


I remember attending a portfolio review at The Cooper Union College in NY City in 2000. Back then there was no tuition to attend the school, which meant competition for entry was fierce. The front lobby looked like JFK during a hurricane. Students and parents were crammed into every corner, with nearly a thousand applicants clutching their precious portfolios with nervous expressions on their faces. People lined up outside, napped under benches, and despite occasional reassurances from college staff that the review process would be expedited, a grim silence hung over the crowd. Rumor had it that The Cooper Union only accepted 0.5% of its applicants each year. This wasn't a place where people expected their dreams to come true. This was where dreams were re-routed. Rejection was almost a guarantee.

At 18 years old, I had a kernel of hope. I had spent the better part of four years developing a fairly attractive portfolio, but I doubted the bulk of my work would clinch it. Most of my artwork was original, and the original stuff was good, but I knew it wasn't great. This school accepts only those with greatness to foster. In my precocious way, I imagined I could outsmart the system by putting the best piece last. The best piece happened to be a copy of a small portion of the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, done in crayon. It had garnered praise from people who were not given to dispensing kind sentiments, and I felt it was my best effort.

When I approached the review board, after six hours of sweltering with a sullen throng of tattooed brats in a dark, wood-paneled chamber, they predictably blew through my original stuff with some raised eyebrows, half-hearted nods, and wry grins. There were a few positive comments, but they were unimpressed. Oddly enough, I sensed that my years of being "encouraged" as a youngster had only yielded the same vapid, self-indulgent work that 99.9% of American teenagers produce, except mine was a little more polished, making it just barely worthy of consideration. I figured that my tedious efforts to truly "create" original content couldn't compete with the simple beauty of antiquity, and waited with bated breath as they turned the final page. At last, the panel's eyes rested on my copy of the Michelangelo.

The response was surprisingly muted. It only took a half second for me to know that I'd blown it. Or, at least, that's what I thought at the time. The only judge to comment gestured for me to come closer, and began making circular hand gestures over the paper. "Bryan, I'd like you to look at this with me for just a moment. First, this is a nice piece, you did a good job of capturing the spirit in the Chapel here, no pun intended."

He then took his hands and used them to partition off one of the calf muscles of the figure in my drawing. "But do you see this calf? When I remove it from its context, does it look like a human calf muscle to you?"

I glowered at the paper sullenly. "Well, no. I guess not."

"No," He said, and removed his hand. "It's a good effort, but I think you still need some work." With that, the portfolio review was over. I was never going to attend a prestigious art college for free. A much more expensive art college awaited me.

Lustray Coachman aftershave is the copy of a great work, and Clubman aftershave is the original. It looks a lot like Clubman (same exact color), and it mostly smells the same, but when my nose searches for the same proportions of notes in its drydown, it finds something that smells a bit disembodied and flat, lacking dimension and depth. Instead of the heady lavender aromatics of its template, Coachman begins with a stale burst of synthetic citrus that rapidly diffuses into a cloud of powdery oakmoss and musk. From the halfway point onward, it smells identical to Clubman, but that first five minutes smells dilute, like something's missing.

I can only ask, why? Why bother releasing a watered down copy of a masterpiece, when the original is already widely available, and only costs two or three dollars more? Why compete with yourself like that? To its credit, Coachman uses real oakmoss, which is listed on the label, and it smells just as pleasantly clean and powdery as Clubman does. It is, quite literally, a barbershop scent. But I already have Clubman, and Clubman smells stronger, richer, better. So why would I bother using Coachman?

It's like my Michelangelo drawing. Why did I bother copying a Michelangelo? Why did I compete with myself like that, including my interpretation of a legendary Master's work alongside my own original ideas? I should have just let whatever untapped genius existed in my original work say everything for me, and left the soulless dupe at home. When it comes to Lustray Coachman, get it if you must, but I suggest reaching for the original instead, to enjoy unembellished. Coachman is nice, but Clubman is great.

My Michelangelo.

10 comments:

  1. I've never been through JFK when it wasn't a nightmare. I don't think they've cleaned the toilets at JFK since the early 80's.

    So that's what they do in art school interviews? I'm no art critic I just stock what sells in my gallery.

    Coachman is one that I actually bought for hubby. I did not get any citrus but a rather wan yet sharp synthetic lavender followed by a blast of OAKMOSS on a sweet amber, powdery musk, and mildly terpenic wood base. Not terribly exciting but I thought it a modernized version of Clubman with it's pared down composition. Hubs hated it and and donated it to his barbershop. The boys would not touch it because it looked "old." Womp, womp.....

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    1. Lots of oakmoss in Coachman, it's pretty much an oakmoss bomb, like Clubman. These simple wetshaver fougeres are all pretty good, but in this case I don't see why Coachman has to exist. Clubman is the same thing done better.

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  2. Looks like a human calf muscle to me.

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  3. Fantastic post, Bryan. You sparked a question which may seem obvious, but that I honestly don't know the answer to: are there any restrictions at all to oakmoss when it comes to after shaves?

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    1. These are American brands, and apparently if they want to give the IFRA the finger, they can. I'm still not clear on why any of the cosmetics brands bother to comply with a "self-regulating" entity like the IFRA, which has no actual authority beyond setting "guidelines," but maybe these products are an example of how far afield of the restrictions a product can be, even in 2018.

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  4. What is the IFRA regulation on oakmoss, anyway? Is it a percentage of the compound, or after its diluted?

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    1. http://www.ifraorg.org/en-us/standards-library/s/oakmoss#.WqMiw5Pwbq0

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  5. Those portfolio review cattle calls are a nightmare. I take students to one every year, and the experiences in terms of quality feedback vary so dramatically as to make the whole experience feel a little absurd. I do notice, however, that the instructors tend to err on the side of predictable that can do no harm ("keep practicing observational drawing") or, regrettably, some combination of nastiness and unassailability masking institutional apathy ("Does the world really need another portrait artist?" asked a gatekeeper from Parsons to a 16 year old. Not a directly addressable question, and fundamentally rhetorical.) Anyway, I'd say forgive your prior self if you can.

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    1. Does the world need another smarmy-ass professor? That would have been the disqualifying (and satisfying) comeback. But really, almost twenty years later, I'm realizing that the art world is a cultural mirage. The idea that anyone must "get educated" about how to create, an act as natural as breathing for any artist, is itself laughable, yet instead of dismissing the folly, millions of marginally talented youngfolk line up to enrich these institutions, usually at their peril.

      It would be useful to experience an art education, except that those who truly succeed as American artists tap into postmodernism, intersectionality, and "controversy" to gin up press and expedite self-salability. If you have connections and enough money, you succeed. You can walk into a gallery and nail a shoe to a wall and call it "art." Then you can charge $30K for the "art" and spin some yarn about it, perhaps that it's commentary on how postindustrial America has developed a stylistic, symbolic, and socioeconomically viable language for how we express ourselves during the act of traversing space, and when taken out of context and placed in an art space, it becomes a static and dislocated reminder that an object requires selective animus to operate.

      If you can hurl that much bullshit, you don't need a degree in fine art. You need an agent.

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