3/1/20

Stetson (Coty)



I reviewed Stetson back in 2013, but it was an awful review. I recently bought a bottle, and decided it was time to do it right. So let's get into this.

Stetson is an oddity. It's a cheap oriental marketed to men, but it smells like an old-fashioned feminine. Its top notes of malted lavender and citrus rapidly burn into waxy, candle-smoked jasmine and powdery woods. Simple pyramid, meritorious execution, efficient, plain, economical packaging. I've noticed that cheap masculines are often packed with notes, but Stetson harkens from a brief moment in perfumery history when companies were pushing budget formulas with compact pyramids, possibly because they realized it was better to render a few notes well, rather than many notes badly. The execs behind frags like Chaps, English Leather, and Stetson embraced this philosophy in the early 1980s, and it paid off.

But the 1980s are long over. How does Stetson work in 2020? Nobody will ever accuse it of being a great fragrance, but the jasmine note at its core is interesting. I love a good floral, and jasmine soliflores are among my favorites. The aldehydic jasmine in Chrome Legend is what shuttled it firmly into the "love" camp for me. Tea Rose Jasmin was another good one, now sadly gone. And that overripe, fruity, ethereal jasmine in Ocean Rain is truly incredible. So an old-school oriental with such an intense white floral note is endearing. Universal themes of cool morning dew (the fruited lavender) and afternoon warmth (leathery woods) create a successful sense of contrast in what would otherwise be flat gas station fare.

A fun thing to do when wearing a thirty-eight year-old fragrance is to envision the world in which it was released. Were young guys wearing Stetson to attract the local Phoebe Cates? Ms. Cates was our national treasure at the time. Disco was dead, The Cars and Tom Petty were on the radio, and Burt Reynolds was in his Charles Bronson Lite phase. But Stetson doesn't really smell like the eighties. It smells like the forties. It's a rip on Chantilly (Houbigant, 1941), and by proxy on Shalimar. So even in 1981, Stetson was an anachronism. Its quality made it a good value, and its marketing erased the potential for stigma. People were clever back then.

I wear Stetson more often than I thought I would. I figured I'd buy it and wear it once a year. I've used it about fifteen times in the past three months. It smells good. It wears beautifully. Its floral note carries solidly through the day, never losing clarity or balance. It's subtle enough to escape coming across as "perfumey." It's good stuff.

I recommend Stetson to any guy who wants a well-made oriental that won't break the bank. There are better orientals out there, but not for the money, and if you enjoy jasmine, few fragrances exploit the note as well as this one. Two thumbs up.


6 comments:

  1. Great review. I had a big bottle of this I bought on sale at the drugstore a couple of years ago that was a slightly older than what replaced it (it still has oakmoss on the contents.) It *did* bend my mind a bit. Have you seen the 'Stetson Man' commercials (there's one on Youtube that sounds like a pretty good Johnny Cash impression.) I gave it to my son because he rocks orientals much more than I do, and he has a great nose and a big collection and really enjoys Stetson. Hey, speaking of Jasmine, I keep thinking I catch something like this in the drydown of Paco Rabanne Pur Homme. Am I losing my mind? There is an accord buried in there that always makes me think of Eau Sauvage, and I wondered if that was what it could be.

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    1. There's oakmoss in mine, too. Some of this older stock still survives on store shelves. I have a feeling based on what I smell that Stetson contains trace amounts of Hedione, the trademark molecule in Eau Sauvage. Hedione tends to work well in jasmine reconstructions.

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  2. Whoops... It was actually PRPH I was wondering about, with regards to white flowers, or jasmine in particular, but that's my bad for hijacking the conversation.

    But just doubling down now, wouldn't it be interesting if hedione were hidden in PRPH? I never got to smell Jules and hear it's discontinued now, but it was supposed to have hedione in its pyramid somewhere, and kind of fits into a Paco/Kouros axis discussion...

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    1. Oh yeah PRPH has hedione in there, and also a significant percentage of the formula has dihydromyrcenol.

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  3. Excellent review, Bryan. Stetson has long been a staple here on the Southside of Chicago. There are probably three reasons for this: it's cheap, your dad and grandad wore it, and Southsiders love westerns. I kid you not about the western movie thing. Here, John Wayne, Randolph Scott and Clint Eastwood are pretty much gods to any male over fifty.

    I myself wear Stetson occasionally. I usually gravitate to barbershop scents and find it comforting in a way. A good scent to just chill or wear on a stroll. Keep up the good work and thanks again.

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    1. Thanks for reading and your comment, Doc. I didn’t know that about the Southside. I’ll visit Chicago some day, it’s the capital city of 80s classic movies and it would be nice to see the Drake Hotel

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