Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Men's Fragrances to Capture (This) Woman's Heart

Evaluating a masculine fragrance is always harder than evaluating a fragrance that is divested of its loaded semiotics of gender, or which appeals to my own femininity heads on. At least I can asses femininity first hand and dismiss the hyperbolic claims of modern advertising with a wave of a well-manicured hand. But what happens when the claims to "assured masculinity" (surely that has a genetic component, so it's not much of a choice most of the time) and "assertive fragility" (or any such oxymoron) are brandished in advertorials? Do they make sense, do they reflect themselves into the scents in question, do they influence my own response on them? The fact is that masculine fragrances, especially in the designer segmentation, are getting sweeter and sweeter by the minute, no doubt following modern ladies' launches which have familiarized modern women with an excessive amount of sugar. 
This, in and of itself, clashes violently with the butch, macho images that sometimes accompany these fragrant launches and confuse me. Other times they're tongue in cheek, and when sprinkled with a good dosage of spices, I get intrigued and in rapt attention despite the sweetness. They're literally tens of fragrances aimed at the more assertive (so the stereotype goes...) sex which I love and would jump the bones of...from Santos de Cartier Cartier (vintage), L'Instant de Guerlain pour Homme Guerlain, Habit Rouge Eau de Toilette Guerlain, and the classic freshness of Vetiver Guerlain, to the subtlety and finesse of Eau de Monsieur Annick Goutal, Equipage Geranium Herm├Ęs, all the way to Encre Noire Lalique and the powdery orientalist of Noir eau de parfum (for men) by Tom Ford.
But in general I find myself revering to more retro fragrances when opting to embrace a masculine side. Oddly enough, these are also the ones which make me want to wear them on myself too, with few exceptions. 


Givenchy Gentleman (1974) by Givenchy 
One of the best examples of this is the vintage edition of  Gentleman (1974) Givenchy, a fragrance so seismically changed in the reformulation of the new edition, that it is an entirely different fragrance bearing the same name., i.e. Gentleman (2017) Givenchy. The former is patchouli heaven for those who appreciate that hippie note in their scented grooming, but it is the coalescence with the Cuir de Russie leathery, tarry aspects (bitter facets with sharp citric nuances, and a smattering of earthy civet) and with trickled honey that makes it truly irresistible. Gentleman by Givenchy blooms and blooms on my own skin, and it's even more ravishing and irresistible, if you can believe it, on masculine skin thanks to its generally higher surface temperature. It's one of those retro fragrances that makes me wonder "What were they thinking?" when the news of the change reached me. If you have a bottle of this vintage in your arsenal, consider yourselves lucky indeed. Just don't over-spray, it's a man of few words. 


Antaeus by Chanel 
Everyone mentions Egoiste Chanel when women and masculine fragrances are uttered in the same breath, but I find that the under-rated Antaeus Chanel is the better example. Thankfully Antaeus is among the releases in current production, and although it's a bit thinned out compared with its glorious past, it's still very good, tremendously sexy, and assertively powerful. Its trail of animalic warmth, thanks to a generous helping of castoreum with a subtle vanillic undercurrent, which matches exceptionally well with the labdanum resin, almost makes it moan with pleasure. In fact in blind tests when fragrance consulting with women it never fails to raise that "oh my" reaction with the ladies fanning themselves...
There is an important component of aromatics in the mid-section which temper the animalic oomph and make it escape the modern hysteria for bodily odors. It might be this which makes me comfortable in wearing it myself, to high compliments, I might add. This 1981 creation by Jacques Polge is among the very best in the Chanel portfolio and that's saying something. 


Dior Homme for men by Christian Dior
Never mind that Dior Homme is everywhere, that it is one of the most interesting masculine releases of the last decade, and its flanker fragrances are also excellent, because the formula brings a most unusual iris root note, halfway between face powder or retro lipstick and dusty dried flowers, into an otherwise masculine formula. It doesn't surprise me that many women love it and love wearing it themselves; it's the most approachable from the lot. The iris in Dior Homme alternatively takes on facets of soft skin powder, like the one used in hipster barbershops, of powdered cocoa, and of ambery starch. It's a soft, soft, sooooft fragrance but it retains a hint of freshness, which I consider a very enticing and key component in fragrance in general. You don't want to be totally smothered into a cotton cocoon, after all, when in a social rendez-vous, you want to be able to breathe and appreciate the (hopefully handsome) view. 


  1. i'll add my vote for "anteus"---it's lovely on anyone. i have never paid much attention to the gender assigned to a perfume; even in high school i often preferred the men's versions of various fragrances. i have "sweetening" chemistry that tends to amplify the sweet elements in perfumes, so i am happier with 'drier' scents generally. my husband and i share perfumes often, and it's always interesting to see how different the same scent smells on us. i wore "encre noir" a lot this summer, and found its dry vetiver really soothing in heat.

    1. Ha! Another convert, so happy :)

      I think it's easier on couples, harder on single women (or men, for that matter) because the fall back upon excuse of "trying out" is handy. But more and more women have the conviction that sharing is caring, so good going!
      Love your choices, obviously.

  2. another for Antaeus and Guerlain's Vetiver. Also Chanel's Pour Monsieur and Guerlain's L’Homme Ideal.

    1. Oh yes!!! That classic Chanel is such an elegant chap.

      And they did good work on the LHI I must admit. It's also good for "borrowing" ;)

  3. Hello, fellow blogger!

    This was an interesting read. I am a fan of a lot of the older masculine fragrances as well. You made some fine choices. Although you did leave out the legendary Guerlain Vetiver...I will forgive you this time :)


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