BOY MEETS GIRL
The macho scents being co-opted by women.
“Men have discovered a new confidence, leading to a resurgence in fragrances that growl.”
MASCULINITY has not had the greatest press of late. that said, trump, weinstein and co. are not so much virile as puerile, confusing manliness with misogyny. Real men have no need for such abuses, and this feels like a time for real men.as ever, where society wrestles with a subject, so the perfume world reflects this in olfactory guise. For, while the trend for gender-fluid fragrances continues, there are indications that wearers are looking for more gendered statements.
Dior has been at the forefront of this trend with François Demachy’s Sauvage, launched in 2015 in eau de toilette form, and newly released as a dynamic eau de parfum. Ruggedly clean and herbaceous, Sauvage has enjoyed seismic popularity. Its new incarnation is deeper, moodier and still more imbued with “punchy freshness”, transporting us to a world governed by animal instincts.
Such instincts are all around, as Michael Donovan, creator of new brand St Giles, explains:“during the obsession with unisex scents in the 1990s, olfactory fashion became homogenised, neutered, sexless. Later, in the noughties, metrosexuals flirted with flowers. However, men have discovered a new confidence of late, leading to a resurgence in fragrances that growl.”
These perfumes are not merely male, but macho. At times, this machismo can be so hyperbolic it registers as brute force, such as Cartier’s ’80s powerhouse Santos: a beautifully audacious aromatic wood. Guerlain’s Héritage proves no less coruscating. Jean-paul Guerlain created it in 1992 when he realised he would have no male heir working in his field, defying the fates with a great fistful of patchouli. More than a quarter of a century on, his successor, Thierry Wasser, evokes a similar bravura with Le Frenchy, a wittily over-the-top cologne. Frenchness has become something of a byword for masculine assertion. Pierre Bourdon’s French Lover for Frédéric Malle retains a tempestuous eroticism never quite assuaged by the refinement of its iris, cedar wood and vetiver. Quentin Bisch’s French Affair for Ex Nihilo is a fusion of bergamot, lychee, rose and chilli pepper on a moss base, and has the dandy’s self-assurance in being determinedly oddball. Cire Trudon’s Révolution evokes the most dashing revolutionary of 1789. Frequently, the bold will be conjured by the feral, often in synthetic versions of the animal scents that have long given perfume potency: musk, civet, castoreum and ambergris .they underpin robustly explicit fragrances such as Hermès’s Eau d’hermès. the most infamous is Knize Ten, created in the 1920s, and the scent of Weimar decadence, beloved of Marlene Dietrich. “knize Ten doesn’t play pretend fetishism like so many modern scents,” says James Craven, the archivist at Belgravia’s Les Senteurs. “it is itself a fetish.” Leather conjures its own realm of animal magic. Hermès paid tribute to its equestrian roots first in Equipage, with its spiced wood and peat, then with Bel Ami: bigger, bolshier, redolent of seduction. Guerlain’s Habit Rouge summons polished saddles and cigarette smoke, while Tom Ford’s Tuscan Leather is the stuff of cowboy fantasy: raw, alluringly acrid and altogether intoxicating. Annick Goutal’s haughty Duel is a gauntlet dashed to the ground, sweat gathering on the opponents’ starched shirts. The irony, of course, is that wherever a fragrance feels resplendently male, there will be women ready to make it their own in the name of subversion. Monsieur Malle informed me that I wear French Lover impeccably. I adore sporting the provocative Duel, while Knize Ten was the scent of my single days: an incitement that never failed to beguile.
FROM TOP: Tom Ford Private Blend Tuscan Leather eau de parfum, $340 (50ml); Cire Trudon Révolution eau de parfum, $299 (100ml); Dior Sauvage eau de parfum, $175 (100ml); Ex Nihilo French Affair eau de parfum, $412 (100ml); St Giles The Mechanic eau de parfum, $234 (100ml); Frédéric Malle French Lover eau de parfum, $348 (100ml); Hermès Eau d’hermès eau de toilette, $150 (100ml).
Backstage at Loewe S/S 2019.