I don’t make a secret of it: I’m a crap shopper. Unless I’m with a fellow fragnatic and can talk and explore, I don’t much get the idea of wandering from store to store, perusing product. Shopping’s only good with company, and then only for smells. If I’m in a clothes store, I’ll only be able to cope if I’ve gone in with an express plan to buy. And sometimes, even that fails me. Revoke my gay card, if you must.
Take last week. I had some time to kill and so thought I’d wander up to my local high street and consider getting a black jacket I’d had my eye on for a while. It was a quiet time of day – convenient for worried shoppers like me, as I manage crowds as well as I do the shopping experience itself. Funny how I can switch all this off in a ‘proper’ city, but that’s by-the-by. So, I tried the jacket on, and a sweater, and a pair of trousers. I bought nothing. It seems that all trousers this year are designed for men with the thighs of Kate Moss – seeing as mine are a little more rugby player sized, I have difficulty pulling them up. They fit my waist and butt fine, but my legs feel like they’re constricted enough to survive several sequential transatlantic flights. I don’t imagine fashion is currently being dictated to by fears of DVT, but that’s how it seems. I also decided the sweater and jacket were superfluous and not quite me, and like so often, left empty handed (well, I did buy a couple of books, but that’s not quite included by me in shopping…).
I decided to spend the rest of the
shopping trip time in town at my local high end department store, where they seem to be amassing more and more niche brands, alongside selected designer stuff. I had an idea to explore.
Last week on Basenotes, there was a thread about listing your three favourite unisex scents. Well, actually it was worded a little differently to that, but I can’t exactly remember how. But anyway, it got me thinking. Y’see, I wear more unisex than I do men’s stuff, and for me the question seemed a bit, well, wonky. Now I’m not casting aspersions about the post, and we all know the daftness of gender distinction in perfume, but it struck me once again how I find it next to impossible to define my masculinity through perfume.The very idea is replete with effete surfeit. Or something. And besides that, so many supposed unisex perfumes smell fantastic, whilst so many men’s smell substandard. All in my opinion of course (*humbly genuflects*).
There are some men’s fragrances I love – Dior Jules, Hermes Bel Ami, and the more unisexual brethren of the recent past, Dior Homme and Terre d’Hermes. But most men’s stuff I sniff, especially if recently produced, leaves me cold. And this was the idea I wanted to explore – am I being simply prejudiced in my scented likes and dislikes and just going for the more obscure chichi stuff just cos I can? Not that I can necessarily step outside my head and find out, but I thought sniffing a fair few men’s things might help me one way or another.
And a delightful sales assistant came to assist (she lived up to the second part of her job title, even if she failed on the first – as you’ll see), and I played dumb. We went through a whack of stuff – the new Kenzo (ho hum side of humdrum), Narciso Rodriguez for him (better than most new releases but I’d only consider it in the overpriced oil), and a plethora of others that failed to make it into my cache for the day. So many of them did have something in common though – there’s an aromachemical with a raspy nature that rears its head time and time again in so many of these and seems like a replacement for the comic 70s chestwig, now most young blokes are waxing and preening their torsos into a parody of pre-pubescence. It machos up a scent, it gives it testicular bite. It says, ‘I am man, smell me, then feel me, then notice how well coiffed my hair is’. It’s there in Tokyo, Paco Rabanne Black XS and most other things I sniffed (it’s in Clinique’s Happy too). If anyone can tell me what this is, or what combination of chemicals it is, I’ll be delighted to have a name to place on my horror. (Shameful confession – I don’t mind it in the dumbly cheerful Happy, much as I enjoyed watching Keanu Reeves when I was in my 20s.)
My dislike of most contemporary men’s scents is best summed up by one I had the misfortune to sniff – Vera Wang for men. Dear lord – it’s a wailing cacophany of a perfume, hitting you over the head with its plascticised artificiality; a testament to where the wonders of chemistry can go wrong, wrong, wrong; a bag of messy notes into which someone stirred several heaping of fruit and puke and pubes. Don’t ask me for the notes – I just know they were awful and that it OD’ed on the ingredients I hate in so much other men’s stuff.
Finally, the SA secretly sprayed a scent strip and I breathed in happily. It was interesting, quirky, strange – and somehow comfortingly soft at the same time. What was it? Comme des Garcons 2, the one in the silver lie-me-down bottle. She had bloody well unisexed me, hadn’t she? I’d forgotten what a great scent this was, and though I don’t like every element of it (that sumi ink note has a tendency to go acrid on my skin) it was the nearest I was going to get to a perfume purchase that day. Well, tell a lie – I was also taken, momentarily, with Richard James’ Pink Pepper and Cardamom cologne – it had the purest note of the eponymous spice I’ve ever come across, though the lasting quality of the cologne (I mean – duh – it’s meant to be sporty…) was a big zilch.
So help me out here, people – recommend me some men’s stuff that I should try, to help change my mind or alternatively confirm it in its trenchant, erm, trench. Avoid the classics and go for recent stuff that you think is interesting, appalling or, hell, both. I’ll test em and do some mini-reviews next week.
Lovely image of man with testicle chin from http://monsters.co.uk. Check out the work there – tis great. Patty, March, Bryan – sorry about the singular possessive determiner – I liked the image more than I felt a grammatical worry…