I know just how Rat feels, don’t you? (And I wonder if she’s any relationship to Patty’s Voracia Tata?)
Hey, all you good-smelling folks in the D.C. area — don’t forget the D.C. Sniffa is this weekend! Meet at the north entrance of the Chevy Chase Saks on Wisconsin Avenue on Saturday at 10 a.m. Please email Nancy (fishbone96 at mac dot com) to let her know if you’ll be there (I think we’re maybe getting goody bags) and whether you’re interested in lunch at Maggiano’s. See you there!
Also: we finally heard from Patty (yay!) and I have zero details but she’s planning to blog Friday, I’m hoping about her Paris finds, so be sure to stop by.
Blogging off-topic momentarily – I took Diva and Enigma to see Lars and the Real Girl, about a shy young man in rural somewhere (North Dakota?) who shows up for his life one day with a life-size doll he introduces around as Bianca, his non-English-speaking, wheelchair-bound missionary girlfriend. His fellow townfolk tilt their heads, scratch their chins, and … decide to run with it, because if that´s what Lars needs, well, okay. What follows is a low-key meditation on love and community that manages to conjure up every trite movie-ad cliché – hilarious! poignant! two thumbs up! — only in this case those descriptions are true. It was wonderful. March the Maleficent decrees: bring your little pack of tissues, you might find you need them.
Okay, today’s perfume post:
I think most folks would agree that, in the world of mainstream women´s perfumery, there are market-driven considerations that wind up producing a slew of not particularly imaginative fragrances, even by people from whom you might expect more (like Gwen Stefani and her new scent.)
If that argument is true in the ladies´ department, I´d argue that it´s even more true in the men´s department, where conservative tendencies, habit, and a desire not to offend conspire to produce an endless array of sorta-woody, kinda-fresh men´s scents that are distinctive only for their blandness. I have, for instance, smelled Fahrenheit 32 and both the Diddys several times, and writing this I can´t conjure up what any of them smells like. Sometimes it seems like the best one can hope for is pleasant.
There are exceptions, of course. Arpege Pour Homme with its woody, spicy iris I can´t help but try to talk random men into buying if I´m standing near them in the men´s fragrances at Nordstrom. I don´t care for Guerlain´s L´Instant one bit, but L´Instant Pour Homme is a divinely warm blend of citrus, smoke and patchouli. Certainly Versace Dreamer is not often confused with anything else. Prada Pour Homme, in addition to being a great scent, is arguably more femme than the woman´s Prada. Finally, Gaultier continues to push the boundaries of traditional male perfumery with the flowery Le Male, the striking, synthetic vanilla-musk thrum of unisex Gaultier2, and the outrageous orange blossom of Fleur du Male.
Several people on my Figmania! post suggested I try Marc Jacobs for Men, and the results were so successful I´m blogging on it today, separate from my upcoming fig post. The notes I found listed for Marc Jacobs for Men are bergamot, cypress, cumin, cardamom, ginger, fig leaves, rose de Mai, cyclamen, tonka bean, cedarwood, musk, Provence fig, and patchouli.
Marc Jacobs for Men opens on a juicy burst of fig; I was expecting it to sneak in a little more gradually and I was pleasantly surprised. There´s a bit of the ubiquitous cucumbery “fresh” accord at the opening, probably courtesy of the bergamot and cyclamen, which reassures an average guy smelling it that yes, bro, you´re in the right aisle. The fresh notes (never pervasive) fade over the first 15 or 20 minutes, and the spices become more noticeable but never overwhelming (and I can´t pick out the cumin at all, but it may be adding a hint of warmth). They´re a nice adjunct to the fig; the fragrance gets richer and a tad more conventional as it dries down, with the cedarwood and musk more dominant than the patchouli, but it never strays into uber-man territory. The rose and tonka add a warm, vaguely vanillic sweetness to the scent. The fig fades away in the far drydown (several hours on me) and I´m left with a woody, spicy musk, but even then it doesn´t smell like I´m wearing my husband´s cologne.
For anyone who´s wondering — yes, it is a great fig scent. It also makes me realize that, unlike many popular fruits used in women´s perfumery, fig doesn´t broadcast some instant femininity that would make a cautious man pause and say, dude – you sure that stuff isn´t for the ladies? While it smells great on me, I´ve tried enough of my fig testers on the Big Cheese to decide fig is a delicious note on men as well.
We fragrance lovers yammer on about what we want all the time – longevity! interest! depth! more leather! – but the truth is, we all want different things, and our desires may overlap but don´t match up perfectly. Marc Jacobs for Men deserves kudos for doing so many things well at the same time. It is utterly wearable by men and women without being boring. It is low-key enough a man could wear it in a conservative setting; at the same time it´s interesting enough that paired with jeans in an art gallery on a different man (or just a different day) it would make a completely different statement. It´s subtle enough from the get-go that you wouldn´t kill anyone in your elevator if you were late to work, but it lasted most of the day on me. Finally, I enjoy its agelessness – it lacks a “classic” construct that might earn it a frump label, but at the same time it´s not some shameless pandering to the fresh/aquatic camp that seems (to me, anyway) to be driven by some lingering terror of teenage body odor. It´s proof you can do an interesting mainstream scent and still create something with fairly broad appeal.
Addendum: a number of reviewers on Basenotes liked this scent much better than Philosykos, for example – the difference being (apparently) an absence of sharp leafy green notes. MJ Men is a woodier, less challenging fig. If you´re looking for some fig love but keep getting turned off by that leafy aspect in various niche fig scents, and I feel your pain, you might want to check this one out. It´s available online at some pretty steep discounts to the already reasonable retail price of $70ish for 4.2 ounces, a steal compared to much of what appears on this blog. The only part I’m still baffled by is what took me so long to try it.
cartoon: Pearls before Swine, Stephan Pastis