I get sent the wax sample updates. I immediately rejected Serge Lutens’ latest Paris only (well, maybe not…) offering, Fourreau Noir, as dreck. A standard, run-of-the-mill masculine with obvious fougere overtones and an overdose of synthetics to suggest freshness and manliness. No thanks. Then I get to try a real sample.
It’s not a Damascene conversion or anything. Y’all know I’m a Lutens fanboy, so I am very cautious of automatic adulation. If I do a quick rundown, I have Lutens loves, Lutens loathes, and Lutens mehs, and only a few of these seem properly constant:
Loves: Santal de Mysore, Encens et Lavande, Arabie, Borneo 1834, Chene
Loathes: Serge Noire, Miel de Bois
Meh: Daim Blond, Douce Amere, Nuit de Cellophane.
Fourreau Noir currently floats between ‘meh’ and ‘love’, but sits closest to meh. I’m an inconstant, procrastinating fool, and have long since accepted the fact that I’ll never know my own mind. Unless I do. And only sometimes.
In the early 80s, both my sisters had Pierrot clown obsessions. Their beds were covered by these winsome faced girl-boys, tear in place, soft pinks and blues contrasting sharply with black make-up and the omnipresent painted tear. There was often a moon somewhere in the polycotton print, and a suggestion of arch melancholia and sadness as performance, naivete as a pretence, excusing one’s own failings through the trappings of unrequited love.
I didn’t think of any of this then, but knew I hated the pompom buttons, the flouncy tunic, the overall girliness of the ‘look’. As an individual prone to melancholia in spite of my sunny disposition, I’ve always disliked seeing it paraded and performed.
But I’m thinking of the Pierrot because of the Lutens limited edition bottle – a strange departure from the usual Orientalist themes, to an almost cutesy cat silhouette, floating in a night sky bejewelled with Christmas stars. Somehow, some way, this is what echoed the remembrance of the Pierrot in my head.
Because Fourreau Noir, for all its masculine posturing, is a sad little scent, a front of machismo hiding a well of tears. The black sheath (Fourreau Noir’s actual meaning), for me, is the costume of the introverted melancholic, from Hamlet to the malcontent Bosola in The Duchess of Malfi, to the teenage version of me.
It’s the 80s writ large. All front up front: the male fougere smells of lavender, coumarin, and synthetics such as dihydromyrcenol to give the thrusting metallic edge, the purr of the engine. All sadness beneath: smoky melancholy, myrrh, quietude.
I realise I’ve written pretentious codswallop and revealed no real sense of how this perfume smells. So let me be clear. It’s alright.