It happened again last week. There I was, idly perusing the bottles of men’s colognes on the counter in my local Bloomingdale’s, when the sales associate rushed at me with hands outstretched and a look of alarm on her face as she sang out, “You realize those are for men!?”
Uh … yeah, I guess. Am I not allowed over here without adult male supervision? The next time this happens I’m going to drop that big clunky glass bottle and let out a muffled shriek, like she just told me, Lady, that’s where they keep the live snakes!
I was just thinking about touching them, I swear. I hadn’t even sprayed anything on a strip yet, much less started moaning and grinding my hips against the counter the way I’m supposed to when I smell all that bottled virility. My perfume snobbery aside, don’t lone women shop for men’s cologne all the time? Out there looking for the perfect gift for their dad/husband/nephew? I have no statistics to back me up on this, but I’ve always assumed a significant portion of men’s colognes are bought by women for use by actual men.
If I take Terre d’Hermes home and put it on my own bad self, that’s nobody’s business, but why the at-the-counter freakout? Am I somehow suspect because I don’t have my dad/boyfriend/nephew at the counter with me? What kind of gift would that be? If I’m buying a man a bottle of fragrance as a gift, I’m not taking him shopping for it. He can like it or not, wear it or not, but unless he’s a friend who asked me to be his wing-man while he chooses, I’m going alone.
When I reverse the situation, it’s even funnier. I have never once seen an SA rush at a man holding Arpege and scream, sir, that’s for the ladies!!! You Fracas-wearing dudes out there … do you pretend you’re buying something for your mom? Or do you just spray on the white florals and let your freak flag fly right there at the counter?
Now, I’m not under any illusions that all the bottles on the counter in the men’s department are supposed to appeal to me – a middle-aged woman – as an appropriate gift for hubby. I am pretty sure that Marc Jacobs Bang ad below where he’s all greased up and naked with his man-junk hiding behind a factice (Marc, how big is it?) is aimed toward gay men, although I could be a sub-audience, I suppose, of women who enjoy the scenery. Gaultier Le Male (see image at left) with the tattoos, multiple arm-wrestling pretty boys, and the bathroom-cruise shots? Gaultier’s not targeting me, sailor, but a girl can dream … although I just watched the Le Male video, and was confused when our handsome lad climbs out of bed and the other party’s … a woman? Maybe he dropped by to borrow her eyeliner and fell asleep.
It’s fun for me to try to take in the meanings or intent of the men’s-department bottles. The ladies’ section bottles might say I’m thirteen! Or, conversely, I’m a skank (unfortunately, sometimes they say both.) They often say I’m rich, or I’m rich and humorless, or I’m supposed to be rich but you’re laughing at me so I guess we’ll go with amusing.
The men’s stuff, I don’t know. The “sporty” ones encased in rubber make me laugh. Is that to protect the bottle if you drop it while hang-gliding, or during that last push to the top of K2? (Hummer also makes me laugh, for multiple reasons.) I’m a traditionalist. Solid, staid bottles with large, heavy caps I like. Dior Homme. Ones that look like they ought to contain pimp-juice I’m not likely to pick up. Some of them seem inexplicably downmarket and ugly. The original Dolce & Gabbana for men bottle, those guys couldn’t do better than that? A lot of the bottles look phallic, which I think is weird, do men really want that imagery in their morning spritz of cologne, even if they are gay? Finally, if I need a third hand or a PhD in packaging to be able to spray it, it’s a stupid design. You can have whimsy, though. The Hermes Voyage one is pretty cool.
That Marc Jacobs Bang, by the way, opens with a big note of pepper. (Notes: black, white and pink pepper, masculine woody notes, elemi resin, benzoin, vetiver, white moss and patchouli.) After that, the pepper dries down a little and then we get some pepper, joined by a hint of pepper, and then some vetiver. The pepper fades and the base notes of pepper and pepper appear, and then after that it’s pepper straight on out. It’s actually pretty subtle (black milled pepper?) and you could do way worse, but I prefer the CdG 88 8 myself for pepper. At least it doesn’t have a giant hit of that nose-torpedo spiky wood stuff that says I AM A MAN!!!! in all caps, like the drunk at the office party who will not shut up already.
Okay, so inviting you all to crawl out of the woodwork. If you’re a woman shopping for a cologne as a gift for a man, how much attention do you pay to the packaging? Am I the only person who thinks the Cartier Roadster bottle looks goofy instead of expensive? Men – what messages do you feel are being sent with the advertising and bottling, and how much does that affect your interest in a fragrance? Are there bottles that make you cringe so much you wouldn’t buy it even if you loved the scent?
images: believe it or not the selected images involved a fair amount of restraint on my part. The model at top is David Agbodji for Calvin Klein, and if you’d like to see the images I wanted to put up, just google him. But don’t do it at work. There are some quite nice photos of Robert Perovich (our saucy sailor) as well if you google gaultier le male.