Crowning Glory: Todd Oldham
When I wear a scent to work, I try to be as discreet as possible: I don't want to annoy or sicken anyone, and besides, I wear scents for myself, not for anyone else. But on my way to work recently I put on an extra spritz of the sublime L'Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme (on top of the one I'd already applied just after showering), and when I got there, damned if every single woman who works in the joint didn't compliment me on it. Every one of them, even the one who's allergic to most scents. Is it just that it's a really great scent (my description of it, I now realize, really didn't do it justice), or is that it works perfectly with me? Either way, it's going into heavy rotation: I love it, other people love it, and that's all I need.
I doubt that it's an exaggeration to say that every scent that comes along--and there are hundreds every year--finds at least a small audience of devotees, and that they're devastated when the scent is discontinued, as it very likely will be: these hundreds of scents can't all survive in the marketplace. (A woman named Anitra Earlemakes her living tracking down and selling discontinued scents for the desperate, and another named Irma Shorell has bought the formulae for a number of discontinued fragrances such as the gorgeously ambered Anne Klein II and the glittery vanillic Cher Uninhibited and sells these reconstituted scents.)
I've mentioned Todd Oldham before, and I still can't believe it wasn't a huge success. Launched in 1995, riding the wave of gourmand-oriental scents that was started in 1992 with Mugler's Angel, it should have been an instant classic, like Angel and 1997's Lolita Lempicka, but instead it vanished. But I bought it the first time I smelled it, and I've been wearing it ever since: like L'Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme, it just seems to sit well on my skin--it comes to life, and it makes me happy, which is half the point of perfumery. (The other half is to seduce: that doesn't interest me, though if it happens, à la L'Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme, I'm not going to complain.)
Todd Oldham starts out with kiwi and cucumber with a smudge of mango and peach. The cucumber note adds a fresh kick, but the fruit notes are already warm: this scent advertises itself as an oriental right out of the bottle. There are floral notes in the middle, but they're subdued; even tuberose--that turbulent va-va-voom scent--is more a suggestion than an outright fragrance note.The middle notes are butched up a little with spices, but the whole show is about those dramatic oriental base notes, and this scent has them in abundance: ambergris and a touch of patchouli, sandalwood, and most of all, befitting this very gourmand scent, bucketfuls of vanilla. Unsurprisingly, the scent lasts a long, long time on the skin.
As is so often the case with orientals, Todd Oldham isn't particularly marked as a women's scent. Yes, it has fruit notes in the top and floral notes in the middle, but it's not flowery or girly: it's warm and sweet and comforting, and those qualities don't have a gender. (If only it had caught on and there'd been a men's version, though: that would have been something indeed. Square off the bottle but keep the crown--or is it Jughead's hat?--and you're all set.) There'll always be men who are afraid to wear anything marketed to women, but if something smells good, and more importantly smells good on you, why fight it?