One Thousand Scents

Monday, April 09, 2007

Mr. Right: Lacoste Pour Homme

I'm starting with a nearly off-topic rant. Feel free to skip down a few paragraphs if you like.

What is the deal with men getting waxed and shaved and plucked into a sleek, plasticky, hairless would-be ideal? It's horrible.

All men have hair on their bodies. Even naturally smooth men have what's called vellus hair--those tiny, fine hairs that everyone has, even women and children. (The longer body hair that a lot of men have is called terminal hair.) When men wax or shave off their body hair, they don't just take off the terminal hair, they take off everything, and they end up looking artificial--like a plastic department-store mannequin. I don't understand the appeal of a putative man who's as hairless as a mackerel. It just escapes me entirely. Don't they want to look like men?

When Lacoste Pour Homme was launched in 2002, its advertising sent little shock waves through the ad world. As you can see in the TV ad and in the print ad above, Lacoste chose the Australian model Ian Lawless, and they chose to show him without any clothes on, unshaven--face and chest. He's not one of those emaciated hairless boyish models. He looks like an actual man! (A man, it must be noted, considerably better-looking than most men get to be, but that's because he's a model.)

It was obvious from the advertising that Lacoste wasn't trying to sell their new scent to teenagers; they were aiming at a somewhat older, more confident market.

The scent itself isn't a classic, which is to say it doesn't smell like anything else on the market. (They're going for a more mature customer, but they didn't make a traditional sort of scent--nothing your grandfather might have worn. It's fascinatingly new and different.) According to the official notes, the top is made of bergamot, grapefruit, plum, and apple, but it doesn't smell especially citrusy, and it definitely doesn't smell like a fruit cocktail; it's sharp and tangy, and there's a suggestion of sweetness to it. Because of that slight sweetness, there's a note that without fail reminds me of the Canadian candy known as Goodies, which are more or less identical to the American candy called Good & Plenty--soft black licorice pegs wrapped in a crunchy sugar shell. The top of Lacoste Pour Homme doesn't smell sugary, it doesn't smell like licorice, but it does smell like Goodies, and it's wonderful. (You could probably make the point that a fragrance that smells of apples, plums, and licorice candy doesn't sound very grown-up, and you'd probably be right. But wait.)

The sharpness of the top note lingers for a surprisingly long time before giving way to the middle notes, mostly spices (cardamom, cinnamon, and pepper) softened by balsamic juniper. This gradually fades into a sophisticated base note of woods, vanilla, and musk. Compared to many men's scents from the last ten years or so, Lacoste Pour Homme is complex and rather elegant--a thrilling change of pace from the usual gamut of fresh and boring.

The packaging is also elegant: a deceptive block of pearl-grey glass which actually has softly curved, beveled sides, capped with a gunmetal oval in a beautiful textury pattern. This pattern, the colours, and the curved edges of the bottle are cleverly echoed in the box; it's all beautifully designed.


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