When it comes to stylistic choices for men, there are unspoken yet ironclad rules of what the hairier sex are “allowed” to enjoy, wear and use. Too many colors, too much design, and the item, be it shoes, spectacles or a shirt, veers dangerously into dandy territory. Which is fine if you’re actually a dandy, but less so if you’re just a guy who is sick of looking like the Banana Republic catalog and wants to throw a little spice into the mix.
While women generally enjoy unlimited sartorial freedom, the line-toeing male bumbles along with his handful of approved flourishes. Over the years we’ve seen the wax and wane of the trilby, orange trousers, the non-cold weather scarf, and capri length cargo pants. (Seemingly never to wane is the perennial mode of self-expression for straight men: athletic shoes.)
This year’s offerings include the bow tie, zany socks, the Mr. Rogers cardigan. My husband’s last-minute request for a bow tie to complete his New Year’s Eve ensemble led me on a trail of tears from J. Crew to Banana Republic to Zara to Nordstrom to Bloomingdales to Barneys Co-op, the cupboards bare in each haberdashery save for a few rejected clip-ons languishing on the shelves. At the end of my mall rope, I felt preposterously lucky to finally track down a single black silk self tie bow tie at Thomas Pink. Apparently, men are starved for new modes of fashion expression that won’t trigger finger-pointing from the other boys on the playground, and when presented with an approved accessory, will stampede in a thundering herd to claim it as their own. Just because a fellow is a conservative dresser doesn’t mean he lacks the urge to express the full flower of his individuality through the medium of red laces on his desert boots, dammit!
The same paradigm exists in men’s fragrances. Post-tween boys absolutely must smell like Axe, no deviations accepted. Thereafter, sneezy (or “fresh”, as it’s popularly perceived), Abercrombie & Fitch-style cologne is de rigueur, followed by a period when the mature gentleman is permitted to smell of wood, leather or musk. So what is the bow tie of men’s scents? Why gourmands, of course! A little vanilla or coffee or caramel zhushes up standard-issue lavender or patchouli like no mother’s business. Candy apple sweetness is the hallmark of recent club bloke fave One Million by Paco Rabanne. The scent of strawberry Jell-O enlivens Sean John I Am King. Like the arbitrary in-and-outness of men’s “fun” fashions, the approved-for-dudes smell elements (smellements?) is random.
But there’s nothing wrong with random, as long as it looks (or in the case of perfume, smells) good. So if your idea of a letting your freak flag fly is smelling like a cupcake, make sure it’s a quality cupcake. The sweeter fare can be just as bludgeoning as the sneezy shizz, and a composition’s calibration and contrast is what separates greasy kid stuff like One Million from the mmmm of Rochas Man.
In Maurice Roucel’s Rochas Man, manly lavender is yummed up with coffee, vanilla and licorice. It’s satisfyingly full, but not as brutally high-impact as another Roucel work in the same vein, Bond No. 9 New Haarlem. The lavender in Rochas Man is what keeps the sweet on the right side of smothering, making it a great gourmand to wear in transition from winter to spring or summer to fall.
With gourmands having been the designated “bow tie” fragrance for so long, I’m wondering what the next mainstream “it’s kinda crazy, but it’s me” scent trend for men will be?
Rochas Man is available from Amazon for RRP £45 www.amazon.co.uk