Here at The Scentimentalist, we tend not to trouble ourselves with the notion of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ scents, preferring to take the view that these are puerile – if not cynical – industry constructions, designed to create and sustain distinct gender-based markets.
Pah! We exclaim. Didn’t both gentlemen and ladies wear toilet waters, way back when? Isn’t Jicky enjoyed as much by men (Sean Connery, anybody?) as women? Why, even I myself cross-dress in Penhaligon’s Opus 1870 cologne, the camphorous leather of Knize Ten, and Czech & Speake’s incense-y No. 88.
If it smells good, we wear it! And to hell with the gender typologies.
But there is one ‘archetypal masculine’ that I have yet to smell on a woman (though isolated internet testimonies imply that a miniscule minority of such ‘deviants’ exists). A scent so ineffably manly and macho, so irredeemably hunky and virile, that only those in possession of a penis could ever comfortably, and effectively, wear it:
Kouros, by Yves Saint Laurent.
Kouros burst in a fury of androgens onto the global scent arena back in 1981. For many who came into adolescence in that decade – The Scentimentalist and much of her cohort included – this is the nonpareil Eighties power scent for men. An instantaneously brash, woody, animalic fougère, its use of incense, civet and ambergris ensuring projection of Scud-missile capabilities, this was a truly ‘men-only’ fragrance, for both gay and straight followers alike.
Kouros man was an aspiring Adonis. Kouros (meaning ‘male youth’, ancient Greek κοῦρος), is the modern term given to those statues of young men that first appeared in sanctuaries in the Archaic period in Greece. Sculpted commonly from marble, upright and naked, they served as representations of the god Apollo, and as tombstones for deceased victorious Olympic athletes.
Bolstered by a canny, pre-Men’s Health marketing campaign, boasting hard-bodied, tight-bunned, butt-naked beefcake, Kouros peddled a fantasy of other-worldly masculinity. As the strapline for one magazine advert reads in French: Les dieux vivants ont leur parfum: Kouros (‘Living gods have their perfume: Kouros’).
Amongst the ‘living gods’ of my acquaintance who wore this stud-scent were an early boyfriend (a former choirboy who sent me passionate, Kouros-smeared billets-doux), and just about every young Royal Marine on the base near my university, who would brawl each Saturday night with the local lads (similarly chino-clad and soaked in Kouros).
It may come as a surprise to some, but in 2010 the testosterone-fest that is Kouros remains a substantial seller, even (perhaps, especially) after the ‘wimpy’ aquatics and unisex offerings of the Nineties and beyond. For its many detractors, however, it remains vulgar and impertinent, redolent only of body odour, semen and deodorising cakes used in men’s urinals – and all the while stuck in a relentless 1980s time-warp.
Are you a lover or hater of Kouros? What, for you, is the most ‘macho’ scent? Share your thoughts below with The Scentimentalist.