YSL Kouros: So Macho

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 κορος), 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.


  1. Well Kouros brings back memories of the smell of gay clubs inthe 80's. Tho somehow always mixed with the smell of poppers. So I am not really sure ehat it smells like. And the clubs smelled of male bodies, urinals and semen. LOL

  2. I have yet to smell Kouros, but I am curious to do so now! Seems to do wonders for your six pack - might try stealth perfuming him indoors with it.... : - )

  3. CampbellX - Indeed, though I unwittingly privilege heterosexual examples here, I must agree that it was mostly gay gentlemen of my acquaintance who favoured Kouros back in the 80s. I wonder if it is still popular?

    Flora - You should smell it. It is certainly 'distinctive'. Its popularity led the way for YSL's less controversial Jazz -- commonly to be found these days in my local TK Maxx store.

  4. I forget for which achievement I decided to reward myself with a flacon of Kouros from Target one day. I do recall that to spring for the mighty hunky vessel in its molded transparent plastic anti shoplifting casket in a "blind buy" was a pat on the proverbial back for something I'd done according to plan. How manly is that? I'd never smelled Kouros, but had read a lot of heated opinions about it. At that time I was only just beginning to explore other fragrances than my then one and only, Mark Birley, which was also created by Pierre Bourdon. Naturally I really wanted to love it. I sprayed a wee spritz upon the back of my hand, scared the hell out of myself, and got rid of the bottle a few months later. I meant to try it again, but couldn't bring myself to. Perhaps I ought to have kept some around for reference. I feel as though I'm only just beginning to develop an appreciation of some of the elements that make such fragrances work for people. Most so called "power" fragrances of that era - the last one I remember trying was Anteus - still inspire nothing but loathsome aversion, however...

  5. Fantastic blog! Adding it to my reader. I count myself amongst Kouros's devotees, though I'm just a hair too young to remember its first big go-around. I wear it regularly and its the only fragrance for which I own a backup bottle.

  6. In 1984, my 6'5", 240 lb boxer of a hunk of a boyfriend wore Kouros that I bought for him- I just liked the smell. But how appropos. To this day, it smells like muscle, testosterone and hot times. YUM. Love Kouros, always will. *sigh*

    ps- love your blog!!