I had a triple shot of coffee this morning, and then I reached for my sample of Testostérone by Swiss brand Sentifique, because I figured the coffee combined with a perfume named after the masculinity-definining hormone would turn me into a true man, or turn on my ‘beast mode’, or enable me to ‘drop panties’ (I use these terms with sarcasm, and really don’t like it when people use the latter – ‘pantydropper’ is degrading to women and ‘beast mode’, well, should be reserved for animalic fragrances – think Serge Luten’s Musc Koublai Khan, which really turns you into a delightfully stinky furry animal).
After all, the description of Testostérone on the site stated:
“Man: the idol that has fascinated us for many millenia, always with the same attributes: strength, supremacy and natural masculinity. ‘Testostérone’ is not just the hormone that endows men with these characteristics: it is also the name of probably the most masculine scent ever created.
Here is the essential male, with the odour of physical strength, the pungent vapour that rises from molten tar, the supreme essence of valuable agarwood, stringent medicinal spices and the brutal sensuality of exclusive patchouli crystals. ‘Testostérone’ is a totally new scent: dry, erotic and rugged, yet startlingly elegant too.”
As it turns out, I remained very much the same person I was – my voice didn’t drop to a sexy, gravelly growl, and my facial hair… well, it suffices to say that Testostérone doesn’t do anything to alter the genes that dictate that my face should remain hairless for the rest of my life (I can’t do Movember – aside from the odd whisker that pops up every month or so, I really don’t have any need for a razor at all). In fact, an impromptu straw poll I conducted with 2 of my female friends yielded the following: ‘I don’t like it’ (first words out of her mouth) and ‘It smells exotic’. If this is the ‘odour of physical strength’, it doesn’t seem to be very attractive to women.
How It Smells
Testostérone opens peppery and spicy, but my immediate thought upon smelling it was: I’ve smelt this somewhere before… Spritzing it again hours after I first try it on, it hits me – this is the opening of Comme des Garçons’ Monocle Scent Two: Laurel [click here for Nathan Branch’s review of it]. The laurel-camphor-pepper combination is unmistakeable, and would have given me a jolt, had I not smelt it before. In Testostérone it’s given the fuzzy-wuzzy treatment to give it more of a buzz, but for me it doesn’t do a one-up over its inspiration.
As Testostérone dries down (male menopause, mayhaps?), it becomes startlingly similar to L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Dzongkha – think dry, almost astringent incense and cedarwood. I’ve always thought of Dzongkha as smelling like a stone would, and here I get a remarkable resemblance. As I sniff my arm throughout the day, I keep a sharp lookout for something that’s dirty or rugged, for something that’s stereotypically ‘manly’, but all I get is clean and refined – so much for the ‘pungent vapour’ of birch tar or ‘supreme essence of precious agarwood’. Testostérone is certainly ‘elegant’, and I wouldn’t mind wearing it once in a while, but ‘erotic and rugged’ it most certainly is not. On the whole, it makes for ok wearing, but then again the sum total isn’t quite as good as the inspiration behind its constituent parts – I should perhaps attempt to layer Laurel with Dzongkha and see what that achieves.
I cannot for the life of me understand why a niche perfume line such as Sentifique should resort to such absolutely ridiculous ad copy. I get that mainstream designer brands have a tendency to make use of virile, hunky male models to emphasise just how wearing their fragrance would make one hyper-masculine – just take a look at the gladiator athlete with superhuman strength firing an arrow with absolute precision in the advertisement for Versace’s Eros for Men, or the ‘Hey look I’m removing all my clothes and I’ve got a girl with me’ model from Roberto Cavalli’s Just Cavalli Him‘s ad campaign, or worse still, the absolutely subtle, digitally-enlarged bottle strategically-placed on the male model’s crotch for Diesel’s Fuel for Life Denim Collection Pour Homme. [I’ve linked videos of these ads at the very end of the article, for your perusal.] After all, these brands are trying to reach the largest denomination, and by that they assume that the large majority of men are uneducated neanderthals whose sole aim in life is to procreate. Even then, it’s a leap to suggest that spritzing on any fragrance will make one any more manly, or enable one to ‘get the girls’ (urgh). But surely a niche line can get by without attempting to pander to the base? The ad copy for, and even the name of Testostérone comes across to me as very much a cop-out for a scent that’s actually half decent, albeit not entirely original. Or perhaps Testostérone was deliberately marketed as such, in order to appeal to a larger audience, except that Sentifique, being a niche line, didn’t have the budget of designer brands to hire a manly model to prance around – but then again, that’s only speculation on my part.
I suppose I might be seen here as being overly judgmental, or even perhaps not very masculine in stating all of this. I don’t mean to impose my thoughts on anyone – if wearing a fragrance does make you feel more masculine, and you derive utility from it, by all means go ahead. I once had a teacher in secondary school who tried to coerce me into volunteering for a school sporting activity by shaming me: “Man or mouse? Are you a man or a mouse?” (presumably, signing up for the sports event would make me a man). My response to her – and it’s what I firmly stand by here, with regard to perfume and ‘being a man’ – was this: “If doing so would make me a man, then I’d much rather remain a boy, thank you very much.”
Very ‘Manly’ Ads
Testostérone is available online at First in Fragrance for €145 (50ml) and in the UK at Roullier White for £124 (50ml). A Sentifique discovery set containing 4 of their fragrances is available on their site worldwide for €33 and within Europe for €28.
~ The Smelly Vagabond