by Maureen Gibbon, 16 July 2009
My boyfriend drove a low-slung orange 240Z in 1978, but the car wasn’t the only place where the letter Z played a role in his life – he also wore Halston Z-14 cologne.
Granted, I was only fifteen, but I couldn’t believe a man could smell so good. Z-14 had tang as well as musky darkness, and it seemed to match my boyfriend’s dark, good looks. But my fascination with the fragrance went beyond wanting to smell it on him. I liked the scent so much I bought a bottle and started wearing it myself.
I couldn’t get enough of Z, and I doubt I was the only woman who felt that way about the Halston’s 1976 men’s cologne.
Not only was Bowie’s androgynous appeal still in the air (remember the album cover of “Young Americans” that showed him as a redhead with long bangs and gold bangles?), but 1978 was also the year that Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” came out. Sylvester’s gayness was unmistakable and irresistible, and it seemed to say that anyone could be anything, as long as it was exuberant.
Even now I miss the free-floating 1970’s, and I marvel at who I was then: a teenage girl, living in a backwoods town in the Appalachians, who wanted to wear not Charlie or Sweet Honesty, but mossy, bergamot-and-leather Halston Z-14.
But of course there’s nothing really unique about that. Unisex perfumes have been around for a long time, and one of them, Jicky, has been in production since it was created in 1889. To be accurate, Aimé Guerlain didn’t set out to create a unisex fragrance: the perfume was supposed to be for women, but they didn’t take to it at first – or so the story goes. Men did like Jicky, though, and so they wore it. That continued until 1912, according to the book Perfume by Richard Stamelman, which was the year women’s fashion reviewers gave women the green light to wear red light Jicky.
I guess I made Z-14 my own private Jicky.Z-14 is equally heady and dark, with profound corners and real staying power. (Too much staying power say critics of the scent. And I understand – there’s nothing subtle about Z-14.) While Jicky has strong middle cinnamon and vanilla notes, Z-14 reads bergamot for longer, drying down to cedar and leather and never really fading.
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The following fragrances and houses are mentioned in this article. (In order of appearance...)Elizabeth Arden Inc
|Halston Z-14 by Halston (1976).|
|Charlie / Charlie Blue by Revlon (1973).|
|Sweet Honesty by Avon (1973).|
|Jicky by Guerlain (1889).|
|Kingdom by Alexander McQueen (2003).|
|Musk to Musk by Montale.|
|parfums*PARFUMS Series 5 Sherbet: Rhubarb by Comme des Garçons (2003).|
|Mazzolari Fleurs d'Oranger by Mazzolari.|