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Zealot Crusader

Perfume Jargon: The Fougère Pt. 2

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Fougères after their first initial revival in the 60's were really quite something, and although they may seem laughable and dated to some nowadays with their heavy musk and tonka profiles, they were seen as daringly masculine compared to the bay rums, dry lemony eau de colognes, sharp chypres, and minty aftershaves men had grown accustomed to mid-century. Scents like British Sterling in particular were an amazing advancement in the world of fougères as they leaned more-heavily on oakmoss and excitingly aromatic elements like cedar and patchouli, which until that point had never been really seen in significant quantities within a fougère and the latter becoming associated with the counterculture movement of the era. This culminated in the first real branching of styles with what was coined as the "aromatic fougère".The genre was alive and well again by the end of the 60's, particularly in the UK where Brut became a sensation, and releases like Avon Wild Country (1967) in the US, which capitalized on the American male's newfound urge to have perfumes that smelled comfortably familiar, but also more "manly" with their musk usage.

We all know what became of most over-the-top specimens of that era, as scents like Hai Karate became the brunt of jokes, but the woodsy, herbal, soapy, and aromatic explorations in the fougère genre continued into the 70's with excellent pillars like Paco Rabanne Pour Homme (1973) and Azzaro Pour Homme by Loris Azzaro (1978). Royal Copenhagan by Swank (1970) probably pushed the musky floral dandy aspects of the previously popular fougère style to its limit, but it was quickly overshadowed by the new greener breed. Paco Rabanne in particular made a name for himself with men by introducing a fougère that balanced then-new herbal notes like sage and soapy clean aspects of orris with the smooth dry down people had come to expect from the category. Azzaro's namesake masculine shed most of the floral and musky elements held over from the 1800's altogether and returned the fougère accord to square one with added citrus, herbs, and drier notes borrowed from the chypres of the day. Doing this created a new barbershop standard to replace the powdery smell of old and a generation of aromatic fougères that bore little to no resemblance to the sweeter and more-rounded ones was the result, pushing the envelope further into masculine territory.

Fougères continued along the path set by Paco Rabanne and Loris Azzaro into the 1980's, while yet another offshoot came about when Yves Saint Laurent released its landmark Kouros (1981), which was penned by a young Pierre Bourdon. Kouros contained the same core as most fougères, but stripped away all trappings other than some of the soapy aspects introduced in the last decade and distilled the core with powerful levels of animalic musk and extremely dry bergamot. The ultra-masculine smell of Kouros competed with similarly-brusk animalic chypres like Chanel Antaeus (1981), inspiring a whole new breed of virile fougères in the decade that reincorporated floral, spicy, and animalic facets not seen since the turn of the century into the mix, except augmented to even louder and tackier levels than they had been a century prior to better compete with other emerging "powerhouse" styles of the 80's.

Zino Davidoff (1986), Caron The Third Man (1986), Lapidus Pour Homme by Ted Lapidus (1987), and Salvador Dali Pour Homme (1987) perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the dandy fougère revival boosted to levels of unprecedented volume, while varieties like Jacomo de Jacomo (1980), Quorum by Antonio Puig (1982), Aramis Tuscany Per Uomo (1984) and Gucci Nobile (1988) carried on in the aromatic fashion of the 70's. Some fougères like Drakkar Noir by Guy Laroche (1982), Duc de Vervins by Houbigant (1985), Lomani Pour Homme by Lomani (1987) and Alfred Sung Homme (1988) tried staying closer to the origin of the species but with added twists like lemon verbena, sandalwood, even more orris soap, or then-new aromachemcals to make them cleaner, but as splintering continued to occur, the entire picture of the genre got blurrier. Some powerhouses dipped their toe in both fougère and oriental styles simultaneously, contained aldehydes or leather like a floral chypre, or just generally were all over the place with density and complexity. Even well-seasoned historians and collectors to this day get it wrong when categorizing some of these, if it's truly even possible, that's how crazy it was.

So much progress and exploration comes at a cost, and as had happened with the evolution of powdery barbershop fougères into something altogether unlike where they started, the expanding styles of fougères in the 1980's and all the crossover that caused made what people classified as "fougère" drift so far from anything like something meant to resemble a plant that one would be hard-pressed to recognize two different scents from the period as of the same genre. However, a reset button of sorts on the whole development of mainstream perfume would come, and coincided with a reset button on the fougère itself sometime in the late 1980's. This was then furthered by the creation of stricter regulations from IFRA (which has been around since 1973) into the 90's, which meant no going back. The train of thought that had begat crisper and cleaner fougères like Duc de Vervins had also evolved into a whole new genre altogether by decade's end, that genre was the aquatic.

Thanks to another Pierre Bourdon-penned creation in the form of Green Irish Tweed (1985) by luxury house Creed, the "aquatic" aroma of the chemical dihydromyrcenol (previously used in Drakkar Noir) escaped the realms of the fougère style. Green Irish Tweed itself is often called a fougère, but Bourdon reworked much of that scent's base for the mass-market Davidoff Cool Water (1988) which he also penned. Cool Water was considered both an aquatic and a fougère back in its day of launch, but as the emerging genre came to define itself more concisely, that changed.Thanks to the popularity of the aquatic, the dense and virile masculines lost popularity in favor of lighter, simpler, more floral, and often more polite styles, with Yves Saint Laurent Jazz (1988) taking things back to the traditional late 1800's fougère and the landmark Calvin Klein Eternity for Men (1989) adapting the fougère to something more vibrantly fresh. Eternity for Men achieved this by putting lavender back in the starring role but using tiny bits of aromachemical magic that gave the perfume a unique luster, coupled with a very light but effective base.

Throughout the late 1980's and into the 2000's, the fougère saw the core of lavender/tonka/oakmoss trimmed down to the bare minimum in favor of shiny citrus and floral accords often boosted with chemicals like calone or aldehydes for a fruity or metallic ring respectively. Eternity for Men was much to blame for this, but sometimes a semi-oriental vibe was added with precious woods and spices, and overall things were kept rather verdant and probably closer to the fictitious smell of a fern than they ever had been since the first days of the genre. Calvin Klein lead the way for "fresh fougères" with Eternity for Men, but Paco Rabanne returned to prominence with XS Pour Homme (1993) and even Chanel (who was still rather avant-garde at the time) got into the act with the nice but conservative Platinum Égoïste (1993). Others like Versace Blue Jeans (1994), and Liz Claiborne Curve (1996) kept with slightly more traditional fougère structures but featured the prerequisite "freshness" in their fruity clean presentations, although men also had many more options for smelling clean with aquatics, ozonics, light tobacco scents, and gourmands having replaced most older styles.

Fougères had their second major shot in the arm in a century's time with the fresh fougère craze, but that too apparently peaked after the genre came full-circle with revivals in traditional styles like Lalique Pour Homme (1997) and Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche Pour Homme (2003). Increasing IFRA restrictions and dwindling naturally-sourced ingredients meant the proliferation of abstract patent aromachemicals, and this continued to make it more difficult for perfumers to compose new fragrances into the neat little genres of old, especially when larger and larger profit margins were being demanded by mainstream design houses unwilling to pay rising prices for natural materials as the market for perfume swelled and became more competitive. Mainstream masculines also stopped being about what the wearer found interesting or attractive, and became about delivering what a more socially-conscious man thought others would find tolerable or appealing, meaning wider and wider nets were meant to be cast by the perfume, allowing for less and less variety. This kind of lowest-common-denominator thinking prohibits such concepts as distinct genres anyway, and the fougère suffered another decline as clean and sweet woody amber perfumes plus other ultra-safe styles took hold. To be continued.
Random Musings


  1. mistersurgery's Avatar
    I'm not being hyperbolic when I say that you should write a book. Your historical knowledge of fragrances is quite astounding and your articles and reviews are very well-written. Great job on this two-parter!
  2. Zealot Crusader's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by mistersurgery
    I'm not being hyperbolic when I say that you should write a book. Your historical knowledge of fragrances is quite astounding and your articles and reviews are very well-written. Great job on this two-parter!
    Thank you! There is another part coming but I space them out so I don't spam anyone paying attention!


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