Why the fern as an indicator ?
In 1882, French perfumery house Houbigant introduced Fougère Royale, the first fern ever created, establishing a new family of fragrances that is still the most popular for men’s fragrances today. The fragrances of this family are all built around the same pattern: a bergamot and lavender head, a floral heart often based on geranium or rose, and a base of an oak moss accord or coumarin, the main molecule of the tonka bean. A blend recognized as virile, invigorating and dynamic, male consumers quickly took to it, especially since the scent is reminiscent of the bearded soap used by master barbers.
In the 1990s, the evolution of men in society went so far as to be reflected in the heart of perfume bottles. Three iconic ferns disrupted the established codes by complementing each other to redefine the image of the man of the 90s: CK One (Calvin Klein), XS (Paco Rabanne) and Le Mâle (Jean-Paul Gaultier). By varying the basic elements of the fern structure, they have redefined the essence of this olfactory family.
Freshness, virility and strength
Freshness is obviously the reason for the fern’s existence: to ensure that people feel clean all day long, whatever their activities. This is the role of dihydromyrcenol, its aromatic freshness paired with fruity accents in CK One, lavender and mint in Le Mâle, or citrus in XS.
Manhood is the most interesting element of this evolution. In CK One, it wants to be shared, relaxed, neither aggressive nor dominating to fit the image of a Y that is both uncomplicated and benevolent. More subversive in Le Mâle, it defines itself outside the framework of heterosexuality and no longer makes men’s fragrances an element of seduction only for women. Overplayed, the virility is almost exaggerated, with nuances of traditionally accepted codes of the gay community, while also sticking to the structure of the fougère with aromatic elements, but also cumin and tonalide, a very terrifying and resolutely masculine musk. With XS, virility allows itself to go off the beaten path with a lovely floral note that counterbalances the fragrance’s woody-spicy side.
Finally, strength, because there is no fern without power and tenacity. Its structure is essentially radiant in order to project the personality of man towards the outside. In the ferns of the 1990s, this power of projection is, from a purely technical point of view, quite innovative. Beneath its false Cologne air, CK One is a linear yet powerful and tenacious fragrance that diffuses a musky freshness that lasts and defies the classic pyramidal evaporation structure.
Le Mâle explores amber and oriental notes, already found in Fabergé’s Brut or Caron’s Un homme. Vanilla, tonka, musky notes and salicylates wrap the man in a lasting cloud of sweetness and also, paradoxically, sex appeal.
Finally, XS’s woody notes of patchouli and vetiver hark back to more classic codes, as if men in transition were still hesitating between the old and new worlds.
If the 1990’s have already said all about masculinity, why reinterpret what has already been masterfully achieved ?
Perfumers and marketers of this generation, now in a leadership position, are probably looking back with nostalgia on the years that saw them grow up. Then a number of iconic raw materials in men’s fragrances are making an extraordinary comeback. An aromatic flower that rejuvenates the iris and violet notes in men’s fragrances, geranium brings a freshness with pink, green and textured nuances that reveal a romantic man who isn’t afraid to be himself. Thanks to the new fractioning methods, vetiver is more subtle for a man who is both virile and well-groomed. Not to mention that the palette diversifies and explores non-stereotypical notes to offer an explosion of sensations. Perfumers playfully twist retro masculine notes with edible facets for a modern interpretation of male sensuality. Roasted beans – cocoa, tonka or coffee – are often used, and their rich nuances offer an opulent caress. Addictive fruits such as coconut, pineapple and cherry add to the bold masculine imprint.