Givenchy Monsieur de Givenchy, 1959

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(image, Henri Cartier Bresson)

The Monsieur is one of a crew of wonderful masculine citrus chypres from the mid-20th century including Rochas Moustache, Chanel pour Monsieur and YSL pour Homme. This genre smells like the middle ground between the feminine green chypre of the 1960s-1970s (Estée Lauder Private Collection, Scherrer de Scherrer, Weil de Weil) and Eau de Cologne. I know the more current formulations of these citrus chypres, which according to many are ghosts of their earlier iterations. Myself, I turn to the above green chypres if I’m looking for ballsiness and volume. I like the current men’s citrus chypres for their subtlety and personal scale. I like this genre for wearing like Eau de Cologne with endurance. For this use, the Monsieur is perfect.

The big dog on this block is Chanel pour Monsieur. At any time since its release it’s been considered the best men’s chypre on the market. Many call it the best men’s chypre of all time. I only know a recent formulation, and while pretty, it’s so short lived, and fades to such a spectral version of itself that it’s off my list of viable chypres.

The Monsieur is a long-lasting but light perfume that balances the simple composition, restraint and allure that leads to that rare outcome in masculine perfumery: quiet but unashamed beauty. I’ve found many who see Monsieur de Givenchy as the most damaged by reformulations of this genre. Perhaps for their purposes it is, but I find it enjoyable in the way that it accomplishes all the goals of the citrus chypre genre. It’s dry/bitter and austere. It reflects your skin. It combines an herbal citrus blend (pepper/lemon/bergamot) with a waxy musky quality that is distinctive yet easy-going. The floral notes give some depth. It starts rosy and eases into a low-key white floral tone that eventually settle into a carnation note that remains through drydown. Carnation? Or was that the pepper from the start? This little twist shows that for as unfussy as this genre is, the Monsieur wears an I’ve-got-a-secret smile from start to finish.

To some, this is a faded gentleman. To me, a charmer.

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