Lancome Sagamore (La Collection), 2005

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Perfumer unknown (original Lancome Sagamore released in 1986, discontinued.)

Lavender gives Sagamore a sort of fougère camouflage that it sheds in the topnotes. Very quickly Sagamore reveals its complexity. It’s not muddled, it’s intricate and deliberate. Its winning quality is an unfussy ambiguity that some of the better masculine chypres such as Hermes’ Equipage and Carthusia’s Numero Uno share. Sagamore has little sillage after its topnotes and its presence hangs very close to the skin, a trait that perfectly suits it quiet but sharp herbal/floral character. Sagamore is the anti-dandy and exemplifies the best of the classic gentlemanly chypres.

It’s easy to dissect gender in perfumery. If you move forward from the premise that no scent is fundamentally masculine or feminine, then no perfume is intrinsically gendered either. What we’re left with is the marketing of the producers and the customs and practices of perfume wearers to inform us about perfume and gender. Accept the status quo or don’t. Or change the rules for that matter. There’s a growing underestimation of men in mainstream perfumery that is distinct from the low bar set by many poorly conceived fragrance in the women’s market. For women, it’s the fashion-induced disposability issue: in one season, out the next, with notoriety intrinsically more valued than quality. For men, the low expectation has to do with the implicit assumption that all men want to smell 90% like each other. The other 10% points to that almost unnoticeable distinction that carries enormous symbolic value to the members of the various masculine tribes. Hence Cool Water, Green Irish Tweed, Pleasure’s for Men, Chez Bond. It’s like the businessman’s gamble: the huge range of tie choices, from blue stripe to red stripe, singing out your individuality against a grey suit and white shirt.

Current trend tells us men want indistinguishable dreck. History (Fougère Royale, Habit Rouge, Annick Goutal Sables, Knize Ten, Guerlain Vetiver, Amouage Gold Man) says otherwise. And so do I. I want Fracas and Havana, VeroProfumo Rubj and Yatagan.

Screw marketing and whatever people think of gender. I want excellent perfume.

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