Perfumer Jean-Claude Astier.
The ’80s were the decade of the ten-octave woody delinquent that came to be known as the Power Frag, as in power fragrance. As in power tie, power lunch, power suit. The 1980s were the 1970s with more volume, more cocaine, higher aspirations and not even a vestige of conscience.
Chanel Antaeus, Puig Quorum, Krizia Uomo, Calvin Klein Obsession for Men, Patou pour Homme. They followed closely on the heels of the big aromatic fougères like Paco Rabanne pour Homme and Azzaro pour Homme and they called the fougère’s bluff. Imagine the the aromatic fougère as a portly Harley Davidson balanced on a slim kickstand. The kickstand, the lavender, the last bit of gentlemanliness was kicked away, and the hog fell dead to the ground.
Dreadful decade. But the power frags were on to something. The more successful ones, like Chanel Antaeus and Dior Fahrenheit were spectacular. Arguably, what men’s fragrances did in the 1980s is what the better women’s fragrances did in the 1920s. They let their balls hang out. The key tones were woods and spices (and in Fahrenheit’s case, gasoline) Botanical, chemical? What’s the difference? Or, better, who cares? Many of these fragrances were under-edited, and volume concerns (this was the era of the broken car alarm and hair-metal) were minimal. The power frag can be distilled to two attributes: woofer-busting spiced woods, and a degree of dryness that makes a classic chypre seem positively sweet. These were the fragrances of that creature of the 1980s: the Dicky Boy.
The power frag was the male counterpart to Giorgio, Poison and the other chemo-florals of the ’80s. It was an exhausting genre but I’m glad that someone has seen fit to excavate it. Vintage Royal shares Antaeus’s trick, which was a tailored loudness–voices raised to the heavens, and a pitch just shy of shrill. There is even a hint of the high-pitched octane of Fahrenheit. The composition is built on so many long lasting wood and spice tones that even in drydown Vintage Royal continues to beat its chest. It is retro in style but avoids seeming ‘era specific’ (read dated.)
(Image source American Psycho.)