Tom Ford Italian Cypress, 2008

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(image Fred Williamson)

Perfumer not cited

When I read that Tom Ford Italian Cypress was a 1970s-style fragrance, I’ll admit I cringed. Fashion’s sense of history tends to be horrifying in its insipidness. But Italian Cypress isn’t simply an exercise in style. It’s an homage to perfumes from the past.  In the 1970s, there were big, noticeable fragrances for men. Boisterous and affable. Despite my fears, Italian Cypress is more than merely retro. It’s properly nostalgic. Italian Cypress isn’t just dressed in a pair of bellbottoms and a gold chain necklace. It captures the feel of the 70s. It’s made as fragrances were made in the 70s. It’s a reflection of the era: the imagination, the willingness not to fit it.

In a wonderfully straightforward manner, Italian Cypress does in fact smell like the cypress tree. It manages to capture the entirety of the tree: the green stiff briskness of evergreen, the pine-like moisture of the wood, the soil and air and sunshine. It’s unabashedly What It Is. It reminds me of Caron Yataghan and Paco Rabanne pour Homme in genre and character. The linking of herbal, woody and balsamic notes is effortless. This baby has nothing to do with the muscled, depilated, excessively groomed, self-conscious male fragrances of the 21st-century. It’s uninhibited, hairy-chested and spits on sidewalks.

Current men’s perfumery is still saddled with vestiges of 1990s apologia. It supports aspiration, the desire to fit in, the pathology of conspicuousness. I tend to think of Tom Ford brand style, from my cursory views of it since the 1990s, as aspiring to uniformity and a bland, unexciting luxury. A world where the White Party is an ideal, and the best manicure wins. It’s as if he took the worst from my people, the clonishness and used it with neither irony nor higher purpose. All anonymity and no identity.

But credit where it’s due. Italian Cypress is a beautifully rough ride. It’s expansive and brash, but completely charming.  Italian Cypress captures that  1970s good-old-bad-old days feel perfectly.

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