With so many new scents coming onto the market you often can't see the woody fragrances from the trees. Numerous variations or ‘new’ editions with ‘aqua’, ‘summer’ ‘sport’ or ‘intense’ monikers has multiplied the choice and often blinds us, the consumer, about what is actually new or any good. Fragrance continues to be marketed as 'new is best' which isn't necessarily so.
We’ve decided to strip it right back and offer up our definitive list of modern men’s classics. But, what makes a modern classic? One that sold in the millions? An original concept and smell? Or the ones with the biggest marketing budgets? To be honest, it’s a mixture of the three and many of these were released when it was much easier for a fragrance to stick and make it into this revered 'Hall of Fame'.
To us, what really makes a classic fragrance is reference, obviously this will age you, but when you smell something new and say “It smells a bit like X or Y” or “That reminds me of ...” then that reference becomes a classic. These scents have become so ubiquitous in both smell and packaging it’s hard to imagine them ever being new and a reminder that sometimes the oldies are the best.
Escape For Men - Calvin Klein
Released - 1993
Calvin Klein was at the forefront of fragrance marketing when this was first released. He pioneered the visuals and sexuality of smell with his timeless black and white imagery. The minimal look he promoted was reflected in the fresh and clean scents he released. The frosted glass cylinder with a silver-toned cap of the Escape bottle was designed by Pierre Dinand. This classic ‘wet green’ scent of heated birch leaves used ‘Headspace’ technology which picks up and mimics the living, growing aroma of plants and flowers so closely it’s as if you were outdoors, enjoying the scent at its peak. It’s a unique process of preserving fragrance notes – like the birch leaf essence in Escape. Out of all the fragrances Calvin Klein released in the 90s this wasn't over exposed and has stood the test of time.
Boss Bottled - Hugo Boss
Released - 1998
With 60 million bottles sold, an amount that could stretch from Berlin to New York, Boss Bottled started as the olfactory idea of apple strudel. Knowing the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, this woody-ambery fragrance was a reaction against the fresh citrus notes of the mid-nineties. The soft, warming smell was something different and became an instant classic.
Allure For Men - Chanel
Released - 1999
Chanel don't release many fragrances, so when they do you know it's a big deal. This was their first modern men's fragrance and became an instant best seller. The fresh-spicy-woody scent created by Jacques Polge features the three main notes of bergamot, tonka bean and light vetiver. It perfectly balances a cleanness with traditional masculinity.
Chemistry - Clinique For Men
Released - 1994
This was refreshing in its lack of imagery or branding. It was the first truly synthetic smelling fragrance which didn’t try to be anything else but a clean smell. The unique signature of this modern fragrance is the crisp, sparkling ginger accord - diffusing a climate of warmth and well being from the top note to dry down. A cult classic.
L’Eau d’Issey - Issey Miyake
Released - 1994
The majority of people wearing this fragrance wouldn't be able to pick Issey Miyake out of a line-up which shows how this fragrance has connected with people on purely a scent basis. L’Eau d’Issey pour Homme is a citrusy-spicy-woody fragrance created by perfumer Jacques Cavallier. It's success can be credited to its lightness and freshness. Its freshness is surprisingly long-lasting with an unexpected splash of mandarin orange and yuzu, a Japanese citron. Men continue to return to this as their default citrus fragrance.
Le Male - Jean Paul Gaultier
Released - 1995
This is the definition of blockbuster, selling one every 6 seconds, it has sold more than 70 million since its release. The fragrance has become bigger than the fashion house itself. This was the first fragrance to explore the power of packaging. The striped male torso has become an iconic collector's item. A traditional 'Fougere' scent, reinterpreted by Jean Paul Gaultier, with mint and an amber trail with hints of vanilla, this along with its infamous can will run and run.
Terre D’Hermés - Hermés
Released - 2006
A relative newcomer, Terre D'Hermés has quickly gained its place on many a man's bathroom shelf. One of Jean-Claude Ellena's most popular scents for Hermés, this sticky woody scent features the joy of orange and bitterness of grapefruit with the energy of pepper and cedar. This is the closest most people will come to owning a piece of Hermés. The orange H on the bottom of the bottle is a very nice touch.
Acqua di Gio Pour Homme - Giorgio Armani
Released - 1996
Inspired by the beauty of Pantellerie, where he spent his holidays, Armani created Acqua di Gio Pour Homme to represent the harmony of sweet and salty notes of sea water and nuances of sunny warmth on your skin. The Mediterranean in a bottle; bitter citrus with aromatic rosemary intertwines with marine notes and spices softened by a woody-musky trail. This was a modern version of the classic lemony Mediterranean scent and proved that men all over the world can relate to this scent.