3/6/17

Jil Sander Man Pure (Jil Sander)

Pure Testosterone

Whenever I encounter a chypre, I expect to only half like it. With the exception of Grey Flannel, I've never met one that I outright loved, although Mitsouko does give me a tingle now and then. Jil Sander's Man Pure (also known as "Man 1. Pure") isn't an exception, but it is an incredibly cool fragrance, its professed purity evocative of '80s Wim Wenders films, silvery and inky, weathered faces and smoke. It's the fragrance equivalent of a '70s BMW 2002 with all original 2.0 L. engine, brake failure light, and roughly 80 of its original 100 hp left at god only knows how many RPMs and foot lbs of torque. Man Pure still moves, still has a Neo-noire attitude, and oh by the way, it was manufactured in West Germany, so if you're looking for something with Cold War street cred, it doesn't get better than this. Even the drab, blocky, colorless bottle looks like a brick in the Wall.

Chypres like Man Pure make me daydream, though. Wearing it the other day, I found myself wondering what it would smell like if some contemporary shitkicker outfit tried to make it on a budget for the K-Mart crowd. It boisterous cistus labdanum, lemon, and castoreum opening accord would likely be reduced to some functional analog of "pine" and "grey citrus." Its sophisticated (but aggressively masculine) heart of kitchen herbs, frankincense, wormwood, and oakmoss would definitely be a fake cinnamon woody amber, with one of those annoying pencil-shaving cedar thingies buzzing off the tail end. The smoky musky-mossy finish would be a bland detergent musk mixed with a pinch of treemoss and treacle. It would probably impress me as a solid attempt at something genuinely old-school and unconventional that simply flounders on the basis of not having a skilled enough nose behind it, sort of like these films Hollywood keeps churning out that seem to be made by people who haven't seen any films. That is, it would be ironically weird, and a noble failure.

With this in mind, and remembering that there were no guiding light breakthroughs for chypres like there were for fougeres in this time period, there's nothing suprising about Man Pure. It doesn't try to have it both ways by tucking lavender in the mix; this fragrance has no fougere accord. The citrus note, which is not quite bergamot, but close enough, along with the potent punch of beaver juice and labdanum pretty much shouts "I AM MAN" from rooftops, traveling loudly alongside you everywhere you go. It feels similar to Halston Z14, Salvador Dali Pour Homme, and even a little like vintage Yatagan, with its burnt evergreen needles adding texture and rustic beauty to the proceedings. Released in 1981 to little fanfare, this incredible gem reveals just how ruthless and stark these bawdy Reagan era masculines could be.

If you're looking for a dry, dark, naturalistic chypre with a fresh, silvery incense note, good dynamism, excellent longevity, and an irredeemably macho bite, this is something you should spritz. Wear it to a late-night screening of Wings of Desire and blast Blondie tapes from your Beamer to get the full effect.





4 comments:

  1. Whatever happened to Jil Sander, the "Queen of Less"?
    After so much 80's excess I went through a period of wearing black & olive drab (with platinum accessories) for about 10 yrs & was a great admirer of her style.

    It's interesting how animalics like castoreum & civet usually invoke sexual or at least masculine connotations to most people. If done well (as in lurking underneath a woodsy/citrus composition) both remind me of Autumn, warm sweaters, hot cocoa, falling leaves, foggy northern California days, and such.

    Noble failures at Kmart indeed.

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    1. Still going strong as far as I know, Bibi. I marvel at how the New York Times advertises simple monochrome blouses that cost $400.

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  2. I've just discovered your blog and I've liked everything I've read so far.

    Now, this one really appeals somehow. Maybe because I love chypres as a thing; I love Yatagan (current), as well as Blondie, Wim Wenders and smoke. I'm also of the appropriate age but probably not the right gender for this, so I do wonder.

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    1. Wouldn't worry about gender with this, despite its being unabashedly masculine. It possesses enough complexity to work with anyone who enjoys wearing it.

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