2 posts categorized "Aftershaveology"

Pour Homme, e pour Straight, Chapitre Deux.

Barber The story so far:

Screenwriter Neil Kramer, your Citizen of the Month, confessed he had never worn after-shave.  He wondered if a splash of male fragrance might make a good impression on mommybloggers, which was, at the time, his chosen dating pool.  In the spirit of the Queer Eye, I agreed to be his personal homoscentual.

Two Hommes Ordinaire

Neil chose his counsel wisely.  He understands that just because I'm gay, doesn't mean I groom.   Sexually, I'm a homo, and not a metro.  The Honourable Husband, though possessed of the rapier wit and contempt for taboo which distinguishes an avant-garde homosexual from an oil-changing, beer-drinking, couch-clinging straight, is just a regular guy.  His only vanity is a little after-shave.    

Neil is a regular guy, too.   He knows so much about regular guys, his screenwriting credits actually include many episodes of  Home Improvement

That means I owe Neil a big one*.  Every time Richard Karn, as Al Borland, did something straight-dudely, the sexual cred of the gay bear subculture climbed a notch.  Those of you who have seen The Honourable Husband in person, know how grateful I must be. 

Since I don't have a garage, I do all my masculine pottering on the after-shave shelf.  It's very straight. I mean, there's no Jean Paul Gaultier anywhere. 


Aqua (not) Velva

Starting on the left, you'll see an unopened box of Bulgari Aqua. (Should that be Bvlgari Aqva?) This makes a good beginner's fragrance. Fresh and clean, but not soapy or floral. Light, but still masculine.  Somebody even says it has undertones of mandarin, posididonia and mineral amber.   Whoah!  I don't understand three-dollar-words. 

Even better, when I bought it in-flight on British Airways, it qualified for a BOGOF. That's technical marketing-speak for Buy One Get One Free. Inside the box, you'll find a cool bottle, too, if you can call it that. It's a sort of flying saucer shape that's meant to slip into a pocket or bag, rather than stand on a shelf. User-friendliness earns a place at number two on Neil's list.

Windsor Cannot

The small vial to the right came as a freebie, from a Cathay Pacific amenities pack. Woods of Windsor For Gentlemen. Shockingly simple, it reminds one of that marvellous bay rum which a generation of barbers would splash on shorn heads. If there were no such thing as Old Spice (see below), this would be my white t-shirt of scent. Some day, I might actually buy a bottle.  Like with money, even.

  Except they're discontinuing it. 

Apres Sport

Moving further right, we come to the sports section. The silver ingot contains Chanel Allure pour Homme Sport, and the blue bottle Ralph Lauren Polo Sport.

Sport generally means that you take a decent fragrance, add lime cordial to give it a "citrus" note, and flog it to people who think that wearing an after-shave with sport in its name gets you out of going to the gym.  

The word sport masculinises after-shave, just like the words after-shave masculinise perfume.

For Ralph Lauren, such subterfuge is no scent-crime.  I mean the man makes as much money nowadays from paint as from fashion, right?  The linked review suggests that  RL Polo Sport contains rather a lot of seaweed.  But Chanel...how could you?

OK, they succumbed to the sport-fad. But Allure Sport PH still manages a rich, glorious, spicy nose. I take this travelling, because like Aqua, it slips easily onto a bag or pocket.

On your way to eternity, you might start to smell a little.

In the foreground, you see a small sample-size bottle. It holds a concoction known as Calvin Klein Eternity. Eternity Arthur Stace

Not a fan of Eternity. (Hey, I'm not even a fan of the next five minutes.)

The scent evokes memories of a frustrated, trying-to-be-straight youth. Once, in the 80s, I cut through a department store on my way from university campus to bus-stop.   As I passed the white grand piano**, a makeup-caked saleswoman thrust a scented card under my nose. "Sir, would you like to try Eternity for Men?"

"Let me tell you about Eternity for Men," I snarled. "FOREPLAY. That's eternity for men!" The woman gave me a sample bottle, thinking I might need a little help with the opposite sex. I still have it, so she may have been right.

Calvin Klein loves citrus notes so much, that I sometimes think he flogs wearable lemon juice. Or follows around tomcats with an empty bottle, as they mark their territory.  Parfumiers describe this scent as fougere, or fern-like.  I haven’t quite fougered that one out.

Ten Gallons of It.

On the far right, we find another souvenir of the eighties: a bottle of  Dallas after-shave.  It's dark green, the color of crude.  

P1110932Dallas smells like my mother's Tweed  Good friend Cash McBuck gave it to me, so it earns pride-of-place in the medicine cabinet.  It came in a gift set, with a shaker of talc that turned to limestone after living in steamy bathrooms for many years.  The after-shave bottle is half-empty, mainly from evaporation.  I wish Eternity would evaporate as fast. 

Give them the Axe

The tall bottle hidden behind JR is the curious Puma I'm Going.  To call this an after-shave, means armies of whiskers have died in vain.  It's a new-fangled body-spray.  That's fine, but such things simply don't smell enough. You can't dab a little behind the ear, for your beloved to discover as you canoodle.  The object of your affection won't smell a body spray until you're naked, so it will appeal only to those in committed relationships, or the easy.


The garish bottle in the middle is Bulgari pour homme Extrême. (Or should that be Extrémé? Or Extrèmè? Or Êxtrěmé? Come to think of it, shouldn't that be Bvlgari povr homme? Maybe I should just shvt vp.) 

Bulgari fragrances are the opposite of their loud, heavily-branded watches; there's little that's extreme about Extrême.  It's light, subtle and pleasant, smelling of nothing in particular but friendliness.  I put this as number four on Neil's list. 

The Heavyweight Champion

Between Dallas and Extrême, we see the two after shaves which I use often enough to keep cupboard stock.  Lurking in the back you’ll notice a familiar ivory shape.  The venerable Old Spice

Old Spice is the granddaddy of them all.  Sometime last century, those cunning chaps at Proctor and Gamble found that men quite liked the idea of smelling nice—which suggests being clean—but shunned perfume.  The way to get perfume on a bloke was to make it hurt.  Throw some alcohol over freshly-scraped skin, that’s exactly what it does. 

Of course, it hurts doesn't make great copy, so it became the bracing sensation you get from pure salt air and the crisp refreshing brace of  the open sea.  That’s what Old Spice does.  It braces.  There's so much bracing in an Old Spice ad, you'd think you were in an orthodontist's office***.

But the original scent of Old Spice is exactly what I want on most days—to smell clean.  Nothing smells cleaner than Old Spice. This is number three on your list, Neil. 

My Signature Scent

The red-wine coloured box in front, though, contains a more formal scent.  Antaeus, by Chanel. 

AntaeusAntaeus was my first truly grown-up aftershave.   I bought it, by chance, duty free in Bahrain—this was so long ago that Qantas jets had to refuel twice between Australia and Europe; not once, as they do nowadays.   The northwestern part of India and the Middle East seem to have a penchant for scent, and Bahrain sold it by the gallon. 

There was a catch at the time.  In order to avoid duty at your destination, one needed to open the bottle en route. It gently scented my backpack, so Antaeus provided a kind of olfactory soundtrack to that marvelous, youthful picaresque. I bought another bottle on the way home, and have been hooked ever since. 

Antaeus drips with wood and spice; it’s like tasting a sweet, peppery Cabernet Sauvignon.  I would recommend it as your fragrance of choice, Neil.  Except for one thing.  It’s mine.

An After Shave Adventure

No, we need to find Neil a personal bouquet.  Luckily, I have to go to London this week, which means passing through two of Europe’s most extensive duty-free obstacle courses.  Franz-Joseph Strauss Terminal Two, and Heathrow Terminal Five. 

(Of course, Diane needs to weigh in on the issue, too.  In the European blogosphere,  we share joint custody of Neil)

Hold your breath for part trois.

*   *   *   *   *

Photo Credit: Arthur Stace's Eternity script is copyright to the Sydney City Council. All photos link back to source.

* Luckily, I have a big one

**Australians will know what I'm talking about.

***Here's the joke if you speak British English: "There's so much bracing in an Old Spice ad you'd think you could use the stuff to hold up your pants."

Pour Homme, e pour Straight.

medicine.jpgChapitre Un. 

Screenwriter Neil Kramer is Citizen of the Month.

Neil chose the word "citizen" deliberately. He sees the blogosphere as a democratising force, where a regular Joe can fight the tyranny of mediated opinion. Blogs turn personal narrative into instant social history.  Original voices need not be silenced by the caprice of an editor, nor deadened by an academic. To Neil, a blog champions the common man, and his everyday life.

Perhaps that's why he bit on the Medicine Cabinet Meme.  It’s perfect material for the social historian; something so commonplace that it’s practically transparent, but which speaks tellingly about the owner’s life and time. 

As memes go, it seems no more invasive than usual. It doesn't demand that you reveal five secrets, six phobias, or three strangers on the bus you wish you'd asked for a blow job.

One simply lets the world peek behind one's bathroom mirror, and Preparation H does the talking.

Neil’s medicine chest is commonplace, indeed.  The only remarkable thing about it, is that it contains quite a bit of actual medicine.

Now, you need to know that Neil lives in the United States.  A primitive, Third-World country without universal health insurance. 

The presence of medicine doesn't mean that he's sick, just that he's well-to-do. An empty amoxycillin jar is as good as flashing a black Amex at Le Cirque.


Since he earns enough to be medicated, I gave him shit for being a cheapskate. What, no aftershave? Soon, an email appeared in my inbox.

I have never worn aftershave, ever. Should I start? Neil.

It took a few seconds to sink in. This was a milestone in my gay life. A straight man asked me for a tip on personal grooming.

Honourable Husband, you've been QueerEyed!  It’s your fifteen minutes of fabulousness!

Some gay guys get this all the time. Their apartments are tasteful, their clothes stylish, and their comportment perfect. People flock to them for advice on paint colour, wine lists, or romantic poetry. Me? I drink beer and pick my nose.  I'm a slob.

But when it comes to after-shave, yours truly is an idiot savant. I love the stuff. For proof, you only need to look in my medicine cabinet; it groans with smells.

By chance, the Honourable-Right medicine cabinet also houses laundry supplies, since one corner of the bathroom hosts the Waschtrockner*. As you can see, we are so fragrant, even our laundry wears after-shave.

Front and centre, we see selections from the Lenor Mystery Series Fabric Softener Range. The purple bottle holds Sumatra, where scents of cinnamon and hibiscus take us on a magic journey of Silk Road romance. To the left we find Sahara, which gives us the cool embrace of twilight as the sun settles behind the dunes, and the perfumes of Araby waft from the sultan's tent. Or something.

For daywear, we use Frottee.  It sounds like some sort of sexual practice. If you had to say what Frottee smells like, you'd have to say it smells like good value-for-money. That's a big step up from smelling like nothing at all, which is how our clothes used to smell before we moved to Europe and started to wear fancy-schmantzy couture, washed gingerly in appliances that cost a fortune and take three hours to complete a cycle.

(Off-topic: American readers will notice the plastic container on the left. In Germany, Mr. Clean is Meister Proper. The label tells us that the bottle contains Bad-Spray. Good-Spray costs more, I guess.) 

Fragrance Japonaise

Master Right may love snuggling up in Frotteed sheets, but he eschews fragrance on the body.  It's a Japanese thing.  To the Japanese, prominent scent suggests that you're concealing another odour, and thus not clean.

Successful Japanese fashion designers can't quite crack fragrance. Experts describe Yohji Yamamoto's 2004 pour Femme as "Decent. Neutral. Too polite."  Others stick to easy-to-understand smells like wood or coffee. 

Issey Miyake's first fragrance, L’eau d’lssy, aims to smell "as clear as crystal water".   It's the minimalist Steve Jobs black turtleneck of scent (which, by the way, Miyake also designed). Soon after its launch in 1992, Miyake increasingly reached out to guest designers for his scents.

Odeur 53Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, perhaps in frustration, reacted with an anti-perfume. According to reviews, her Odeur 53 shows hints of burnt rubber, ozone, photocopiers, static electricity, and cathode-ray TV sets.

L'humeur de l'amour

So Master Right turns up his nose at my after-shave habit, if you'll pardon the expression. But pour this homme, after-shave is grand.

Nothing affects your mood so powerfully, for good or ill, as a smell. It's aromatherapy you carry around all day.

Smells go straight to our lizard-brains; they cue masculine or feminine, clean or unclean, fancy or plain, rich or poor.

Believe me, Neil, you want to be on the right end of a smell.

But for that you'll have to wait for Chapitre Deux.  That's when The Honourable Husband gives you a tour of his personal after-shave shelf.

'Til then, adieu.  Or is it au revoir? I can never tell those apart.


* a Waschtrockener is a high tech device which both washes and dries your clothes. We bought it because the name of the manufacturer, Siemens, reminds us of man-sex.  So does one of its cycles: Schnell. 

Photo credit: links to source.