Ask yourself, what fragrance would Alex Forrest wear?
Recently I was reminded that the 1980s was not just the decade of our poular re-imagination: all bouffant hair and shoulder pads, aspirational cuisine and avaricious soap operas.
The early part of the decade was a fragile time, when Western Countries, wounded by misadventures at home and abroad became reflective, resentful at the failed promises of 1960s optimism and 1970s radicalism and were beset by to an extent self-induced recesions.
This painful first part of the epoch produced unusual fragrance hits: think of the sepia-scented antique porcelain perfume Anais Anais that occupied the dressing table tops of young girls everywhere.
But these grey, brittle, ready to break early years have been all but erased from our memory by the 1980s we choose to remember.
Dynasty, Working Girl, Wall Street, the real Wall Street and the actual new Masters of the Universe.
The creation of increasingly epic amounts of money by a decreasing number of of mainly men and women who wanted or needed to behave and be treated like men.
In this aura of extravagant consumption, in the midst of this intoxicating atmosphere of endless acquisition a collective cry and accompaying mantra could be heard:
“More, more, more…”
“Me, me, me…”
So was born the ‘more-iental’: a group of supercharged scents that took the classic prescription of Shalimar and doctored it with olfactory crack cocaine to produce an overpowering, ultimately corrupting aromatic experience that would soon have half the perfume buying public hooked and begging for more.
And the drug of choice?
Calvin Klein Obsession.
For a whole half generation of fragrance buying females nothing could come between them and their Calvin.
Who cared that it was ultimately a blunt instrument, low rent sort of a scent?
The perfume equivalent of an over inflated balloon, pumped full to bursting with a heady gaseous cocktail of ingredients from vetiver to civet, peaches to cedar trees, supposed ambergris to simulated soft fruit.
Who cared if it was loud and brash and unashamedly vulgar?
It made a point of making sure it was noticed and in this at least it unequivocally succeeded.
In fact even an anosmiac couldn’t fail to notice Obsession: the ultimate soft perm and Ellenet, bunny boiling, recreationally rude, red stilletoe shoe and white letherette dress bedecked psycho-scent of the decade.
History has not been kind to Calvin’s sensation.
Today, eighty years after its release, the tirelessly cheapened Tabu, the true original of the more-iental still smells like something I could imagine cleaning the floor of a high class bordello with.
Less than thirty years after it’s 1985 launch, reformulated Obsession resembles substances they put down drains that don’t quite keep the smell of decay away.
For in the end as the 1980s proved decandence leads inevitably to decay.
Fear not friends, tomorrow is another day, and there will be more and better American scents for us to share on our journey back through time.
The Perfumed Dandy.