The Sniff Box – Perfume In Plain English

Christian Dior

Dior Homme

rsz_guerlainWe all have blind spots, and Dior Homme has definitely been one of mine. I was, very kindly, given a bottle some time ago, and I admired its clear glass-and-lucite design, but as for the perfume inside – I just didn’t get it. It had excellent reviews, and it obviously sells well, so I thought I’d better give it another try.

Still no luck, I’m afraid. It’s not horrible (which is a rarer attribute than you might expect), but neither does it make me go ‘WOW!’, which is the response I’m always hoping for. There’s a hint of something in it that I really don’t like, which it shares with a lot of other men’s fragrances today – a slightly metallic, chemical smell, which might come from dihydromyrcenol or perhaps from ISO E Super, both (ab)used with gay abandon by contemporary perfumers.

So why the brilliant reviews? Am I just completely missing something? Actually, I suspect not. Although it was only launched in 2005, it seems that the original scent might well have been tinkered with and reformulated (quite possibly more than once), meaning that the bottle I have probably smells very little like the much-admired original. Which is a shame, as it did sound very appealing, not least because it was created by the talented Olivier Polge, son of Chanel’s legendary in-house perfumer Jacques Polge.

Whatever the truth of the matter, the version I have and the original do seem to share at least one interesting quality. I’ve pointed out before that in itself perfume is genderless – how can a liquid be ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’? But there are definitely some ingredients and effects that, at least historically, have been more closely associated with women or men. Vetiver, for example, is considered a classic ‘male’ smell, while iris is widely regarded as and ‘feminine’ and ‘floral’ (even though the scent is extracted not from iris flowers but from its roots).

As its name far from subtly suggests, Dior Homme is aimed squarely at men, yet its main smell, even in my rather synthetic-smelling version, derives from iris; compare it with Chanel’s superlative 1932 and you’ll see what I mean. Either this shows that contemporary men are more sophisticated than some might say, or they’re dumb enough to believe anything they’re sold. I like to think the former, but maybe I’m deluding myself; what do you think?


2 Responses to “Dior Homme” Leave a Comment

  • Eric on 27 May, 2014 9:50 pm

    I have never been able to love this one, either.

  • John on 19 May, 2016 10:49 pm

    I wonder about the question of gender as it relates to different generational paradigms… I like Habit Rouge and Caron Pour un Homme and wear the latter often, but both have a floral-tonka-vanilla transit from heart to base that could be construed as feminine (I find both very masculine, but via a specific nostalgic reading that has gradually become second nature). Both certainly play off of the ‘well-groomed’ notion of gallic masculine sophistication, with Caron Pour un Homme offering its Lavender as an almost medicinal astringency to drive the point home. I think Dior Homme presents two different paradigms, one of which is a new kind of metrosexuality – not just the lipstick scent of iris, but the latter encased in a slender leather driving glove- relatable to the slender silhouette popularized by then-Dior guru Hedi Slimane. I identify with neither cacao/leather/lipstick nor the bonelessly slim suiting, but I feel they are all of a (post-punk/deconstructionist) piece… As for the synthetics, that’s the second paradigm at work… Should we call it chemical urbanism? The slightly apocalyptic reverie of Dior nose Francois Demachy’s video for his newest scent, “Balade Sauvage”, makes the inclusion of synthetics seem like a conscious channeling of the urban sensorial landscape (‘dihydromyrcenol’ appearing in subtitle beneath the image of laundromat washers churning) rather than the way we usually view it, as part of a hidden, support structure … So, Dior Homme as a skinny, deconstructed suit that offers its seams as part of its sex appeal? Speaking personally, it does not move me either, but then, I am 44, like old colognes and shop at thrift stores.

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