As a teenager, I was tightly wound: aloof, careful, “tart” (but certainly not a tart!) My parents were always telling me to loosen up — “Get a tan!” “Go on a date!” “Learn to dance!” I remember the night my attitudes about myself started to shift. I had just turned 18 and was preparing to go to school at night for a yearbook meeting (where my “tart” comments were always expunged from photo captions of fellow students). On that spring evening (what got into me?) I did several things out of character: I wore jeans, I put on a tight white sweater (without a t-shirt underneath, risqué!), I used gel in my hair…and I wore perfume — Chanel Pour Monsieur. Back in those days, there were no “makeover” shows on TV, but the reactions I got to the “new” me were very What Not to Wear — post-consultation. Several friends stared at me as if I were an alien. I got compliments. I began to understand the “power” of appearances.
Swirling around this incident were feelings of freedom ahead. In several months, I’d head off to college in New York City. I could start living the way I wanted to live. I was about to begin my exploration of the world. When I wear Chanel Pour Monsieur, I always remember that night, and I associate the perfume with youth, spring, hope, and transformation.
Chanel Pour Monsieur Eau de Toilette
“Original” (1955) Chanel Pour Monsieur was created by perfumer Henri Robert. The Pour Monsieur Eau de Toilette formula lists notes of bergamot, lemon, petitgrain, mandarin, neroli, cardamom, “Cyprus accord” (oak moss, patchouli, labdanum), cedar, vetiver, musk and vanilla.
Pour Monsieur begins with lovely, warm, rich citrus aromas, especially bergamot, blending with cardamom. Quickly, I detect clean moss and slightly bitter/powdery labdanum notes that lead straight to sweet, vanilla-accented cedar and lightest musk. Pour Monsieur is a well-blended perfume; its transitions are streamlined. Pour Monsieur is not a showy fragrance; it smells “classic” and expertly crafted (with fine ingredients). After all the years I’ve worn it, Pour Monsieur still smells “new” and vibrant. Pour Monsieur is the perfume equivalent of a wardrobe staple (a black sweater, for instance) that’s made with such care, such beautiful tailoring and wonderful materials, it transcends its genre and is special, not mundane. Better still, though it was released in 1955, Pour Monsieur doesn’t smell at all like an “old guy” fragrance; it smells ‘ageless.’
Chanel claims that Pour Monsieur’s formula has not changed since its launch. (Doubtful, I know.) I remember my ‘high school’ Pour Monsieur smelling stronger than it does today, with more moss, but its character has not changed dramatically. (I bought a vintage sample of Pour Monsieur to back up my memory.) Pour Monsieur has never had great sillage or all-day lasting power (I like its quiet nature) so a “concentrated” formulation was made: Pour Monsieur Eau de Toilette Concentrée.
Chanel Pour Monsieur Eau de Toilette Concentrée
Chanel Pour Monsieur Eau de Toilette Concentrée was released in 1988 and was developed by perfumer Jacques Polge. Pour Monsieur Concentrée has notes of lavender, petitgrain, mandarin, cardamom, nutmeg, oak moss, opoponax, vetiver and vanilla.
Pour Monsieur Concentrée is a sweet, linear perfume. The notes that “pop” out are “bright” citrus, cardamom and nutmeg with the slightest hint of lavender leaf; moss and opoponax are in hiding. Pour Monsieur Concentrée veers dangerously close to sport-scent territory. Compared to Pour Monsieur, Pour Monsieur Concentrée is simpler, sweeter, and has less character. Don’t think of Pour Monsieur Concentrée as a stronger version of Pour Monsieur; it’s more like a flanker (with a ghost of its parent floating in the bottle).
Aromas attach themselves to experiences, so the start of my youthful reinvention is linked to a 56-year-old cologne. Pour Monsieur (and I) lucked out. Pour Monsieur got a loyal customer, and I got a great-smelling cologne to mark a memorable moment in my life.
Chanel Pour Monsieur Eau de Toilette is available in 50 and 100 ml. For sale on Chanel’s European and Canadian websites, I never see Pour Monsieur Eau de Toilette for sale in the U.S. (though the image of the slim Eau de Toilette bottle – with green-tinged juice -- is often used to advertise the perfume online). Chanel Pour Monsieur Eau de Toilette Concentrée is (widely) available in 75 ml ($65). If you plan to buy these perfumes (samples or full bottles) online — be careful; Pour Monsieur Concentrée is almost always sold as “Pour Monsieur Eau de Toilette” (no “concentrée” mentioned).
Note: top image is Pierrot Lunaire by Paul Klee via Wikimedia Commons.