SCENT OF MALE : JULES by CHRISTIAN DIOR (1980 )

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Notes:

Artemisia, galbanum, lavender, bergamot, black pepper

Sage, jasmine, cyclamen, basil, rose, cumin

Leather, costus, tonka bean, oakmoss, amber, civet, musk

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The last time I was in Paris you could still buy Jules. That was almost a decade ago, though, and even in reformulation I doubt that it was destined to remain very popular. Jules is just too intimate, too husky and sensual, to appeal to the fashionable common man.

The gravest mistake in contemporary men’s perfumery is the conflation of masculine and macho. Almost any scent released onto the market these days that is targeted at homo erectus is fuelled with clichés. Granite-jawed, gym-locker hardness: wooden aggressions with slim concessions to ‘freshness’ (immaculate,  GQ grooming); the latest spice; ozone; citrus. And though these perfumes can occasionally work on a subcellular level as Pavlovian lust-flaggers (the heterosexual woman, the homosexual man responding with their pituitary gland in a spike of involuntary sexual arousal), on the aesthetic, and more importantly on the spiritual level, they surely evoke emotions more akin to disdain .

*

I was at Helen’s house in Birmingham a couple of weeks ago, sitting with the kids and looking out into the garden and the park beyond, the big trees that stretch their arms out across the wide, March skies. We were there for a while, talking, catching up and relaxing, when Helen’s partner Steve arrived back from his studio in the city centre after a bike ride in the evening air.

As he passed by us through the kitchen, Steve left the most troubling, imperceptibly resonant scent in the air around him: part fresh, clean sweat; part vintage Jules. A scent I recognized immediately because I own a small bottle myself, but mostly because it has, along with Loewe’s darkly coniferous Esencia, over the years, become his own signature. It suits him perfectly.

In scent terms, Steve and I are opposites, as we are in several other ways. He is cautious: I am a car crash. He loves comedy: I can’t stand it. He is meticulous: I am a slob. And while he would smell ludicrously wrong in anything even remotely vanillic, sweet or balsamic ( I am personally not convinced he can even carry off the bottle of vintage Guerlain Vetiver they have hidden upstairs in their bathroom – though that is partly because I want to get my hands on it myself), it is equally true that I myself just smell indelibly wrong in any scent that is even slightly redolent of a forest. Pine, fir, myrtle, juniper are of course all beautifully spruce, natural essences that I like aromatherapeutically (though I will admit that I do find them slightly depressing), but for some reason, on the skin, they remain to me too morbidly sylvan, too starkly prickly, rough and alive.

While Duncan is also drawn to these herbaceous, fir tree formulas and smells good, if a touch tightrope, in Christian Dior’s most animalic scent (and I smell horrible in it, like someone’s sweaty crotch), Steve’s skin chemistry – pale skin, black hair –  works with this subtle yet penetrating  scent in completeness. I hadn’t smelled this scent in a very long time, but my sensors were immediately prickled ( I would say he had sprayed some on just a few minutes before), the air in the room suddenly tingling for me almost on the genetic level; imbued with an ionized, sensating clarity of the veins (the outside air; the body chemistry; the sage, cyclamen, artemisia laden, sour herbaceousness over finely calibrated animalics), all of which essentially summed up for me what I love so much about perfume: that a scent can speak for you, enhance you, enlarge you, and, most importantly, affect another person in a way that can only be described as psychotropic. This smell was, in the most elegant and understated way, pure sex.

*

There is a blooded, bodily, leg-haired, at-ease-with-himself aura that surrounds Jules. Interestingly, the perfume was created by Jean Martel, whose only other creation seems to have been Paco Rabanne Pour Homme, another easy-going, indefatigable classic that I wear myself sometimes as I love its warmth and aromatic balminess. While I don’t often go for ‘pour homme’ type scents these days, there is something special, real, lovable, about Paco Rabanne, as there is about Jules, a scent that doesn’t feel that it needs to brag. Steve, a brilliant portrait painter incidentally, is kempt, handsome, but not overtly ‘sexual’ in that boring, eyebrow-raised, current manner. He knows who he is, takes care of his appearance, but isn’t in any way a peacock (though it has to be said that anyone who wears Jules may have such strutting tendencies subcutaneously….)

In recent times though there has been an exponential,  narcissistic, looks-obsessed gym culture in which males – no matter their gender or sexual persuasion – are expected to be gazing constantly; defiantly, into the void of beauty.  With their slender, calorie-counted, machine-toned musculature, assiduously cared for facial hair and coiff, theoretically I suppose I should probably be lusting after them now that I have entered my middle age (or so I am told), while in truth such paragons of manhood leave me completely, and utterly, sexually cold.

Actually, come to think of it, this has nothing to do with age – I have probably always been that way. When I lived in Rome, I was pursued by a couple of classically beautiful Armani models who, much to the great consternation and disbelief of my friends, I just didn’t fancy, no matter how hard I tried to. Immense regularity of feature; straightness of leg, neatness of garment…….. er, no grazie. Give me unselfawareness, a natural body, let the testosterone flow more surreptiously, uninhibitedly, in the veins.

And going even further than the prissy, coutured preeningness that turns off all sexuality in my body, there is even, currently, particularly among gay men – and thus probably in the straight male population as the unstoppable metrosexualisation of the male goes unabated –  a very big trend for shaving and depilation that makes me just want to take the first flight to Iraq. In this world of hard, trained, orange crustaceans and fresh, mascara’d young chickens, one must keep one’s nether regions trimmed, neat and plucked – despite the ubiquitous hipster facial beards that also bore me to death – (creating the visual illusion of size, supposedly), but to me, these prim, men’s-magazine-influenced approximations of maleness couldn’t be physically less attractive. I personally like hair, softness, snuggling animalness, not this diamond-cut, gleaming sculpture of white-teethed vacuousness. Add a scent, be it your high street Armanis, your Dolces, your Adidas, whatever sports scent to go on top, or else your Monocle-approved prickly, ‘directional’ oud or glistening high quality citrus, and you then have a pore-closed fortress of a person, preened and ready for the selfie: infallible, no remove for manoeuvre:  the direct, chemical, all-at-once scent (which, unfortunately has no real basis), suturing the whole image up so damn neat and tidily (I have a horrifying image, actually, of meeting, if I were single, one of these unimpeachably turned out individuals, self-approvingly grinning on a blind date in some bar, dressed up in Vétiver Extraordinaire or some other nifty niche men’s choice, and me there choking to death claustrophobically in the perfection of our smiling, android mate calls; desperately wondering, eyes darting about the environs, how I could possibly make an exit….)

Because, you know, in truth, many, or probably most of these crisp, sharp nothingnesses that we are exposed to these days as ‘scents for men’, despite their puffed male credentials, have no balls. It’s all flash, synthetic woods, industrial lime, and easy, friendsome, laundry musks.

Scents like Jules , while somewhat outdated I suppose in some regards I will admit – unless you happen to be lucky enough to be able to meld with them perfectly and carry them off winkingly (but not too ironically), treat sexuality in a far more erotic, genuine, gently manipulative manner. Their subliminal urinousness (which needs to be kept subliminal in order for the perfume to obtain its mysterious power), derived from the clever infusion of animalics with piquant plant essences, creates an intriguing aura of warm stealth: tentative yet resolute, attractive yet a touch dangerous, that hovers, flirtatiously but good humouredly – and this is the key –  about the person.

I am very sensitive to these internal machinations within perfumes, and on Steve the other day there was a definite, immediate change of atmosphere seconds after he had entered the room: a hunted fox; some predatory, shallow-breathing maleness that I experienced personally in my own body physically. Just a sniff: hanging on the air, but libidinously…..deep rooted, carnal : : : the smell of a man.

30 Comments

Filed under Masculines

30 responses to “SCENT OF MALE : JULES by CHRISTIAN DIOR (1980 )

  1. In case you were wondering, I am also well aware that in writing this piece I am falling into certain standard cliches on what constitutes ‘maleness’, just substituting one set of received notions of manliness for another. The post is designed just as an in depth analysis of a very strong reaction I had – there is no doubt that Jules smelled, at Helen’s house, at that particular moment, incredibly good. It can also smell terrible if worn at the wrong time (as can all vintage animalics: Infini can be gorgeous, heavenly, or else an absolute pigsty if you wear it on dirty skin or when you have eaten the wrong food). I have had a very difficult relationship with Kouros over the years, another similar perfume to Jules in some ways with its musky pissiness. I have been raved over, aware I have smelled gorgeous in it, and then on other occasions been acutely embarrassed by how WRONG and foully fatty it became. Duncan has now banned it as a result.

    On the topic of which, and what is sexually attractive to me, honestly, I think that ultimately I like men in flowers. D wore Elizabeth Taylor’s Diamonds and Rubies as a joke in one of his art performances, and I am not afraid to say I found it VERY sexy.

    I do think it is all a very interesting topic, though. Would love your own opinions. What smells horny on a man?

  2. Perfect description of Jules. I used to own a bottle of this, but alas could never enjoy wearing it. I actually have owned quite a few scents targeted at males, Eau Sauvage, Pour Un Homme de Caron etc… but Jules was just too “manly” smelling. It never softened, nor did it adapt to my chemistry, It just kept on releasing its barrage of essences which culminated [always] in a testosterone fueled “odeur”.
    It is a truly unique and glorious scent though, it just needs the right person to carry it along.

    • Caron Pour Homme could be glorious, I imagine, on a femme, as could Eau Sauvage.

      I agree that ultimately, though, Jules is probably just too erogenously male for most women to wear convincingly. I myself have quite male-smelling skin I think which is why I wear so many scents targeted at women – I recalibrate them in a more androgynously interesting way ( I like to think….sometimes I am sure I get it very wrong).

      For someone like me who brings out the base notes in everything, though, Jules is just a pissy, hot mess. On Steve there are intimations of all that, but in just the right quotient (at least on this occasion). It is the precariousness of such quality scents that makes them so fascinating.

  3. Katy

    I like and wear many masculines. My taste in them leans towards the more herbaceous, woody end of the spectrum. Forest notes, bring it on! I find the modern form of Eau Sauvage a little clean for my taste. Perhaps I will add a little musk the next time I wear it? Spot on in your analysis of modern male grooming/ sexuality. I prefer a clean, but not overly coiffed man!

    • I don’t know I am just strange I suppose, but fashion, and grooming, and any kind of received ideas about how to do things, in any sphere of life, just immediately turn me off. Which obviously makes life a bit difficult at times..

  4. I love this story and your ruminations on masculine fragrances here. I have a soft spot for the original Kouros still and noted that Francis Kurkdjian’s Aqua Vitae had a whiff of this when trying it the other day. I love Guerlain Vetiver (good luck with the poach! Lure it, lure it!!) but it has a naughty side I think. When I first smelt it it conjured an image of a dog pissing on a lampost and trotting off and it made me laugh outloud in the store! It’s got something a bit ‘jack-the–lad’, charming and knavish about it. I often have a spritz. Likewise love Habit Rouge, but I’m developing an antipathy to lavender in men’s fragrances. I think it’s becoming more common – perhaps perfume designers are trying to counteract the macho or that crystalline lemony clean gym-bunny thing that is definitely predominating – but it feels strangely neutralising… I find the Trussardi men’s range quite sexy on men (and probably would on women, but I’ve never smelt it on any woman other than me which sort of doesn’t count…or perhaps does! Actually it did suit me). It’s quite soft and musky – like nuzzling ones face in a warm hairy chest! I bought a bottle for myself but then decided to give it to Jules and it’s gorgeous. He wears it when he has work meetings and needs to be charming and persuasive to get something passed (I’ve noticed this!) and I gather from his happy mood when he wears it that it probably works!

    • Jules you see…..I was trying to remember if I actually gave you my bottle as I couldn’t find it while writing this review.

      If I didn’t I should have: would he like having a bottle of scent with his name on it?

      I love the idea of Trussardi on you and want to smell it in person. As for the Vetiver thing, I’m afraid that the current version just won’t hack it, dog’s balls or other wise once you have smelled the vintage. I know that is a dull refrain that people always hear from me, but despite the initial resemblance of the current version (which I bought myself, and gave to Duncan, who wears it well), there is something horrendously MISSING about the base notes, which used to be so smoky, suave, and mysterious. Now there is nothing but a bit of vetiver root and synthetic musk. Still, that unmistakeable Guerlain Vetiver accord is worth smelling even in this incarnation as there is absolutely nothing else like it.

      Kouros does spring to mind when thinking of Jules, though K is spicy and orangey, whereas Jules smells much more mossy green. Sexy. Hairy. Genuine.

  5. tonkabeany

    Steve’s subcutaneous peacock well and truly surfaced after reading this review. To give the man his due, he was the real fan of Jules right from the outset, I was less convinced at first, and still those pissy notes slightly repel me when I smell it straight from the bottle, but on his gorgeously clean, familiar-smelling skin, it makes me weak at the knees.

    Esencia’s effect is quite different. the dark potency of it is very affecting, but rather than the carefree, masculine understatement, it sends out a much more well-groomed, wealthy and self-assured signal – perhaps in part because of cautious Steve’s tendency to ‘save it for best’.

    I came back from your Perfume Lovers vanilla evening on a delicious wave of dreamy, comforting loveliness, thinking for the first time perhaps that I might paddle in the shallows of gourmand scents (although Tihota would have been a swan dive off the high board), wafted it enthusiastically past Steve’s nose, only for him to retch and cower away from me, many emphatic NOs later I accepted that it wasn’t going to work.

    • !!!

      At least the man knows what he wants, because he knows how good you smell in your beauties and wants nothing else….(you do smell UNBELIEVABLY good in Apres L’Ondee, as you well know).

      Interesting the distinction between Esencia and Jules, incidentally: I can imagine the Loewe working in that slightly more straight spined manner, whereas the Jules is just too honest and straightforward for business or pleasantries. And far too sexy, probably. I hope I did the scent justice – not quite sure why I went on tangents about shaved pudenda, but that is a trend that I just can’t abide and Jules seems to be an ideal antidote.

  6. I enjoyed this read and agree ‘Immense regularity of feature; straightness of leg, neatness of garment..’ does nothing for me either. It seems that rather than replacing one cliche of male attractiveness with another you’re suggesting that a more natural approach is more attractive than factory produced gym clones keen to conform to a standardised idea.

    I’ve always thought that all those whirring but static gym bikes should be wired up to the national electricty grid! Sadly I haven’t encountered Jules yet, though I’ve always thought it sounded interesting. I did recently buy Eau d’Hermes (not vintage) which I really enjoy, but as you say animalic perfumes don’t always feel wearable. I used to like Nino Cerruti for men (now discontinued) which had an animalic feel that worked on the right person. It was fist created in the 70s of course, when men and women were still allowed to posses body hair!

    • Oh god let them possess it again, for god’s sake! And wear perfumes like the filthy Eau d’Hermes (not sure I know Nino Cerruti, though….was it good?)

      I think you hit the nail on the head with the word ‘standardized’, actually. There was an interesting interview I saw with Nicole Kidman, actually, who was talking about her horror of homogeneity in culture generally, especially cinema, and how she largely tries to avoid it whenever she can. Although I think it is boring to always trying to buck away from what is pressed upon us, my own tastes tend to often like something that is…..what is the word? I don’t know. Bloggers often refer to me as ‘quirky’, which I am not sure I like. But in cinematic terms, I loved The Paperboy, which everyone hated, whereas Lee Daniels’ other film ‘Precious’ was very good but didn’t rock my boat, and I know I can’t face ‘The Butler’ just from seeing the trailer.

      My cousin and his husband are lovely, but have TOTALLY embraced a certain gay lifestyle, from music, to where they holiday, to the requisites of the body, and they seem happy with it, but I have almost an overly phobic reaction to any kind of conformity it would seem, even though I am boringly conformist in the way I look (because I am just not really interested in clothes).

      But anyway: no to clones! And one antidote is, of course, perfume. The smell of a gay disco is the most dull in the WORLD, everyone is wearing the same kinds of fresh ‘colognes’ a la Armani Aqua Di Gio…oh for some Jules, or some Eau d’Hermes to grace the air instead and give us all a bit of sex…

  7. Yes, there’s something insecure about all this standardisation, people being overly concerned that they won’t fit in. There’s so much I don’t want to fit in with in society, for the sake of my sanity rather than any urge to be unique!
    Cerruti was lovely yes, as I remember it anyway. It had lots of jasmine absolute and galbanum but lots of other complex things, I know it’s on Fragrantica anyway. I also eschewed The Butler having see the trailer, and from the vast spate of oscar nominated films this year anyway I enjoyed Philomena most, I thought it was perfectly made, layered, with subtexts even!

  8. ali

    i was wondering where can you get pure black narcissus flower oil from, like essential or absolute oil. When i say black narcissus i mean black narcissus from actual black-dark-red flower not the white-flower-with-yellow-cup, google ‘black narcissus flower’ and you will see images of it?

    thanks appreciate

  9. ali

    Hi hope your in good health ginaintherain, i assume if you have the flowers and a distiller anythings possible…
    I collect biblical and islamic oils, and make attars from them as hobby, attar is arabic for perfume, natural scents. On record i have nearly all the attars ever used by the arabic prophet muhammad, (sallahu alahi wassalam; peace be upon him). I recently show reference to black narcissus by a muslim saint who is famously known in the world as ‘Rumi’, a verse from the poem goes like this:
    ”From sorrow comes the perception of her: the eyes crying on the cheek; life the black narcissus. Shedding tears upon a rose”
    (i assume this is making ref. to the black-flushed, dark red flowers with narrow, pointed petals)
    Seen as though your website has the word ‘narcissus’ in the title i will share some references:
    1. He that has two cakes of bread, let him sell one of them for some flowers of the Narcissus, for bread is food for the body, but Narcissus is food of the soul.”
    –The prophet Muhammad (sallahu alahi wassalam; peace be upon him)
    2. One Hadith (this is something that is recorded b the prophet’s disciples) says, “Smell a narcissus, even if only once a day or once a week or once a month or once a year or once a lifetime. For verily in the heart of man there is the seed of insanity, leprosy, and leukoderma. And the scent of narcissus drives them away.” (sallahu alahi wassalam; peace be upon him)
    3. Other references are just from poets
    Not sure how accurate these sources are, but used as a guideline

    I remember seeing a scientific report about how narcissus helps with a certain ailment, it was something relating to controlling anger and how narcissus could be used to control it. According to my own personal observations smelling the narcissus does in fact help to control anger. I did experiments on my family and am sure it was not a placebo effect, as i used a control experiment. As you know everyone has a different immune system so what works for one person might not work for a million, and vice versa, but as a general rule of thumb the narcissus should assist

    hope you enjoyed this lesson on Science&Spirituality

    • Mishaal

      hi
      Can you please reference those Hadith about smelling the Narcissus?

      so far, i could not find it anywhere in the books of Hadith.
      I always double check the books for reference, if i cant find it, i consider it fabricated or made up by someone. If not, prove it with a reference.

  10. miguel

    Hi, what a wonderful story. I enjoyed it much plus it helped me to appreciate better Jules. A departament store around my house still sells a couple of bottles, I smelled it, and though I’m 30 and nobody I know in my generation wears it (at least here, in Spain not very many young people appreciate other than commercial scents) I think it suits myself, thereofor better getting it before it runs out…

  11. DDJ

    I don’t know about ‘as we speak’ but I had a personal shopper buy a bottle at the Doir boutique in Paris one or two years ago, but no longer than that.

    It was not displayed; you had to ask for it.

    Not quite ready to do away with it entirely, they didn’t want it dirtying up the polite company.

  12. Another terrific read, made even better — quite extraordinary, really — because I don’t know a damn thing about made-for-men fragrances! Or not much, anyway. I do know just what you mean by ‘the direct, chemical, all-at-once scent (which, unfortunately has no real basis) because I’ve smelled it in many contexts, including fragrances made and marketed for women. Blech!!!

    Would a Guerlain Vetiver bottled in 2004, in the clear-and-frosted horizontal striped bottle, smell like the vintage stuff that is your benchmark, or is it too new? I’ve never smelled anything older so have no reference. I like it, myself, but wonder if I should be embarrassed?!

    Maybe it’s a West Coast Canadian thing — Vancouver is known for its outdoorsy casualness when it comes to clothing and grooming, so you can imagine how laid-back guys are in the small, fishing-and-biking-and-hiking coastal towns — but I rarely smell fragrance on men here. I think that it speaks to a certain unselfconsciousness; I know Ric, while squeaky-clean, naturally good-smelling and always well-groomed, would never think of going to a store and trying different scents. (He wears scent to bed only because he knows how much I love it and he likes to make me happy.) His mind just isn’t on it. I even think he would be uncomfortable if he wore something and someone commented on it. I don’t know how to describe it: almost as if men here wouldn’t want to draw attention to themselves or be seen to carry grooming to that level. Nothing to do with wanting to stay safe and manly/hetero. A kind of, I dunno . . . modesty? I must ask him, but he probably wouldn’t have an answer, because it’s never been a question. Interesting to ponder.

    • Most men are the same. It is still considered embarrassing ( and if people don’t like wearing it then why should they? Living in Japan for so long I realize that for many people it just feels like pollution, a nuisance, a distraction – and fair enough. I’d rather someone just smelled of human, soap and fresh air than the majority of ‘men’s colognes’ in any case. I just hate that template because it feels so restricting to me and so OBVIOUS.

      Guerlain Vetiver is a good one to mention ( though not so much the edition you mention – which I also have – because although it does contain the same essential olfactory idea, it doesn’t have the beauty. Or any of the mystery ( the original smells like a wise and benevolent old oak tree, and smells GREAT on women, actually).

      • Funny, too, because the rule seems to be that the uglier the ‘men’s cologne’ the greater the abandon with which it’s worn. And the more enclosed the space in which one is assaulted!

        There are so many good fragrances out there it seems quite strange that that restrictive masculine template is so popular. It mirrors the current feminine template, different but equally obvious, restricting and unpleasant to encounter (and often worn with the same abandon). It is the template based on toxic amounts of ethyl maltol and harsh, pungent synthetic patchouli and amber-woody notes, with a starting-to-spoil artificial fruit salad thrown in for good measure.

        Imagine a world where those templates have magically vanished and the stores are stocked with new releases that are gorgeous AND daring.

        It is too bad that my Guerlain Vetiver is a skeleton of the original. I can just imagine, based on other current Guerlains and their vintage counterparts. Ha! Not just Guerlains, of course. I swear, if I ever found the original Femme, not these last sorry, soulless versions, money would be no object! Precisely what you say about missing the beauty. And the mystery. And the emotion. It always makes me sad.

        Keep ’em coming, Neil. It’s been a long, cold winter and we need you.

  13. Tara C

    I loved this post! The hairless sculptured look does nothing for me either in a man. My husband wears SL Musc Koublai Khan and Fumerie Turque and is uninterested in clothes or fussy grooming. Suits me just fine. I have never smelled Jules but can picture it perfectly from your description.

  14. I am so pleased i have just stumbled across your excellent post. I discovered Jules in Luca Turin’s book, i’m a fan of several Dior perfumes anyway and when i read that Jules was born in the same year as myself i simply had to buy it! I couldn’t agree more with you in how you describe it so i shan’t try and add any more words because yours are perfect.

    More than the perfume review, i was was also heartened to read your thoughts on the male situation in general in our “current climate”! I too despair and the current ideas of manhood and as a gay man who is repulsed by both beard trends and gymnasiums i am much relieved to hear i am not alone, a man after my own heart! Thank you ever so much for a thoroughly enjoyable read; you’ve made my day!

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