Saturday, April 3, 2010

Yves Saint Laurent's Kouros

Perched precariously on the edge between clean and dirty, fresh and musky, elegance and raunch, Yves Saint Laurent’s Kouros is in a class by itself. A perennial bestseller nearly three decades after its launch, Kouros nonetheless carries a love-it-or-hate-it reputation unmatched in perfumery. It inspires rapture and repulsion in almost equal measure among both well-versed fragrance fanatics and the masses at large. Such a historically polarizing scent can be tough to judge on its own merits in the here and now, but having been neither alive during its early-‘80s heyday nor surrounded by its ardent fans in the intervening years, I have no recollection of ever smelling Kouros, and thus bring no baggage nor nostalgia to my critique. Which is probably just as well, since I don’t think I would have been able to handle Kouros until I’d had a few years under my belt. It’s not a scent for the inexperienced.

Many men’s fragrances claim, in their ad copy, to be the choice of the individual, the iconoclast, the pioneer, the rebel. Not surprisingly, few of them live up to such breathless descriptors; most, in fact, settle neatly into well-trodden categories of masculine scents (Fresh/Aquatic, Green/Woody, Smoky/Leathery, etc.) without ruffling so much as a feather on the way down. Kouros, blessedly, isn’t one of them. If such a distinctive scent must sumbit to classification, it fits broadly into the equally-broad category of aromatic fougéres, but calling Kouros a fougére is like calling Chanel No. 5 a floral - it hardly does justice. Kouros possesses the requisite characteristics of its mossy/herbal brethren like Azzaro Pour Homme and Drakkar Noir, but reaches far beyond them, sampling notes from disparate categories – the spiciness of orientals, the aldehydes of classic florals, the powdery sweetness of gourmands – and creating its own heady brew. This would be cause enough for celebration, but it would also be called Rive Gauche Pour Homme, and it would be settling. Kouros doesn’t settle – for elegance, class, sophistication, anything. It takes one final look around at its neighboring fragrances, considers them all a mite too clean, and ramps up the skank, thereby creating legend.

The singular smell of Kouros has been variously likened to that of: urine, cat urine, cat poop, men’s bathrooms, the deodorant pucks in the urinals of said bathrooms, semen, sweat, armpit odor…you name it, as long as it’s gross. To my nose, Kouros isn’t nearly as nasty as all that; in fact, upon first spray it strikes me as quite fresh, with a hint of citrus, some attractive spices, and a soapy undertone - Irish Spring ala Méditerranée. About 30 seconds later, an incense/camphor/disinfectant accord shows its face, reminding me of…yep, urinal pucks. But on top of the urinal puck is a sweet, creamy, talcum-esque note, dusted with cardamom and cloves. So…a urinal puck served up with a chai latté. Weird, but not entirely unattractive. And then something else happens: the guy serving us the urinal latté rips his shirt off and starts sweating profusely. His musky natural odor couples with the chai and urinal puck to create something intensely personal and bizarrely fascinating, and I suspect it’s this accord that so enraptures female fans of Kouros, who often cite the smell of fresh sweat on a man’s skin as the sexiest scent on earth. Something about Kouros brings to mind unwashed bedsheets, a day-after lingering musk, the subtle “skin scent” that makes women compulsively sniff their boyfriend’s sweaters. It’s not fecal or armpit-esque, but smoother, deeper, sexier, lived-in but not stale or sour. Such an abstract aroma is rare to find captured in a bottle, and even moreso in a mainstream, bestelling fragrance from a lauded design house. If the Kouros haters would soldier past its initial stages and ignore their first impressions, they might be surprised to find that rare thing: a truly sexy masculine fragrance, one that makes no concessions to (misguided) good taste. There is a place for class and elegance, and that place is most emphatically not the bedroom, at least if one is to have any fun there. Kouros has a pulse, lives by its own rules, and has no interest in hiding its less-than-spotless intentions. If Kouros’ reputation strikes you as horrifying, try it with an open mind and see if it doesn’t work magic. (And if you’re still in doubt, ask your girlfriend.)

No comments:

Post a Comment