The Smell of G.I. Joe, Donald Trump, and the Hummer H2

According to NPD Group, which tracks retail sales of all sorts of things, since 2000, there have been more new fragrances launched every year than there were in the 20 years between 1970 and 1989. Many of them are celebrity endorsed scents, but not all of them are the celebrities you’d expect. Paris Hilton has at least three men’s fragrances (one is called Heir), and Jennifer Lopez and Elizabeth Taylor each have at least one for men. So do Donald Trump, Puerto Rican Reggaeton star Daddy Yankee, country star Tim McGraw, Carlos Santana, Jay-Z, Michael Jordan, Beckham (David or Victoria? Maybe both), Antonio Banderas, Andy Roddick, Usher, the artist Salvador Dali, the TV show Baywatch and the band Kiss.

Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche and Jaguar have men’s fragrances. Cadillac, Ford Mustang and Hummer (regular and H2) do too.

The Carnival cruise line has a men’s scent called Cruise. The Caesar’s Palace casino has a cologne called Caesar’s Man, which was “designed to capture the excitement of all that is the pleasures of Caesars Palace—the sporting life, the excess, the pleasures enjoyed by men of power” for only $19.95.

Super hero Batman has one, but so do Superman and Spiderman. G.I. Joe, the action figure toys and cartoons, seems to have one for the good guys and one for Cobra, the bad guys. There may be more than one Mickey Mouse fragrance—perhaps one for men and one for boys (a Basenotes user said the notes for one were “soap bubbles and cookies” and recommended it to those who may “want to smell like a well-scrubbed toddler.”).

Zippo, the lighter company, came out with a fragrance last year, but Bic, the disposable lighter company, beat them to it in the late ’80s. The Baltic country Lithuania launched a fragrance in January, and while it’s not clear if it’s only for women, Lithuanian soldiers stationed in Afghanistan have reportedly been sent samples.

I’d revel in this grand plurality of fragrances if I thought they represented an equally grand variety of actual scents. Alas, I wouldn’t be surprised if Donald Trump smelled a lot like G.I. Joe. If a perusal of the men’s fragrances pages on Overstock.com is any indication (1,147 results), this stuff doesn’t always sell.

So why are there so many damn fragrances out there? It’s because they’re a liquid distillation of brands and personalities, and the essence of celebrity. While few would want to capture the true smell of their new Hummer H2 and wear it, seeing a bottle of something called Hummer H2 somehow gives the impression that we can get closer to the awkward SUV, commune with it on an ethereal, sensual level. Apply that to famous people and the phenomenon is even more obvious.

But it’s ultimately marketing and little else. You want to commune with your Hummer? Drive it. Listen to Kiss if you want to experience their essence. Or play with your G.I. Joe action figures.

As ambivalent as I am about most mass market fragrances, there’s something oddly exciting about discovering more bizarre cologne collaborations. Alan Cumming and Tilda Swinton, two of the last actors one would expect to get their own scents, have very highbrow fragrances, perhaps proving there really is something for everyone. And I have to admit, I’m a little bit curious about G.I. Joe.

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