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Stetson – Surprise! It’s gorgeous



I love drugstores, the big city ones with all the shiny packaged stuff in them, and the old ones in little towns with all the shopworn, dusty stuff in them. Those small-town drugstores are the best. You get a free trip down memory lane and sometimes a treasure, if you have eyes to see, and a nose to smell.

Exploring the aisles of a drugstore always gives me a little thrill of anticipation, which takes me right back to my twelve year-old self. That was the age when consumerism kicked in for me. Baby-sitting money was burning a hole in my jeans pocket, and those cosmetic shelves were beckoning. Lipstick…dare I chose Iced Pink instead of Natural? How about some green eye shadow? Rows of hair products, hair clips, hair bands, hair gels, hairsprays…gossip and movie mags and romance paperbacks to swoon over. Plus the ritual of choosing the weekend essentials, potato chips, ice cream, and chocolate bars.

Even back then at age twelve, I was cruising the fragrance shelves. Dad’s Christmas gift was either a bottle of Old Spice or English Leather After-Shave, both classics from the 1930’s and 1940’s’. It took him a year to go through a bottle, so Christmas always meant time for a refill, which was boring to my mind. As I got older, I wanted to check out the new modern man-scents and I’d be tempted to buy him one like Brut or Stetson, but I couldn’t disappoint him, and anyway I wanted him to smell like Dad, not an over-muscled celebrity or a lonesome cowboy.

But I was really intrigued by Stetson because it was advertised as the smell of the “American West” and “manly” and I wanted to know what both those two things smelled like. Years passed and I never made the opportunity to sniff Stetson, until a while ago. I saw Stetson Original cologne on sale, so I finally bought a bottle. At the drugstore, of course.

Stetson was launched in 1981 by the company that makes the iconic Stetson cowboy hat, the big-brimmed hat which is now de rigueur for every country music star who walks onto a stage. The Stetson cologne was advertised as a scent for men who love adventure, rugged individuals who are ready for any challenge. The Stetson website describes it:

“Experience a true original. STETSON. The legendary fragrance of the American West. A rich, masculine blend of rugged woods and spice. “

Hmmm. Masculine. Rugged. I’m primed for wood notes, like pine and cedar, bound up with leather and musk, a real butch kind of scent, but what comes out of the bottle is definitely NOT rugged woods and spice. It’s a burst of refreshing citrus – lime, bergamot and lemon – followed by aromatics – lavender and sage – two accords which transform Stetson into a gorgeous oriental with the addition of classic floral notes as it dries down. Spicy sweet carnation, not manly clove or cinnamon or cumin, animalic sweet jasmine, and earthy orris root are classic floral notes in its heart. Grassy green vetiver, resin notes of cedar and bitter geranium make Stetson smell like soft leather and balsams as it shifts into the base.

The base yields the best surprise. The florals mix with sweet amber and vanillic tonka settling into a warm spicy accord, with faint notes of citrus and dark patchouli wafting through. I can’t smell the cowboy or the horses or the cattle, but I detect the distinct notes of sueded leather. I catch notes of honey and beeswax, soft musk, and dark vanilla. It becomes a faint musky floral, and then Stetson just fades away…

Stetson is not super masculine, and definitely not butch, but it is definitely manly. This is a for a man who has good taste, knows a well-made classic fragrance when he smells one, and isn’t afraid to wear it.

Here’s the Tania Sanchez comment about Stetson in Perfumes, The A-Z Guide, p. 510: Stetson is “…gorgeous, as rugged and masculine as the lingerie level at Saks Fifth Avenue…I’d truly love a man who wore this, but in the absence of one, I’ll gladly wear it myself.”

Stetson is also womanly, making it one of the best non-gendered floral orientals that you can own for almost no money. In the dry-down, Stetson smells much like Chanel Cuir de Russie, which is also unisex and one of my favourite classic perfumes, although Stetson is lighter in character, and less leathery. Considering it costs less than one-tenth the price of Cuir de Russie, I think you’d be smart to get yourself to a drugstore and buy yourself a bottle, even if it isn’t on sale.

As the folks at Stetson say on their website:

“See, the real, true West isn't a place at all. It's a state of mind.”

The same sentiment applies to perfumes.

Stetson is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.