All American by Stetson is the latest Stetson cologne for men to see the bright light of day. In the advertising images the effort is spearheaded by the persona of Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady. Nothing unusual so far. Brady - like actor Brad Pitt - seems to be the very mainstream incarnation of the classic All-American folk hero, the one who seems to have spent his childhood on a Midwestern farm running on a background of cornfields before reaching for the stars and getting national attention - the best possible outcome to the popular successful-story master narrative - with roots.
What I find truly fascinating about this new mass-marketed cologne is the way in which the successful contributions to America's perfume culture that were made in the last few years by celebrities from minority groups were purposefully taken into account and weaved into the scent by perfumer Harry Fremont of Firmenich.
Just by reading the PR-released interview with him, I would have never guessed so. In fact, I was wondering how to make use of one interview so controlled it is in tone and total lack of spontaneity - a little bit as if he were answering sitting in a confinement room in the pressure atmosphere created by two former KGB operatives giving him the steely eye each time he might be tempted to depart from the official party line.
All American is not an old-fashioned Stetson cologne - or at least the idea was adapted. The idealized cowboy imagery is still up on the new billboards - the folksy hat is gone but the rancher's gloves remain - yet the perfume itself has already started to smell like a mix of real-life influences and cues taken from Jennifer Lopez in her most Hispanic phase, Sean John (see review), and Usher. These celebrities have all been successful at impacting America's fragrance culture through the celebrity-perfume niche.
I am now starting to understand better in what ways celebrity perfume may not be such a trivial topic as suspected as it is helping define America's identity, smell-wise. If you look at celebrity-perfume developing as one of the major entrepreneurial niches for minority celebrities; if you realize that these celebrities brought different sensitivities to the notion of a smell-good perfume; if you acknowledge the fact that contemporary American olfactory culture has already been hit by the change, then one better understands how mass-market gorilla company Coty, inc. is making a politico-cultural statement of sorts with Stetson All American.
You could not have suspected that meaning could arise from the inclusion of a guava natureprint® note (and others) unfolding early on. One could have just imagined a slightly trendy and forward-thinking fruity men's scent along the lines of Calvin Klein Man (2007) and The One for Men by Dolce & Gabbana (2008), say. Cue in however the scent of Goya guava paste or Pasta de Guayaba, a fixture at American supermarket ethnic food aisles...
I had once critiqued the ads for Estée Lauder Sensuous (see also review) as being curiously homogeneous and "white-bread" for a perfume that supposedly aimed to be targeting every woman in America in its message. The perfume itself had an easy olfactory identity, bordering on bland in my opinion, and was well represented by the idea of the wearing of a versatile white men's shirt. But it was obviously trying to blend in rather than to blend pluralism.
In the case of Stetson All American, you find an interesting discrepancy between the advertising campaign, which remains linked to the traditional Marlboro-cowboy imagery and the John-Wayne archetype only slightly modernized, and the olfactory composition itself which is taking a step back from these icons. It is recognizing in subtle and less overt ways the taste preferences ascribed to Hispanic and African-American communities tressing those together with the signature saddle leathers, suedes and woods of a classic Stetson men's cologne. The taciturn lonesome cowboy who only talks to his boots and mumbles to his cattle between two reflective silent spits has evolved into more of a sensual dancer, a man with a skin who takes a vacation on the beach once in a while. In other words, Stetson cologne is not landlocked anymore, it has moved into coastal territory and is undergoing "exotic" portuary influences.
How It Smells
The initial impression is musky, woody and peppery with fresh notes of cedar leaf, ginger root and fruity ones of guava, a hint of coconut - the latter one is not listed. It feels at first like a disappointingly standard and safe masculine accord save for a fruity guava note weaved in. Is this the start of more triteness?
The peppery guava though is winsome and realistic enough to feel like a new spicy dessert has materialized on your plate. The blend is nice and smooth. It evokes an easy sense of nonchalance bringing a perceptible touch of exoticism to a very mainstream - nay "all-American" offering; incidentally, Lady Stetson has already been advertised as being for the "all-American woman".
At this point it seems to me that it is a good idea to bring in a jammy guava perhaps more associated with the Hispanic, Mexican communities and thus redefine what "all-American" means in 21st century America.
The guava goes a bit in the direction of a candied gummy note (Japanese erasers). The blend continues to be smooth thanks in part to the subdued addition of vanilla. There is also a rather pronounced dusty mineral accord that helps define the masculine character of the cologne using an olfactory code men are used to. As the cologne develops, the fruit ripens bordering on the idea of over-ripeness, with a hint of natural alcoholic fermentation. The scent dries down to a virile sensation of hot and dry skin with a continuing mineral counterpoint. The aromachemicals Norlimbanol and Z11 that are captive molecules that is exclusive to Firmenich contribute to that dry-sand/dry-skin feeling. Muscenone was used in good measure and creates a more extrovertly sensual perfume.
All American is a Stetson fragrance which has been influenced by the successes of African-American perfume developers such as Sean John and Usherso it has taken on a more overtly sensual vibe and exoticism which references a Copacabana high-life style which features tropical cocktail drinks, coconut-scent tanning lotions and dry sand (but very abstract, as in a filigree, and as if smelted all together). Tom Brady's new bride, Brazilian model Gisele Bündchen, may have had been an influence, who knows?
I find All American to be an interesting fragrance from a sociological point of view while being at the same time honestly pleasing to the nose. For the price point it's sold at, it's great. This is one possible version in scent-form of the idea of the American melting-pot. The scent of magnetic, iron dust suddenly takes on a new, at once more concrete and emblematic meaning here in this context.
Although Tom Brady could be perceived as the embodiment of the majoritarian culture by some, the perfume itself takes care of signaling diversity and alluding to varied smell-cultures. The typical cowboy smell of leather has been happily compromised by ripe fruits, black-urban musk, and a tropical Brazilian joie de vivre. The Western frontier of the US is still represented in the optimistic feel of the cologne and the sage note. But now, when you look at the indigo glass bottle with the American bald eagle emblem on it appearing as in filigree on a banknote and then the one lone star which fulfills a metonymic role obviously I realize better that All American means not so much anymore a simplistic ideal as an all-inclusive one, or at least as moving more in that direction.
Perfume notes: cedar leaf, ginger root, guava, black suede, nutmeg, sage, water fern, amber wood, musks, patchouli, vetiver.
Please check out the giveaway for All American.