The “Bleu de Chanel Wars” – what is the reason for its appeal ?

There have been quite a bit of recent attempts among those who like Bleu de Chanel to try and convince others that they too should like it, and those who don’t agree sometimes get labelled “haters.” At, for example, we see threads with titles such as, “why is there so much hate for BdC.” First of all, not liking a scent does not mean you hate it. Why should I hate it? I appreciate the diversity, and for all I knew (before it was released) I might have liked it! Instead, it seems that the people who make BdC “hater” claims are engaging in what Freud called “projection.” Many of these people may have strong negative emotions against some vintage scents, for example, and they think that someone like myself feels that way about BdC. In fact, I find it humorous that such a scent would become so popular, and my main interest now is in trying to figure out why (at least to my satisfaction). One on such recent thread at BN I wrote this:

Well if this is true then it begs the question, “what is it about a scent that has great mass appeal?” What could they have put in BdC to make it so special in this context? I have never read any claim that it contains anything special, in terms of something like an expensive ingredient that has hardly ever been used before? So, that might lead one to conclude that the composition is somehow extraordinary, yet no “expert” seems to think this, and even many “amateurs” argue that it is “generic.” Could it be that throwing in a bit of this and a bit of that, then “amping it up” with iso e super.(assuming this was done – again, I don’t remember for sure), is the recipe for success? From what I do remember, it came across as having too much of at least one aroma chemical I found unpleasant and not having any note or accord (in large enough amounts) that I did find pleasant, so I’m really curious about why this one is so popular. I can understand why AdG has been very popular, and to a lesser degree Allure Homme, and with Cool Water it may have been the large amount of dihydromyrcenol used for the first time in a scent that for some reason began to catch on with the public, but I have to say that the appeal of BdC, relative to all the other choices people now have, is puzzling, and has led me to think that the Chanel name might be a factor for at least more than a small number of people.

After “blind buying” a bottle of Lomani’s Body and Soul because I thought it would be similar to BdC, but not as harsh (and I think that’s more or less what it is), I decided to read the reviews of BdC to see if I was experience in Body and Soul what is described for BdC. To my surprise, I found that very few reviews described it in what I would consider detail. There is talk about how compliments are received while wearing BdC, and some mentioned citrus and pepper, but very few reviewers discussed the development over time or much of anything beyond the top notes. However, I can’t remember any other scent that contained so many reviews that mentioned what a great “office” scent it was, or how “versatile” it was. Clearly, if you have just ten bottles that represent good diversity, you do not need a versatile scent, however.

Perhaps BdC is a very good “blended” scent, meaning that the composition is actually very bad, but that it is designed to come across as a kind of bubbling cauldron of olfactory sensations (minus the high temperatures, of course). The “newbie nose” can’t fixate on any one element for long, and so there are no complaints about this or that note/accord being to strong, sharp, or harsh. Nor can he or she say that it smells like some common item, whether it be food or even something like “bandages” (I’ve seen that one more than a few times). In fact, this is what one BN member had to say about it:

Its a nice fragrance. I can see people disliking it because it has a crushed smarties candy vibe to it. Masaki Matsushima M*C is a similar scent but a bit lighter and fresher. I like both.

Another analogy would include Muhammad Ali, ducking and dancing, not allowing his opponent to land any solid punches. And one reason why I decided to write this post is because this may be an excellent way to understand the newbie experience as opposed to the aficionado one.

The aficionado, by contrast, is like that boxer stalking Ali, trying to land that solid punch, meaning that he or she wants to be able to detect notes/accords with some clarity. Otherwise, the scent comes across as a “blob” that may be pleasant but does not warrant a place in a large rotation. Body and Soul seems to have BdC’s polymorphous quality, along with a similar smell, though I don’t detect any strong aroma chemicals, which I thought I did with BdC. What’s interesting is that some people will say that Pi by Givenchy is boring, “generic vanilla,” or something along those lines (and I may have said that at one time too!), but about a month ago I gave it another chance, and this time I was able to detect a little resinous complexity, as well as a mild but pleasant cedar note that eventually emerged (and I generally dislike cedar notes, especially in more recent scents). This may be another thing that is different about BdC, which is that it was designed to stay linear for a long time, and the just fade out, without much development. This was something else I noticed while reading the BdC reviews, that is, a claim about linearity.

Whatever the case may be, and indeed there is likely some variability, with some “fan boys” simply defending their favorite company, while others like the effects BdC offers, I am surprised that there are so many people rushing onto BN threads (or creating them!) to justify buying a bottle of it. I can’t remember anyone doing this with Armani’s Code, for example (or more recently, Guerlain Homme). In that case, there has never been nearly as much interest in it, positive or negative! I can understand the appeal of scents like Acqua di Gio because it seems to have a theme, and with Cool Water at least the notes are distinct, but BdC seems to be something quite different, which is a pleasant “blob” that gives off bits of this or that note in mild form here and there. Of course, this is just an idea, and it may instead be that it’s the Chanel name that is the “big draw,” and after investing in a bottle (or two or three or four…) a rapid “fan boy” base developed, but at the very least it has led to some interesting questions getting raised.

NOTE: After writing the above I went over to BN an read looked through the BdC reviews there, and I saw the same kind of thing one finds at Fragrantica. That is, there is talk about compliments, “safety,” etc., but not as much attention paid to the actual smell as I expected. This passage from one positive review may be the most interesting of them:

…Some comment about this cologne being boring, ordinary, nothing special and, most hilariously, that it doesn’t “challenge their noses”. Well, the “unique” and “nose-challenging” colognes are not for everybody; in fact I think most of the colognes that fall under that category stink. There’s something to be said about a cologne that can literally brighten your mood and make you feel confident when you wear it (all the compliments you’ll get will certainly help with that)…

For me the obvious problem with this kind of comment is that there are probably hundreds of other (and considerably less expensive) scents that would accomplish the same thing. For example, I’d rather wear Burberry’s Sport Ice for Men, among many others recent designer scents that may get called generic or boring, and that one at least smells pleasant to me. And of course, claims about a scent being a “compliment getter” are anecdotal. I have yet to see a scientific, sociological, or psychological paper on the subject. So, to me, there clearly seems to be an “irrational” element here, at least in the fact that more than a few of these reviewers aren’t able to detect the illogical asepct to their main points. Sadly, it reminds me of people who think they need to “defend” a specific religion when people criticize the leadership of that religion for doing something that is obviously wrong, or even illegal. In this case, there is nothing “wrong” with BdC, but for the aficionado who already owns a large number of bottles it’s quite possible he really has no use for it whatsoever.

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Filed under Criticizing the critics.

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