borrowed from the boys: aftershave balm

On June 25, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

There are a number of contexts in which I appreciate a masculine aesthetic, chief among them leather goods and fragrance. [And white button-downs.] A classic dopp kit with lipstick and highlighter in place of shaving paraphernalia makes for such a chic contrast. Some of that shaving stuff I’d like to keep, too.

aftershave balm

Piel dopp kit, Molton Brown Ultra Light Bai Ji Hydrator, Korres Vetiver Root Green Tea Cedarwood Aftershave Balm, Molton Brown Black Pepper edt, Nivea Men Post Shave Balm  

Aftershave balms can be a great option for any sensitive skin, often containing carefully curated, soothing ingredients that focus on hydrating and protecting the skin. The Nivea Men Post Shave Balm, recently popularized as a killer primer by the wonderful Dutch makeup artist NikkieTutorials, finally has this phenomenon on the radar of makeup lovers everywhere. Many of us, though, have been taking advantage of lines marketed at men for years. Aftershave balm formulas are often light and oil-free, with a natural-to-matte finish (the Nivea is especially matte) that make them ideal everyday moisturizers and great for diluting illuminators and foundations. They tend to be inexpensive as well.

An old favorite is Molton Brown’s Ultra Light Bai Ji Hydrator, which smells incredible. This is not your typical vague cologne scent but one with a beautiful floral element that is still firmly in the camp of western masculine fragrance (not that it would be bad if it weren’t, just saying it is). Great for reducing redness and soothing irritable skin. I love the contrast of lipstick or a bit of a done face and a masculine fragrance.

I recently picked up the Vetiver Root Green Tea Cedarwood Aftershave Balm from Korres, which has just released a number of new scents and products in the states. Another effective option, and a nice way to add a bit of scent to your routine, guys, those of you don’t like to wear cologne but wouldn’t mind smelling nice in some more understated way. The cedarwood is the dominant note here for me (I was hoping it would be the vetiver but it’s still nice). The super light yet lovely Black Pepper edt from Molton Brown I also recommend.

aftershave balm

These are not complex products, they just do a couple of things and they do them well. There is so much to be said for a reliable product like that, and I happily make space for such products in my skincare routine.

x

the gladiators

On August 16, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

Damn I love a gladiator sandal.

Free People Cypress gladiators

These are the Cypress gladiator sandals from Free People, which carries a bunch of appealing gladiator styles, if you’re on the hunt. This was the year I finally found the knee-high gladiator. No support in the footbed so some kind of supplemental padding is in order, at least for me, but I’m pleased with their badassness overall.

Free People Cypress gladiators

What is it about the gladiator? The ancient Greece connection, for sure. Basically those statues in the MFA? That’s exactly how I want to dress. Actually literally exactly. Sometimes.

Then there’s the encasement of the foot and possibly also leg, which can be pleasantly intricate or, equally pleasantly, simple, all while conforming to the shape of the foot (not masking or disguising the silhouette of the human foot but still enhancing it). The classic natural leather (or, these days, at least made to look natural). This kind of timeless design is invariably versatile, easily holding its own in a much more formal context. I don’t think I care about that, though…I just like them.

Have you seen designs from the brand Ancient Greek Sandals? Fantasy sandals.

[Then, also, Scandal.]

Free People Cypress gladiators

theseventhsphinx

Often I think my profile looks bizarre, I think because I hardly ever see it. Strange how different a face can look when you just shift the angle a little.

theseventhsphinx fotd

Quick face breakdown: Kjaer Weis Desired Glow cream blush (love), Becca shimmering skin perfector in Opal (also love, but I like a lot of other highlighters as well. I love highlighter. I should write a post about that…), Benefit Gimme Brow, Milani blush in Luminoso (a little too shimmery for some purposes but a lovely peachy coral, famously popular in the youtube/bloglands), Charlotte Tilbury Color Chameleon in Amber Haze (so easy to work with, a great eye crayon), MAC Cream in Your Coffee lipstick (a new one, so good! My new favorite neutral, more mauve than I expected it would be from swatches), Koh Gen Do Aqua foundation (so, so good for a natural, light-medium coverage, only detectable where my skin was too dry), Charlotte Tilbury pressed powder. I’m late to the powder party but I believe in the power of powder now. I still don’t always wear it, but I believe.

Oh! And a few individual lashes (Ardell, short bunches), which, at least in person, make a massive difference. Kind of a pain at my bottom-rung lash application experience level, but they make a difference.

Free People Cypress gladiators

From the front, though!

Express hi-rise cutoffs, Madewell belt, Skagen watch, Free People sandals, the wooden earrings I think from a street vendor? Other stuff thrifted. A peasant blouse that isn’t too…forced, is hard to find, but so worth it when you do.

This look is quintessential summer to me: white shirt, jean shorts, great sandals, minimal accessories.

Free People Cypress gladiators, summer essentials

Skagen watch theseventhsphinx

Love how mannish this watch, yet not comically oversized on my in fact not-really-that-small wrist. I am often wearing one Skagen watch or another.

x

smell this: Halston 1-12

On November 21, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

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Halston 1-12 launched in 1976 along with its more popular brother Halston Z-14. Both were named for the perfumer’s codes for the drafts, Halston couldn’t decide between the two and launched both simultaneously. Often considered the younger brother, overshadowed by Z-14 (a harbinger of the 80s powerhouse colognes to come), but I think it is also the more academic, more mysterious brother. Z-14 doesn’t interest me at all. I don’t typically like chypres,* often think they smell…not good. Old fashioned? Unpleasant. Musty but not in the way I like…

* “Chypre, pronounced: [ʃipʁ] or [ʃipχ], is the name of a family (or concept) of perfumes that are characterised by an accord composed of citrus top-notes, a middle centered on cistus labdanum, and a mossy-animalic base-note derived from oak moss and musk. Chypre perfumes fall into numerous classes according to their modifier notes, which include but are not limited to leather, florals, fruits, and amber.” (wikipedia)

But I like this. Probably because it meets the technical requirements of a chypre but feels like a fougère.**  Fougères I routinely like (ref. YSL Rive Gauche pour homme). Intellectually a chypre, emotionally a fougère, 1-12 is surprisingly complex for its price tag, and surprisingly contemporary for its age.

** Fougère, pronounced: [fu.ʒɛʁ], meaning “fern-like”, is one of the main families into which modern perfumes are classified, with the name derived from the perfume Fougère Royale (Houbigant) by Paul Parquet, now preserved in the archives of the Osmothèque. This class of fragrances have the basic accord with a top-note of lavender and base-notes of oakmoss and coumarin (Tonka bean). Aromatic fougère, a derivative of this class, contains additional notes of herbs, spice and/or wood.” (more wikipedia)

This opens with a bright lemon and green cedar-like accord, a little shrill for the first few seconds (but you know better than to judge a perfume in the first few seconds) but quickly softened by notes of basil and bergamot. The opening is not my favorite part of this, reminds me too much of the screaming green opening of Grey Flannel, which cologne I like but not until many minutes after application (and even then, not so much as I like 1-12). Grey Flannel, while it has its charm, could never be mistaken for a modern perfume, and I think 1-12 could be. And probably would be, as few seem to know about it.

Effervescent citrus and coniferous green soften into a soapy, lavender-infused green with a hint of gin—by which I mean juniper—, and when the creamy tonka bean (sweet, vanilla-like) comes forward, that’s when I begin to really like this fragrance. The green smells interesting and fresh, mossy yet newly laundered at the same time. This base is balanced such that the players that often dominate the base (amber, musk) are instead quietly warming and intensifying the rest of the team. The key players left on the skin hours in (and this lasts pretty well on me) are moss and tonka bean, with the aromatic cedar and juniper (and maybe lavender, sometimes I can catch it and sometimes I can’t) never quite fading away completely. This may be too soapy for some but I don’t mind it at all. My main complaint about soapy fragrances is that they are dull, and Halston 1-12 is not.

To me this smells subdued and elegant. It’s gently masculine, readily unisex. Suitable for wear year round. Especially good in the rain.

It’s been discontinued for a while but it’s still easy to find it dirt cheap all over, around $10 or less. Fantastic value here, this fragrance shows that you don’t need to spend a lot to get a quality scent. You’re not likely to bump into someone else wearing it, either. Woefully overlooked, check it out.

 

smell this: Lolita Lempicka

On May 17, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

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Lolita Lempicka is a strange and unexpected fragrance, designed by the talented Annick Menardo in 1997 for the French fashion house.  It opens with a very sweet licorice note—imagine aniseed (or maybe better, anisette) cotton candy—which softens but remains in the forefront for the duration of wear. Give it 10 to 20 minutes and it’s hard to say what is happening on your arm; chocolate, lavender, powder, vanilla…the scent is creamy yet not heavy, lasting several hours on me and seeming to change its face from one hour to the next and one wearing to the next. Sometimes it seems like a complex bourbon-vanilla and the licorice, which I can intellectually trace back to, is almost entirely disguised or subsumed by something like praline or marzipan with hints of coffee and chocolate throwing additional licorice-cloaking shadows.

This perfume is often compared to Mugler’s Angel, another sweet gourmand of an entirely different species (chocolate/vanilla/patchouli), and while Angel has something flirtatious and heady about it, the brightening, almost herbal quality of licorice, underscored by the actually herbal ivy and violet notes, keeps Lolita Lempicka light and innocent. It manages to be fully sweet, unmistakably sweet, without being cloying.  A more or less straight licorice doesn’t work for me (see Hermes Brin de Reglisse) but the creamy current of powdery tonka sweetness contrasted with the gentle violet grounds this fragrance.

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The classic Lolita Lempicka bottle is an apple, and the Lolita Lempicka Au Masculin bottle a tree trunk. I say: cute.

There is an Alice in Wonderland kind of strangeness to this perfume (this is the flavor, perhaps, of the EAT ME biscuit), which was extremely innovative when it was launched and still smells interesting and modern to me now. It can be a bit sweet for me, and it may be a bit sweet for you. It’s often a candidate for layering with something more masculine to temper the sweetness, and I often opt for the less creamy Au Masculin when I want a licorice note (I’ll tell you about that another time), but this is the kind of fragrance I love to find lingering on my scarf or sweater days later.

smell this: Lalique Encre Noir

On January 31, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

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Lalique’s Encre Noir is aptly named. It does indeed smell like black ink, specifically like the black ink I have from the calligraphy shop in Chinatown (different inks can have quite different odors, depending on their origins and ingredients). Put any ideas of unpleasantly chemical toner cartridges out of your mind, proper black ink smells incredible. There is something dark and earthy, like rich, freshly unearthed soil, as well as a slight saltiness combined with a metallic tang that I find reminiscent of both blood and the more enticing of of the various darkroom chemicals. A certain mustiness might creep in, yet it is not unappealing. Rather like the smell of only just moldy bread, the richness of yeast with the touch of mold adding a bit of depth and interest.

Ink smells like… ink, OK?

So to this concept of dark, earthy black ink is added an equally dark and earthy vetiver. This is neither the bright, sparkling vetiver of Guerlain Vetiver nor the rich creamy vetiver of L’Occitane Eau de Vetyver, and it is worlds away from the sweet sophistication of Vetiver Tonka. This is the darkest of my vetivers, and it has the kind of powerful, distinct personality you would remember. It is closer to the raw scent of vetiver oil, which is, undiluted, basically unpleasant. Imagine the root of a bitter grass any human would know instinctively not to eat, and imagine it is still covered in loamy earth, and imagine there are cuts in the root emitting a bizarrely fresh scent, almost minty (in countries where vetiver is harvested people will scrub the roots clean and put sections in a pitcher of water to add a bit of zest, as one might do with mint or lemon). Then you add a bit of smoke, a bit of bourbon, a bit of cedar, a teeny bit of musk (this comes forward later in the day), and goodness knows what else.

This is unapologetically dark. An obvious masculine, which means, of course, that it is fabulous on a woman who loves it*. So obvious a masculine, though, that I think a lot of men wouldn’t touch it, either. It’s not for the faint of heart, and watch out if you do touch it. Vetiver is a common base because of it’s excellent lasting power on the skin, and the smallest drop of Encre Noir lingers for hours on skin and for days or weeks on the inanimate (coats, scarves, sweaters, watch bands, pajamas, etc). For some people the booze is too prominent, for some the smoke, for some it is just too much vetiver (depends on your nose and your taste). That said, for me, this smells goood. This smells alluring. Dare I say it, sexy. It’s dark, rich, intriguing, unforgettable. I apply with a light hand and only when I’m in the right mood (usually when it’s cold out, it can be too much for me in the warm weather). Sometimes I’ll just spray it on a coat or a scarf at a distance to get a gentle cloud of it that isn’t too much a part of me. Great bottle (though the pump sprays copiously, which I find not ideal). Not difficult to find it at a great price, either.

*There is an Encre Noir pour Elle but I haven’t had a chance to smell it yet. Curious, though.

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