Grooming Guru Essentials: Grey Flannel by Geoffrey Beene

Probably the most common question I’m asked as a grooming writer is what fragrance I wear. Like most people I wear a few but my all-time favourite is Geoffrey Beene’s Grey Flannel.

Geoffrey  himself (and I’ve put so much money into his estate’s pocket I feel entitled to dispense with surnames) was an American designer, big in the States but less well known over here, whose clients included President’s wives to A-list celebrities.  Grey Flannel, lunched back in 1976, was his first and most successful male fragrance. I initially came across it back in 1985, following an advertising blitz in some of the UK’s earliest male style mags. The ad itself, featuring a naked James Dean lookalike, was remarkably  bold for its time , though very ‘Athena’, and though I’ve searched high and low to find it for this post I’ve failed so if anyone has a pic let me know.

Anyway, Grey Flannel rapidly became my own signature scent, so much so that I’m still wearing it today, more than 25 years later. Sure, I flirt with other fragrances but I always come back to Grey Flannel, which like the fabric itself, is a trusty, reliable and hard-wearing. And when I say hard-wearing I mean it in both senses because as I’ve discovered, Grey Flannel can be a difficult fragrance to wear.

With an sweet note of violet, along with citrussy orange and neroil,  oakmoss and a warm, masculine sandalwood base it’s distinctly floral (think parma violets and you’re halfway there) which means it isn’t the kind of thing every man’s going to love. In fact when I wrote about it for a grooming retail site a while back a customer shot back with a review so at odds with my own it had me in stitches: “Grey Flannel,” he wrote, “is by far the worst scent I have ever come across and believe me, I’ve come across some stinkers in my time!  It bears a remarkable resemblance to ‘Raid’ pest killer.”

Of course, I’m totally unfazed by this damning indictment. For me, the test of a great fragrance is not how it unites people in praise but how much it polarises them. So go on, give Grey Flannel a go. I dare you.

Grooming Guru Essentials are the products I genuinely love and have used as part of my own routine.

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