Paying Through The Nose: Bond No. 9 Chez Bond and Little Italy
Men's fragrance is exactly like men's clothing in one important regard: compared to the women's version, it's generally a lot more boring, with fewer acceptable materials to choose from and a lot less leeway in style. In the hands of a great talent, this provides a welcome challenge: how to use that restricted palette to make something interesting? And they rise to the challenge, creating a superlative scent like Yohji Homme or L'Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme or Lempicka Au Masculin. In the hands of most designers, though, be they of clothing or fragrance, it leads to more of the same.
Chez Bond by Bond No. 9 is more of the same. It smells like a generic men's scent, with a synthetic tea-and-freshness opening and a nondescript, literally indescribable middle that eventually boils down to, it can't be denied, a very attractive base of indistinct woods, all warmth and cozy masculinity. But $160 for this? You can find something as good — which is to say, as average — in any department store for a third of that price.
Unisex clothing is essentially men's clothing that women wear: think jeans, T-shirts, baseball caps. Therefore, it's as unimaginative as men's clothing, because it can't have any element that men might object to, so it's made from the same limited batch of materials. And once again, the same nearly always goes for unisex fragrances. Little Italy is one: a citrus cologne, cheery and vivacious, but just a citrus cologne for all that. It has hardly any lasting power (as we expect from the citruses), but it's charming while it lasts, and while it's nothing exceptional, it's nicely done. But holy cow, $175? Seriously? Buy a bottle of orange essential oil for $6 and trickle a few drops on your skin for pretty much the same effect.