Moustache by Rochas (1949)

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Moustache by Rochas (1949) has a lot of historical significance, being the first proper masculine made by both Rochas and it’s perfumer, Edmond Roudnitska. Mr. Roudnitska designed this in conjunction with his wife Theresa, and this is the only fragrance she ever had a credited role in making to my knowledge. Edmond Roudnitska would follow this up directly with Dior Eau Sauvage (1966), made by him for Christian Dior as their first masculine scent, and being somewhat cleaned up from this. Obviously Eau Sauvage would withstand the test of time while this creation would gradually fall by the wayside in terms of popularity, but that has more to do with the timeless qualities of the former and the very time-specific nature of the latter, which is very much mid-century dry citrus chypre with an animalic twist that was then en vogue. Folks in the know often call this the “original dirty citrus” as it was the first mainstream designer masculine to make heavy use of the civet/lemon dynamic, that when combined with a few other things like dry lavender, comes across as a funky virile lime that reeks of machismo. It’s a dynamic that Givenchy, Lanvin, Revlon, YSL, and even Avon would eventually explore in one capacity or another throughout the 50’s and 60’s, winding out into the 80’s before disappearing. Overall, you have to enjoy urinous accords to dig this and if not, Moustache will only serve to frighten you. When this stuff launched, Rochas went all in on various atomisers, bath products, and shaving products too, so it came in many forms.

Vintage Moustache opens with a huge blast of that civet, bergamot, and lemon note, before heading down into that complex heart of carnation, geranium, dry lavender, benzoin, jasmine, and rose all mulled together in that yellow cacophony of the opening. After a few minutes of sitting on skin, only zesty whiffs of that opening remain (which is good) and for the rest of the scent’s life it becomes a dry, gentlemanly, and very buttoned-down chypre with that massive and hoary beast just barely contained under it’s coattails. By the time Moustache reaches skin scent levels, it’s become something like a sophisticated precursor to whatever they use to fragrance Safeguard deodorant soap (or the latter probably riffed off this), and I mean that in a good way. Long story short: this starts of very very dirty and transitions to something clean but only hinting at the end. A gorgeous sandalwood, labdanum, and oakmoss finish the chypre feel, with bits of the sour musk panging about. If the original blue label eau de cologne wasn’t potent enough, an eau de toilette
concentrée (also called “extra strength”) was also released, screaming “I am a man” then pulling it back gradually to “but I know how to treat a lady” at the end. It’s the kind of structured but seductive nonsense fans of film noir protagonists fall in love with: that pencil-thin moustache, the greased-back hair, the stiff-as-a-board facial expression daintily holding the martini glass, and enough stripes on their suit to hide them against the wallpaper backdrop. Wear time and projection varies by concentration, but the eau de toilette concentrée is the one you’ll find most trouble with in public.

Modern fragrance collectors will either love this stuff for unabashed nostalgia (enter hipsters or historic-minded noses), or completely loathe this stuff for it’s piss-to-dried-herbs transition. This is definitely one you will want to spray on a good 10-15 minutes before going out, but it’s also not something for the dating circuit or casual dining with friends. Moustache by Rochas is exactly what it intends to be: a late and last Art-Deco stab at the debonair “puttin’ on the ritz” lifestyle that post-war men wanted to have until rock and roll, fast cars, and disco clubs replaced their cocktail nights at the jazz lounge with something louder, heavier and sweeter. This is consequently where their fragrance would go too, and although Moustache in its original eau de cologne form would stay on the books through the 60’s, eventually only the eau de toilette concentrée survived into the 70’s and 80’s, because it was loud enough to keep pace with emerging powerhouses. Moustache by Rochas is the muscular frame of Mr. Hyde forced to wear the expensive threads of Dr. Jekyll, and unless that’s for you, this one is better left in the history books. What I find most amusing of all is the fact that this was considered suave and debonair back when launched, as clearly the Roudnitskas had a desire to remain attractive yet socially conservative with such an academic design, and it really is just the combo of citrus and animalic that feels so challenging to modern noses. Personally, it’s one of my favorites and all-time most-worn and I have enough to see me through to my dying day, but what does that say about me? Time to refill my gin and tonic boys. Hit me. Thumbs up.

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