When one thinks of the 1980s it is impossible not the think of powerhouse clothing and smells. Strong shoulders, oversized lapels and popped collars for men, with women’s clothing somewhat luridly mimicking that trend. Pagoda shoulders went oversized as it translated from men’s to women’s clothing into an almost bulbous state. What especially stands out for me is the idea that order can be derived from chaos in terms of fashion. At retrospective glance with a quick look at some old album covers, style was bold and courageous; as things were either stylishly short or stylishly long – but still nevertheless fitted.
Following this ‘visual’ fashion trend (read: powerful), it was only natural that fragrance followed suit. Strong. Overtly masculine. Bold. Welcome to the time period. One only has to view the 1989 television advertisement for this 1981 fragrance to immediately be able to roughly decipher what this smells like. We see waves crashing into solid rock, with the earth crumbling and rising whilst string instruments whirl, sounding reminiscent of the shower scene in Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’. The earth turns into a bare skinned man – burly and tan. He lifts his muscular arm to reveal Antaeus Pour Homme.
Antaeus in Greek mythology is the son of the God of the Sea and the Goddess of the Earth, most likely the inspiration for the ad. Antaeus would kill those passing by, and would collect and use their skulls to build a temple – talk about masculine. Antaeus was indefatigably strong as long as he remained in contact with the ground.
© 2015 Liam Sardea
On wearing, it becomes obvious that this is an overloaded masculine chypre. It is heavy and dense, rich and long on ingredients that resultantly smells classical, old-school, and fierce. It is neither sweet nor dry – but somewhere in between. It is a furry and animalic beast, whilst also being lean and lithe. Chanel states that for an unmistakable masculine presence this is your go to fragrance. At its heart, Antaeus is a complex and well balanced creature, but that is shrouded in testosterone.
I remember when I first began writing about fragrance I visited Antaeus and immediately cowered in fear when I smelled it. This was a rough welcoming to masculine chypre and aromatic perfumes, as my nose was not accustomed to a heavy dosage of castoreum, labdanum and oakmoss. Only now do I dare study this creature, and much like the Greek tale I was initially challenged and defeated by Antaeus. The raw and dirty facet of Antaeus defeated me, stemming from the castoreum-laden opening at once musky and dry giving a sturdy animalic edge. This is sweetened with the addition of labdanum adding tautness and then rounded with oakmoss. The opening is overbearing pride, with enough swagger and bravery that it’s almost taunting at you to approach it
Aromatic notes give delicacy and softness against the rough base notes, with flairs of herbs, sandalwood, and florals. Sage, thyme, and coriander seed create a vitreous aspect, with the initial rawness further dampened with the un-decorative use of rose and jasmine – acting more utilitarian than anything. On skin once the fizzy opening has subsided, beeswax and patchouli create a golden and glossy sweetness. As this changes, the rose actually becomes prevalent, with it surprisingly recalling other feminine Chanel works.
There are both oriental and fougere hues in this chypre, with patchouli, sandalwood, and labdanum appealing to the oriental side, and a bouquet of herbs, florals, oakmoss and a tinge of citrus appealing to the fougere side. Both sides along with the chypre labelling are all identifiable at different and unique stages in this fragrances progression. The later stages of this perfume’s evolution is leathery yet sweet, and still very gung-ho.
Whilst the masculine stereotype suggests that the common man has no idea perfume wise, Antaeus was worn and adored by many in the early 1980s. It is seriously complex, and is a serious chypre that rewards those who challenge it. For those who succeed are placed on a journey and the reward is a smooth and malted fragrance, heavy with compliments and nods of approval.
Alternatives: Kouros by YSL; Opus IV from Amouage; Epic Man from Amouage; and Derby from Guerlain.
A daring piece of classical French Perfumery. Apparently a ladykiller.
Subjective rating: 4/5
Objective rating: 4/5