Fashion, Fragrance, and Edward Sexton: Noir Anthracite by Tom Ford

If one had only ever been exposed to Tom Ford the fashion brand, then one would expect auxiliary fragrances that nod towards the past. Tom Ford demonstrates that most creative exercises are essentially the result of clever copying, or, in this instance, some sort of synergy, where an old style is projected into the present and dazzled with a contemporary twist.

As a men’s suiting brand, Tom Ford re-orchestrates the suit; mood and technique clash. It is hybridised, and what is created is a suit with an English cut and a lightness of fabric characteristic of Italian tailoring. There is a mood contained in the suit.

This principle then translates into the mood of his fragrances. There is an idea contained within his works. The Noir range does this particularly well. The original Noir duo (EdP and EdT) contained a Guerlinade mood treated in a distinctly Tom Ford way (I have often called this the ‘balls out of the trousers’ disposition; “big perfumes, big lapels, big balls”). The clever maneuver of wrapping a floral heart in Oriental tones of vanilla and amber is distinctly Guerlain. To then take this and tszuj it up with forwardness and fullness is undoubtedly Tom Ford. The trend continues: Italian Cypress and green 1970s chypre powerhouses, think Polo and Halston, the Vert range and classic greens, Fleur de Chine and Lanvin’s Arpege, Plum Japonais and Feminite du Bois, Neroli Portofino and 4711. Ford’s perfumed lineup is an impressive omnibus that can (quite easily) become a history lesson in styles and archetypes throughout perfumery, just done in a contemporary, more digestible way.

Photo by Tom Ford


Nevertheless, there is a reason why I decided to expound on my observation. And allow me to expound further – Tom Ford’s style as a suiting brand harks back to an era of bigness. Edward Sexton is chief inspiration here: “flamboyant, exaggerated and yet perfectly poised shapes … clashing oversized checks, rich velvets, eccentric sweeping lapels”. Tom Ford is delivering serious suiting in a contemporary setting. His stores contain a uniform aesthetic of dark woods and exotic materials, the bottles “sink in” place. But, no fragrance in the entire collection seemed to match this visual aesthetic. That is, until Noir Anthracite. It is capable of matching its Noir labeling, in the way that Tom adores various shades of black (anthracite is a less smoky tone of charcoal; a mid grey-black) and reflects that in the dark tones of his suiting.

Anthracite is a pleasurable amalgam. It’s somewhere between the seventies and eighties and reminds me quite strikingly of Chanel’s masculine leather chypre, Antaeus. Both fragrances have a dark, moody shading to them, but while Antaeus moves into softer echoes of rose and moss, Anthracite has an impressive length of dryness without appearing thick or overdosed.

Anthracite opens with the unmistakable sizzle of clean bergamot tied with a curried, culinary aspect. This is due to the combination of spices – of fruity spicy peppercorn and sizzling clean ginger met with the impression of peanuts (strange). This fades quickly. This is quite distinctive, giving a hook that moves into the heart of cedar, which in this instance is more about its naturally off-dry animalistic purr rather than its contemporary transparent counterparts – it is accented with a medley of sandalwood and ebony wood, giving a contrast between dry and creamy which continues to develop length on the skin. Ebony wood is surprisingly present, and at times dominates with a dark powderiness.

I found Noir Anthrecite enjoyable because the link between fashion and perfume is drawn, finally! Perhaps this is merely coincidental: Anthracite’s dark but generously spaced chypre mood is the modernised take on the then Antaeus types of fragrance: masculine, bold, strong, yet discreet when worn with care. In aiming to capture contrast, Anthracite succeeds. It is off-dry, a hint shiny, glossy perhaps, and long yet close. Largely linear, a bit static at times, but a suitably mature fragrance.

Modern Eighties 

Subjective rating: 4/5

Objective rating: 3.5/5

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3 thoughts on “Fashion, Fragrance, and Edward Sexton: Noir Anthracite by Tom Ford

  1. Fabulous review Liam I loved reading it. The length on Anthracite is so impressive, I love that oscillation of the trio of woods (and so many potential double entendres here without even mentioning balls of steel…)

  2. Thanks for this great encapsulation of Ford’s synthesis re: clothing and scent as well as fragrance and fragrance history. One interesting by-product I’ve noticed in the Noir line (as you deftly assess here) is a range of textures that one encounters less often in contemporary compositions. Being a fan of both Noir and Antaeus, I’ll have to give the Anthracite a try.

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