Friday, January 29, 2016
Robert Piguet Bandit
One word comes to mind when I smell Bandit--rude. There is something so insouciant, contrary, and mean about it that makes it one of the great shockers of perfume history. It is considered a leather but it doesn't smell like leather; it smells like a fistful of burning weeds. Despite its age and French pedigree it is vulgar and trashy, something underscored by its tumultuous licensing history. I believe it became something of a hippie cult hit in the 1970s, evidenced by its presence in Jean Eustache's masterpiece The Mother and the Whore. In the film, Jean-Pierre Leaud and Bernadette Lafont have a dreary open shack-up relationship. When Lafont leaves on a trip, Leaud begins a courtship with a nihilistic, promiscuous hippie nurse played by Francoise LeBrun, who leaves the apartment reeking of Bandit. When Lafont returns she seems more annoyed by the stench of Bandit than the affair. In this context, Bandit does smell like 1970s malaise and regret; the full ashtray the morning after, two abortions later. It would be strange to smell this on someone who didn't have "a past," so to speak.
The received wisdom is that it was in bad form until the late-90s restoration, but my first bottle was a 90s extrait that smelled divine, and all 80s-90s bottles I have experienced smelled without a doubt like Bandit. Because it is a green fragrance, "vintage" hunting is useless, and I have purchased post-90s bottles that were new and boxed and had turned into a powdery nail polish mess. I don't see the extrait listed on Piguet's website anymore so I hope it was not discontinued.
I don't think it smells like Knize or Aramis or Azuree or Cuir de Russie. It smells like a bad woman--fitting, since it was a perfume made by a lesbian for a homosexual designer at a time when those identities relegated one to the criminal underworld.