Friday, March 17, 2017

Le Labo Santal 33

Le Labo Santal 33 is the Giorgio Beverly Hills of the 2010s in terms of its faceless ubiquity, exorbitant price, and California snob gaucherie, except that Giorgio Beverly Hills is actually good. Santal 33 is present in toiletry form in all the trendy boutique hotels. It is a staple of the millionaire fauxhemian celebrity class who masquerade as countercultural 1960s vagabonds. There are style pieces in the New York Times about it. Hipsters will claim that they wore it before everyone else did as though this gives them some kind of street cred. People who wear it will say that they didn't care for perfume or cologne before their senses were awakened by Santal 33, and they will coo over it like it is the first non-calone non-fruity-floral they have ever smelled,  which it probably is. 
In terms of its actual smell, it is a synthetic Xeroxed sandalwood-fig idea. The original Marc Jacobs for men smells similar, and is stronger, and cheaper. There's nothing really wrong with Santal 33, and it's positive that average Americans, the type that normally have a puritanical class-based fear of fragrance, get excited about a smell and feel emboldened enough to wear it in 2017. Why, though, does it have to be this one? Every time I hear someone express excitement about Santal 33 I want to take them on a personal tour of perfume history and show them all the weird, bold masterpieces that people used to wear and which used to be commonplace until the 1990s.
Santal 33's immense popularity can be traced to its au courant absence of gender and sex appeal, in a decade defined by identity politics gone mad and the proliferation of deceitful pseudo-religious gender theory. It doesn't seem intended for men or women, but for genderless pastel-haired consumers with customizable Mr. Potato Head body modifications, vaguely Bohemian self-images, and $300 to burn. Its smoky-woodsy theme appeals to hipster women who think of themselves as above wearing anything overtly girly, yet it does not have any kind of conventionally masculine hairy-chest fougere signifiers that will give Tumblr Millennials unpleasant reminders of grandfathers or patriarchy. It is ideal for male feminist industry bots attending SXSW conferences on "diversity in tech." 


  1. I tried this at the Domain Nordies when it opened, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it smelled like, so your review sounds about right. I think I’m over intentional androgyny in fragrance anyway. Do you like any of the Le Labos? They’re all so stupidly expensive. I was loving the oil form of Rose 31 for a while (as The Guide will attest, it does not smell like roses), but I haven't been able to tolerate it lately.

  2. I, too, am over intentional androgyny. I just pretend I'm an Arab man that DGAF when I wear florals or anything super feminine. As for Le Labo, I don't like their watery postmodern image or their inaccurately named fragrances. I had Oud 27 and enjoyed it but that's the only one I like. Rose 31 is almost as much of a hipster staple as Santal 33, and to me it just smells like pure undiluted Iso E Super with maybe some cumin at the beginning. Iso E is not what I want to smell like these days, and LL pricing is just insulting.

  3. Another great review! Please keep writing. The short stories too,

  4. Another great review! Please keep writing. The short stories too,

  5. Bang. On! I liked sandalwood to calm sweet vanillas but please. And the classics. Hanae Mori, Hot Couture in my twenties and Jean Paul Gattierre for a spell. And I used to like my grandmother's Ciara. And my mom's blue bottle Youth Dew. After HM and HCa became harder to find, I became a strict Chanel No 5 or Coco gal.

    Last year, after googling why Angel doesn't work for me after my buddy's 73 year old mom rocked in all its gourmand glory. Couple this time period with buying a bottle of Joy just to see what an old classic smelled like...I was ruined finding fragrantica. I have a problem. I spend money chasing down stuff I keep falling in love with. I say chase because have them are discontinued. Some aren't. I love Alien and still my heart. My husband is retired military and not a big perfume guy. After nuzzling his neck after testing some new men's cologne...I thought, hey, I'm going to get some Givenchy if I can find a good price. The new vanillas just don't have that warmth. Can't wait for my bottle of Hot Couture and Pi (to share with him) to arrive.

    You're an excellent writer and love my trip down memory lane that you bring out.