Created by : Unknown perfumer
Date : 1981
Genre : Soapy amber
Concentration : cologne
Simply purchasing Stetson can be, in itself, “off-road” because many department or high-end luxury stores don’t carry it… but you can easily find Stetson, as I did, at a drugstore. There it was… behind a locked glass cabinet with a red triangle on the upper-right corner of the box with the words « New Look, Original Scent ». I plunked down my $25 Canadian dollars, shoved the nondescript sepia-toned box into my coat pocket, raised my collar, lowered my shades and zipped out… incognito-style.
Contrary to Stetson’s hyper-masculine image and its own marketing tagline as “The legendary fragrance of the American West”, Stetson is actually a very pretty, traditionally-feminine amber with fresh, floral top notes and just a hint of animalic leather that is rare in American perfumery. Its opening rivals some of the best first acts on the market and if Stetson was made by Chanel or Guerlain, I wouldn’t make such a fuss. But at such a price? I’ll make a fuss.
After the complex, layered high-end opening, the animalic notes dropped off leaving a beautiful and seamless amber heart making Stetson Original cologne perfectly wearable by both men and women. (I don’t usually make this distinction because I think men and women should wear whatever they like but this fragrance is so clearly marketed to men that it’s worth mentioning.) By the end of the day, I was getting whiffs of a soapy suede that I would associate more with French perfumery.
When I compared Stetson to Shalimar (which costs 4 times the price) both bolted out of the starting gate at the same pace but Shalimar easily took the lead with a stronger animalic subtext and something that made my mouth water… perhaps that pastry quality that Guerlain is known for. Minutes later the distance between the two increased, no doubt due to the quality of Guerlain’s ingredients and the complexity of the composition but still, Stetson held its own for what it does well… a good-quality amber at an everyday price but with a soapy facet instead of an animalic one.
Interestingly, Stetson Original cologne is not a cologne… it lasts at least 6 hours making it more of an eau de toilette. I guess the image handlers at Coty didn’t feel comfortable printing the words “eau de toilette” on their masculine, no fuss box. But basically you’re getting a quality eau de toilette for the price of a bargain cologne making Stetson Original just about the best value for dollar available on the market today. Agreeably, Shalimar is more beautiful but Stetson is still absolutely wonderful.
So if you are addicted to citrus chypres (not that there’s anything wrong with that) or those ultra-fresh and ultra-boring sports scents and you need a break, try Stetson Original. For the rest of the week, I found myself reaching for the bottle with the coat of arms on it. Just don’t get fooled by the “since 1865” hype. That would be the Stetson hat. The cologne has been around since 1981.
P.S. For those who complain to me that they would wear perfume if it was affordable, Stetson Original is and it’s wonderful.
Image : Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy (1969)