Created by : Michel Hy and Jacques Bercia
Date : 1964
Genre : Green (floral) chypre
Concentration : eau de toilette
If you’ve seen Tippi Hedren in Alfred Hitchock’s The Birds (1963), then you probably have a good idea what Y by Yves Saint Laurent smells like. Being a green chypre, it has a sophisticated, cool feel to it… no lovely flowers, no sexy leather notes, no mouth-watering vanilla… almost no fanciful embellishment of any kind… just a quality chypre base with a green facet… extremely well-made, like a beautifully tailored suit.
Several source books refer to Y as a green chypre but Rebecca Veuillet-Gallot in her Le Guide du Parfum classifies it as a floral chypre and she may be right because the green notes are not as sharp as other fragrances in the same genre. When comparing it to the crisp, soapy ultra-chic Givenchy III, there is something diffuse about Y’s green facet… but floral or green, it is a beautiful piece of work.
Y lasts all day and being devoid of obvious floral or gourmand notes, it makes a great masculine. I love the vintage quality about it. It’s like wearing a favourite accessory… a broach or a tie clip that was handed down to you by a favourite great aunt or uncle.
Unfortunately, Y proved to be a financial disappointment largely because there were three other iconic green chypres already on the market at the time of its launch… Crêpe de Chine (1925), Ma Griffe (1946) and Miss Dior (1947). So the field was already crowded and, more importantly, the genre had run its course. Mr. Saint Laurent had taste… and there’s nothing more beautiful than a good chypre… but his timing was off. Just two years later, Eau Sauvage by Christian Dior, the citrus unisex bestseller changed everything… and androgynous Twiggy was declared the Face of ’66 by The Daily Express.
And so the popularity of the sophisticated, luxurious green chypre would disappear… for awhile. Six years later, the genre would reappear with a vengeance with Givenchy’s masterpiece… Givenchy III.
Top image : Tippi Hedren in The Birds (1963)
Bottom image : Twiggy photographed by Bert Stern