Still standing proud on department store shelves Polo recently celebrated its 30th birthday. Created in 1978 by Moroccan born perfumer Carlos Benaim, the fragrance celebrated its 30th birthday by inviting Benaim back to the house of Polo to create a contemporary version of the scent called Polo Modern Reserve. It must have given Benaim a great sense of achievement to return and rework a formula he created in his youth. He has since gone on to create some of the world’s most popular fragrances for names such as Bvlgari, Prada and Viktor & Rolf. In 2004 he was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the American Society of Perfumers and continues his work as a senior perfumer for International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF). Like Benaim, Ralph Lauren also has an interesting story. Ralph Liftshitz was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. He struggled through highschool to pursue a passion for men’s clothing design. The name Ralph Lauren came to him after he decided the Jewish name he was born with was hard to market to the Saville Row clientele he wanted to create clothes for. Today he is one of America’s most influencial fashion faces. Polo is a fragrance that pays tribute to the world Ralph Lauren desired to become a part of. Created in the late 1970s it exudes the notion of late 20th century excess. Weekends spent in the Hamptons. Exclusive country clubs and private school polo matches.
Coco Chanel lived by the moto that a woman should stand in the mirror after dressing and remove one thing before leaving the house. This was not the case in the 80s and was not the way perfumes of this time were constructed either. When Benaim revisited Polo in 2008 he did well to gut this retro beast, removing all the unnecessary floral clutter and simplifying the base notes to create a much more transparent fragrance. The original, a late 70s fougere, is one of those fragrances I have in my collection that I rarely wear but do enjoy spraying on a paper strip from time to time for a perfume history lesson. Polo is about fresh cut grass, dried garden herbs, oakmoss and that classic 80s drydown of wood, leather, resins and musk. The cut grass is a combination of pine needle, juniper and synthetic green notes. Under that you can smell the herbal mélange of artemisia, chamomile and thyme. Carnation and rose are the florals. The base is made up of powdery leather, musk, oakmoss and small amounts of cedar, patchouli and frankincense.
There are some retro fragrances that can be dusted off and reworn but I am not sure Polo is one of them. Perhaps it needs a few more years in the cellar before it can return with a retro sense of cool. I think if it were worn today, it would be an older gentleman who has been using it since the 70s. A creature of habit, he has had the same barber for the past 40 years and uses the same tailor his father did. Polo is a great winter fragrance and absorbs well into natural fibers such as wool, cashmere and leather. To create a masculine living area try spraying a small amount on linen and pillows.
Yves Saint Laurent Kouros, Yves Saint Laurent Pour Homme Concerntrate, Ralph Lauren Polo Modern Reserve, Miller Harris Feuilles De Tabac, Lubin Figaro, Tom Ford Grey Vetiver, Guerlain L’Ame D’un Heros
Perfumer: Carlos Benaim
Bottle designer: Ben Kotyuk
Release date: 1978
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Dry Woods