Towards the end of the Talking Heads' concert film Stop Making Sense, David slays Goliath. It's surprising how easy the giant goes down.
As the band revs into "Girlfriend Is Better", a titanic silhouette -- fifteen feet high and almost as wide -- looms over the stage. At first it's quite menacing, but soon its tiny head begins to bob like a chicken, helpless to resist the beat. A few tottering steps forward, and the giant is revealed to be a Dondi-eyed geek upon whose skinny frame hangs the biggest, goofiest, most ridiculous damn suit you've ever seen.
Now, during the 1980's, the suit was king-- icon of Wall Street power, badge of the moneymaker's dignity and might. But as David Byrne performs a herky-jerky, rubber-limbed dance, something magical happens. Flapping, flopping, jiggling and wiggling, the suit sheds its pride and its power to intimidate. It ceases to be the uniform of The Man and becomes a banner of gentle satire. And by the time the song's over, David has brought down the decade's Goliath-- not with a slingshot full of rocks, but with a gleeful shimmy-shake.
These words -- found scattered across the fragrance forums -- sum up the popular verdict on Fendi Uomo. Apparently, it's Gordon Gekko in a bottle. Or Caligula. Or Hannibal (Carthage or Lecter-- your choice). But as David Byrne and countless Bugs Bunny cartoons have taught me, the scariest shadow on the wall invariably belongs to the mildest-mannered nebbish.
It's how he's lit that makes all the difference.
Uomo contains all the requisite ingredients that would normally make it a right bastard of a fragrance. Cruel leather? Check. He-manly woods? Check. Musk? (You want musk? Get over here. Yeah, I'm talking to you.) Then it startles you with some of the most gorgeous, romantic "feminine" notes in any perfume-- powder-soft carnation, blushing cyclamen, fresh anisic angelica. And yet, as incongruous as these seem, they mesh so well with the leather and woods and musk that Uomo seems crafted all of a piece, true through and through. This tough guy knows how to tango, and I mean really tango -- with wit and good humor and a flower in his teeth, even -- and he doesn't care how it looks.
After a minute in his arms, neither do you.
Like Patricia de Nicolaï's New York and Bertrand Duchaufour's Timbuktu, Uomo owes a greater debt to early 20th century feminine fragrances than to any modern power juice of the übermensch genre. In other words, it's more L'Heure Bleue than Or Black. It may begin with a fulgent blast of citrus and follow with a chaser of bitterest birch tar, but all this is nothing but the rattling of sabers before the Hundred Years' Peace. All the warnings about criminal overapplication seem exaggerated; a little goes just the right distance without ever committing the least misdemeanor. As Uomo changes over to dusky twilight tones, the thought that some people are terrified of this fragrance becomes more and more inconceivable.
The real badass to fear, I'm convinced, is the Fendi PR genius who engineered the spin on Uomo-- not to mention that fifteen-foot-tall shadow it casts over all posterity. Whatever he or she did to make this refined gentleman appear like Attila the Hun qualifies as a career masterpiece.
Just as the perfume does, for the perfumer.
Scent Elements: Lemon, bergamot, lavender, coriander, angelica, marjoram, cinnamon, carnation, cyclamen, patchouli, musk, birch tar, vetiver, cedar, amber