19 February 2010

The Best Identity Disorder Money Can Buy: Bond No. 9 ‘Wall Street’

I have been trying to observe the popular backlash against the financial industry from a steadily neutral distance. Of course it’s easy these days to badmouth (from afar, anyway) the bonus-hungry, ‘You-try-living-on-just-$500,000-a-year!’ sense of entitlement that some financiers maintain. On the other hand, having watched (literally) countless men and women in conservative slacks shuttle like overextended worker bees between what used to be Lehman Brothers and the Pret a Manger next door to where I work, I’ve come to feel some small sympathy for a lot of people who just do their jobs and yet face the same fuming resentment spurred by an incorrigible minority of them.

More tellingly, a troublesome aspect of my nature is the tendency to disdain what I desire. Do I consider some bankers (those who are endlessly emerging from sweaty Meatpacking scenes, namely) self-serving and ostentatious? Decidedly. Do I find other bankers (those who can convincingly wear a Belstaff roadmaster over a suit and avoid the straight-guy square-toed black shoe trap, for example) hopelessly attractive? All the time.

Imagine my delight, then, in disovering that Wall Street captures this double-sided perspective of mine to a T. Regifted to me from a friend’s Bond No. 9 sampler, it immediately struck me as a more finely-tuned effort than many from this company’s portfolio. The composition is top-heavy with flashy, juicy cucumber and melon notes, delivers a few glimpses of relatively meek lavender and eventually ushers in a pale, ashy vetiver. Better than all of that, though, is the backbone of the fragrance: a brilliantly rendered, pleasantly salty marine-ozone accord (sea kale, ambergris), unwavering and strictly linear to my nose. I’m always hesitant about marine notes, but I can appreciate the artistry in Wall Street’s. It provides a canvas for the alternately bright and subdued accents, and is itself the reason why Wall Street can swing as seamlessly as it does between questionable extravagance and quiet pretension.

I don’t particularly care for any of these aspects on their own, and at times during my first wearing the combination smelled alarmingly like an expired drugstore conditioner. After subsequent wearings I admit Wall Street does have a certain luxurious feel, but one that I find both admirable and oppressive.

I also have no idea how Bond No. 9 matched this group of notes with that name. Is it a play on Wall Street’s proximity to South Street Seaport? Is it an opaque reference to that icon of excessive consumption – Damien Hirst’s preserved shark? Fine, that last one is reaching a bit, but I imagine precious few bankers, male or female, would see any benefit in smelling like cucumbers and sea kale.

It’s a real puzzle, in a good way. But as fascinating as it is to think about, in the end Wall Street isn’t a scent I really want to wear. That’s in part because the lush top notes might as well scream to everyone on the subway that I just wash-gasmed my hair with ocean themed Herbal Essences, but also because I can’t think of anything less suited to my personality than something described as a “spicy androgynous career scent.” (Really.

Product image from Bond No. 9