Women have a few advantages on men in the use of fragrances. First, in the last twenty years of so, masculine scents have become a lot more conservative and clichéd. The stunning success of Cool Water* and Acqua Di Gio* convinced a lot of perfume makers that fresh and marine were the way to go in designing new scents, and male tastes evolved in a kind of chicken / egg dynamic towards less striking and innovative designs. Men no longer wanted to smell like the powerful and odd smells that had ruled the 70s and 80s – things like Aramis and Polo. Now men wanted to smell freshly showered, pretty neutral, and very much like every other male. The few innovative mainstream designs for male scents since 2000 or so came either from feminine originals (Angel / A*Men*) or were unisex (Bulgari Black*).
Besides this declining trend in innovation and boldness, a basic structural problem also afflicts male fragrance users, and this is an older issue. Mainly, the unspoken “no refreshing” rule. Guys since the 50s (or maybe even longer back) apply a frag once in the day, usually in the morning after shaving, and then they ride that initial dose for the rest of the day. Maybe if the guy is going somewhere special in the evening, he might shower again and re-apply a fragrance of some sort, but the idea of walking around with a bottle of, say, Habit Rouge* by Guerlain and squirting it on again every few hours just strikes most men as too fussy, too much work and / or a distraction from whatever else is going on during the day.
Women by comparison have long been users of atomizers, spare bottles, or even prone to toting one bottle around in a purse in a baggie for frequent re-application of a favorite scent throughout the day. (This may be due to the fact that women carry bags more often than men did historically; the “man purse” is still a relative cultural rarity in the West even in 2016…)
These re-applications make women’s use of perfume more strategic and effective than the male “one and done” approach. Why? The most striking part of many perfume compositions are the top and heart notes. With most scents, the top notes last minutes and the heart notes last maybe an hour or two at most. This means with most frags, four hours after application, both the wearer and those who are close enough to smell the scent projection are experiencing only the base notes of the scent, the larger molecules in the aroma chemical components, which are slowest to dissipate.
The female approach of frequent re-squirts during the day allows our distaff perfumistas to wow those around them with the top and heart notes as needed – when seeing someone special for lunch, when going to a power meeting, on a hot date that night etc. In the meantime, the typical guy is trudging along with a vague hint of generic cedar notes from some underpowered Burberry EDT he applied 8 hours ago…
The base notes of many compositions tend to be rather similar, so the really spectacular and unique elements of a given scent (and these are few enough in most male fragrance designs for reasons mentioned above) tend to be under-utilized with only a single dose per day. Using a lower concentration of scent (like in an eau de cologne or, even worse, an after shave splash) only makes this problem more exacerbated for males who are trying to make an olfactory statement to the world at large.
Obviously, this discussion assumes you care about making some sort of impression on others with your scent. If you are using perfume as your own personal scent ambiance, and don’t care about strategic projection statements of any sort, then you can stick to the two squirts at 7:30 system. But what if you do want to make just the right statement at just the right time at some later hour in the day? Assuming you don’t want to go the man-purse route, or stockpile multiple bottles of Fahrenheit at work, the gym, Aunt Petunia’s house for Thanksgiving, etc., what options do you have? Thanks to Solid State a new perfumer from Australia, you now have a new method to both use and reapply a fragrance throughout the day – the solid perfume. Does this method work well? Mostly yes – read on for more details!
Solid State is headquartered in Melbourne and apparently has been around since at least 2015. (Their website gives only very vague details about the company and none at all about its founder(s). For better or worse, their approach to marketing their product is extremely polished and professional, with few quirks evident, charming or otherwise. For a relatively recent entry into the market, their PR material, product design, and online presence suggests an older, more experienced, and sophisticated firm. Some may find this reassuring, but if you think hearing about the founder dude’s adventures in Scotland give a company personality and charm, you may be disappointed.
Solid State comes in little tiny tins with 10 grams (0.35 ounces) of scent laden beeswax inside them. The tin is low profile and looks like it might have mints in it.
Ingredients are: Parfum (scent), Castor Seed oil, beeswax, PPG3 Benzyl Ether Myristate, Shea Butter, jojoba oil, and tocopherol (Vit E).
(Looks almost like a shave soap formula!)
The concept here is that the relatively high content of fragrance will offset the less than perfect delivery system of wax and oil. A conventional perfume suspends the scent solution in oil and alcohol, which gives it an impressive ability to adhere to skin and project a comparatively intense and accurate version of the intended scent for a long time. This also gives the product a shelf life of at least 3 years, or far longer in many cases.
If one moves away from alcohol, the suspension of oil and fragrance becomes less effective at “sticking” to skin and projecting a scent for a lengthy period. The more complex the scent, the worse the “accuracy” of the projection tends to be over a long time. That’s why men’s deodorants for instance tend to be simple, if not crude, scents.
There have been attempts at solid colognes before. Generally, they have failed to impress, as the user ends up either with a simple scent that is barely better than moisturizer quality fragrance, and / or one gets a very short lived scent with limited projection.
Solid State’s scents buck these trends and generally (though not consistently) offers the user a complex, reasonably powerful composition that can run with many EDTs in terms of both projection and duration, even without reapplication. I ended up being impressed with what the brand had to offer, despite a certain skepticism on my part.
That skepticism came from both past misadventures with non-alcohol based perfumes (both solid colognes and roll-ons) and also due to Solid State’s occasional painful marketing efforts for each of the various scents:
High up above the city you sit. Far below, the soft glow of street lamps look like reflection of the starlit night sky. The distant hum of traffic can barely be heard amidst the gentle thrum of conversation around you. You sip your cocktail – a heady concoction of whisky and citrus – and lean back languidly in your chair.
You’ve left the crowds below. Ventured away from the traffic. The rush of people working their way back home, or away from home. Working, not living. That life isn’t for you. You don’t follow the path worn by a hundred travelers before you. You find your own path.
If this sort of clichéd advertising copy moves you, you have some great reading ahead of you on the Solid State website, but if you are a normal guy who just wants to smell good, be assured that this aspirational fantasy verbiage is no smoke screen; Solid State has something real to offer.
Solid State demands application to pulse points, mainly the throat and wrists. I normally don’t like application of scents to the wrists, as an EDT on the wrists is a very extroverted scent style, where you leave little clouds of scent whenever you shake hands, reach for things, use a PC or doorknob, etc. I prefer the clavicles and throat for EDT application which makes for a more personalized aura of scent. The Solid State scents are not _that_ powerful though, so a wrist application is less potentially offensive to those around you.
Indeed, one of the down points of Solid State is that there are relatively limited application zones. Unless you do that behind the ear stuff (and please don’t; makes wrist application seem retiring and demure by comparison, plus you end up rapidly tiring your own nose of whatever you’ve dabbed on) the throat and wrists are your only real options of you’re a guy. (Women have more choices, like cleavage and behind the knee that would seem mighty strange on a dude…) If you apply Solid State to your shoulders, the scent will not project much at all and will be only minimally energized by your body heat, so you will end up with a pretty weak skin scent. Aim for the base of the throat and the wrists.
How much to apply? Hard to estimate. I have found that others can perceive Solid State scents more keenly that the wearer can (not unusual for any type of frag actually) so be careful not to overdo it. If your significant other cannot assist with calibration, I suggest the following method…
Use a two fingertip swipe. Rub your fingers on the surface of the Solid State tin for two seconds, then apply the fingertips in a swirling motion to throat or wrist for three seconds. Hit each wrist once, and the throat twice, and you should be good to go. This will give you a decent amount of projection and will not use much of the wax cologne up at all.
The wax cologne is not greasy or sticky, and is absorbed into the skin quickly with no residue left behind. Your fingertips will lose the scent pretty quickly over a short time, and the mild scent on the fingers will go away with one hand washing. I did not see any marks on clothing from the applied fragrance either.
Longevity & Projection
This is where I was surprised the most. I was anticipating something like an inexpensive mall store cologne that lacks oomph when applied and then fades rapidly (L’Occitane, are your corporate ears burning?), but Solid State surprised me.
Longevity is at least four hours with one application. This is quite good for a wax based scent, and many EDTs can hardly do better. Unlike the EDTs, the Solid State can be easily carried around and re-applied discretely and quickly. (The good thing about the wrist and throat application method is that these parts of the body can be reached easily and quickly for re-dosing.) This is the genius of Solid State – two or three applications will get you through an extended day and well into the evening, a sort of pillow to pillow system of constant scenting.
This means if you are, say, taking a tour of Monaco (ahem), you can smell great as you meet the royal family in the morning, continue that same groovy scent when you, ah, go fox hunting in the afternoon, and then can apply one more dose for hitting the casinos and the black tie dinner honoring your magnificence in the evening. (Though if you leap in the pool wearing your tux, all bets are off…)
Projection is also better than expected for Solid State, matching the area of effect of most of the more mellow EDTs and virtually all colognes. To be clear, this is no Encre Noire or Boucheron Pour Homme, but most men wearing more modern designs are not expecting olfactory force fields anyway. You will smell yourself pretty clearly, and others within about three or four feet will get a whiff of you. This is about what you want to happen anyway, assuming you are not some sort of wild extrovert or sadist.
Here’s where things get a bit more equivocal. In my estimate, some of the scents are great, and others are … less great comparatively. There was (to my nose) only one real bomb in the lot – “Freshman” – which is the token marine / fresh scent in the lineup. A recent afterthought addition to the original line, this is not a surprise, given the popularity of the inspirations (Armani Acqua di Gio, Cool Water, many others) but I never liked these sort of universally worn fragrances, so this derivative of those failed to do much for me, Still, a logical choice for the business minded folks at Solid State, as many men like these families of scents, and the portability and easy re-application of Freshman in theory holds appeal to those many men who have not yet gotten bored with this type of fragrance.
Besides the dull cliché of “Freshman,” the other mishap in the Solid State line is that they play it safe and have a few too many similar scents. There is far too much cedar in here, but that applies to masculine perfumery in general. The real laziness comes in the citrus top notes seen in “Drifter,” “Cruiser,” “Journeyman,” “Aviator,” and the aforementioned “Freshman.” There are much better ways to start a fragrance in the modern era, and the lack of imagination in 5 of 6 scents using simple single citrus notes is a bit of a wasted opportunity.
The end effect is that most male fragrance users might own one or two of the Solid State scents, but most will not collect ‘em all, or even most of ‘em. In my opinion the conspicuous failures in the line are “Cruiser,” and “Journeyman.” “Cruiser” has a fleeting citrus heart, an understated ginger note in the middle, and then a sweet, generic amber base which lasts forever, and is quite dull, “Drifter” has a very similar composition, but ends on a sharper, smokier cedar which is altogether more interesting. Unless you are a major amber fan, avoid Cruiser and go with Drifter.
Our second problem scent, Journeyman, has a different problem. It promises a vetiver and spice heart, and ends up smelling like mild citrus and even milder cedar woods. To a vetiver fan like myself, to name the note prominently and then slight it in actual scent projection is disappointing, Journeyman is the dullest of the scents and has the mildest projection and a short life as well.
But there are some triumphs in the line, also. My favorite is “Wayfarer,” which avoids citrus altogether and goes with a cacoa, vanilla, and tobacco base. It reminds me a little of Davidoff’s “Zino”* EDT, which I like quite a bit, and it also is an energetic and long lasting scent. This smells different from most scents out there, and is definitely the most unique of the Solid State lineup.
I also like “Drifter” as mentioned above, and Drifter is also a very well balanced composition with many notes evident in development. (More on this later…) My third favorite in the line is “Aviator,” which has a sharp grapefruit scent (relatively rare in citrus usage in perfume) and a heavy labdanum note, which gives it a resinous medicinal note that is perfectly offset by a pleasant mint and a sweet sandalwood. This is an interesting composition that holds interest over time as well.
As mentioned, “Freshman” may delight more modernly oriented male fragrance fans who like the whole Axe type stuff. Not for me, but might be for you. If we class Freshman as a success for some users, then Solid State is batting .670, with only Journeyman and Cruiser being forgettable and dull. That is not a bad record at all for any fragrance maker, especially one with a relatively short history.
As for scent pyramid and development, I found the Solid State solids to be a bit different from a typical EDT. The top notes are as brief as in most alcohol based suspensions, but the hearts and base notes tend to show up at roughly the same time and generally last for the entire four hour longevity, It’s almost as if there are two tiers to the pyramid, top and base, with the middle notes being truncated a bit.
The notes designated as the heart notes tend to work as a sort of lesser intensity base, with the possible exception of Wayfarer, which to my nose, had more vanilla than cacao, as well as a tobacco note that lasted longer than the other scents’ top notes. (Not surprising, because as noted, those are all citrus notes, notoriously brief in perfumery.)
To be fair, Solid State does not claim their compositions use a formal pyramid, so no real complaint, but if you want a fascinating development along the lines of say “Declaration*” by Cartier or MPG’s “Santal Royale*,” you will not find any real equivalents here.
Each 10g tin is $29 (US), and includes free shipping to anywhere in the world. Pretty reasonable, assuming that the product retains its scent over the long term. Application of the wax seems to use very little of the product, so it’s hard for me to say how long a given tin will last. I would say at least 2 or 3 months of exclusive use (i.e. assuming a user wears only this scent every day and nothing else).
This compares favorably to the lifespan of the typical 50ml EDT bottle (about 6 months for those, but they usually cost much more than $29). Assuming the tin gives the user a full three months of scent over the duration, I like the value equation. It’s hard to say for sure how long the wax mixture will last, and one of the main reasons perfumers use alcohol suspensions is to get that lifespan of many years of close to full strength scent.
Solid State though impresses me as a company that has its act together and its products carefully developed, so I will make a cautious prognostication that users can reliably get three months or more use out of each tin. Don’t use too much, and you should be in this ballpark. However, the odds are good that most Solid State users will not have big scent collections of either Solid State scents or any other formats, so they probably will be putting that three month period to the test by using their Solid State scent exclusively.
I thought Solid State’s cologne was going to be a gimmick, and the slick, characterless website and lame “Joe Cool” vignettes that they offer as introductions to their scent family did not reassure me.
Unexpectedly, I found Solid State products to be well made, and designed by competent, though unimaginative, perfumer “noses.” The application method had a slight learning curve for me, and most users will probably have their own learning period, as it’s easier to put on too little or too much, depending on circumstances of wearing and your own body chemistry.
Ideally, Solid State will expand their line and offer more idiosyncratic, less predictable designs over time. Maybe then more fragrance cognoscenti will be attracted to the line, but for now, I am confident these well made products will meet many men’s’ needs for no-frills though effective scenting.
The one thing I wish Solid State would change would be their no-sample policy. At present, their brick and mortar retail network seems quite sparse. http://solidstateformen.com/pages/stockists and given the general lack of collectability of their scents, it would be nice if a customer could try before buying to make sure they are getting exactly what they might most enjoy out of all the scents available. I hope Solid State will either expand retail presence and offer testers, and / or that they will eventually offer a sample set to prospective customers.
Once you master the application style that suits you, you’ll find Solid State to be a reasonably good scent in terms of extroversion potential – good projection, adequate longevity. This isn’t “A*Men” or “Polo,” but you will definitely get as much or longer a life than you would from Brut, Old Spice, or anything from Fine.
Solid State products are not really for the fragrance collector or expert. The scents are well made, but most are merely competent executions of popular templates in male fragrances. As mentioned, few will collect these, but if you are a guy that doesn’t wear EDTs, these might be right in your wheelhouse, as the low cost of entry, ability to “freshen up” the scent easily and subtly as the situation might warrant, and portable, low key packaging make these sort of a “scent for guys who don’t wear scents” kind of thing.
I’m happy to see a new masculine fragrance maker it the market and even happier to see an interesting new format that seems to work in a variant manner from the old fashioned alcohol suspension. The new format and application system may make fragrance use more accessible to many males, and that is always a good thing.