Monday, June 21, 2010

Ralph Lauren- Polo

There's a reason certain fragrances become classics. Everyone, including their father and my father, has owned Ralph Lauren Polo in the green bottle at some point between 1978 and now. The only surprising thing about this ultimate designer scent is how good it actually is.

The bottle I'm reviewing here is an aftershave splash from 1995 or 1996. It's incredibly strong, full and round for this concentration (basically an even more diluted eau de cologne), but the monstrous sillage and volatile opening calm down within five minutes leaving you (and me) with the core scent which is not as loud as its reputation. I no longer remember how or why my husband got Polo, and I ended up hiding it years ago, mostly because it's a cologne I associate with my dad who wore it excessively throughout the 80s and also later as a default scent every time he couldn't find anything he liked better.

Polo is a very green chypre and is much more elegant and sophisticated than I remembered. My scent memory was all about the pine and lavender, but now I also smell the other greens and a very distinct non-stinky smoky cumin note. There's a touch of a spice rack, but it's more a spice rub than a curry and the almost foody phase is so well blended with the green parts and the wood that it doesn't bother me too much, even if as a vegetarian something there is a bit too meaty for me e for a moment or two.

There's also quite a bit of smoky incense that I absolutely love, a strong-boned and very masculine wood-patchouli base, something a bit honeyed that doesn't take away from the general feel of dryness, and so much glorious oakmoss it makes post-IFRA perfumes and colognes hide their faces in shame.

And that's when it hits you. Once upon a time you could go to Bloomingdale's or to your local perfume store on Main Street and buy beautiful, sophisticated fragrances at a reasonable price. Some came from big names, other from smaller ones, but none of them assumed their customer was an idiot.

If I can have a choice I'd always pick the man wearing Polo out of a crowd of guys wearing Eau de Rinse Cycle Sport Light. And I'd ask to share his bottle.

Polo by Ralph Lauren is available everywhere under the sun in various sizes, concentrations and prices usually under $50. I'd bet good money that whatever is being manufactured these days has been heavily reformulated and is not quite as good as it used to be. My advice is to go into your dad's medicine cabinet and see if he still has some from before 2005. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised.

Vintage Polo ads (I especially love the one from 1979 where Ralph Lauren himself is the face of his creation): and


  1. Love the stuff. But when I was a little kid playing with the bottle of my dad's that I'd stolen out of the medicine cabinet, I used to rub it between my hands and slap it on like aftershave. Now, I've been browsing the women's cologne over at, and trying to figure out if there's a proper way for a woman to put on cologne... But maybe I'm just over thinking it?

  2. This was my first foray into the omg that man smells so good I want to devour him world of men's frags. Nothing has ever come close. The tall gorgeous transfer student with perfectly feathered hair in my high school who wore it made all the girls swoon with this new kind of sexy that still managed to go with his jeans, jean shirts & Mustang. After he used the payphone in the school, it smelled like Polo & all the girls would fight over smelling it. Sigh. That is a scent memory I will have forever.

    I wonder where I could get my hands on a decent vintage oakmoss laden bottle of the cologne/after shave? A dusty old box somewhere- funny I do recall that was when after shave didn't necessarily mean watered down.

  3. Wow, does this review ever bring back memories!! My #1 college crush wore this and it was YEARS before my heart stopped dropping every time someone wearing this scent walked by me. Unfortunately, they HAVE changed this and the Lauren for women significantly. Neither smell the way they did when they first came out in the late 70's, although since every girl I know and lots I didn't BATHED in Lauren I grew to loathe it so no big loss from my perspective. However, YMMV.

    I had forgotten how totally hot RL was back then, lol!

  4. ooh this blog is so cute - lots of info, but not overwhelming - I was just sifiting thru the last month's post - makes me want to head out to Sephora and load up on goodies!

  5. I loved the smell of Polo but man, it was strong (none of this 'drydown' of which you speak! LOL!) Back in the 80s I remember guys just marinating in the stuff, to the point where you could be OUTSIDE, on Michigan Avenue, with a strong breeze off the lake, and follow a guy's sillage for 3 blocks.

    Rarely did I find it applied judiciously - then again, it was the 80s - was anything applied judiciously? LOL!

    Thanks for the memories.


  6. I always liked Polo. I remember the boys in High School & College wore it... a lot! I really fell in love with it on my last visit to visit my brother in Cleveland. He wanted something new so we went to the Polo counter. He ended up getting Polo Modern Reserve & than had a hard time keeping me out of it the rest of my visit. This is pine trees, green sap & woods with a touch of incense & leather. GORGEOUS! Different than anything I know of at the department stores. Now that I'm thinking about it, I might need to get a bottle for my husband. -MELISCENTS-

  7. We bought my brother a bottle of Polo for Christmas when he was... fourteen? Fifteen? Old enough to be interested in smelling nice for the ladies, but not old enough to understand that Michael Jordan Signature was perhaps not what the ladies wanted to smell. I remember the occasional cloud of it billowing from the bathroom on a Saturday night.


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