The 1970s are not necessarily heralded for tasteful fashion and imagery. There are a few exceptions, though, especially in fragrance. They remind us that not all men wore polyester suits with lapels up to here and chest hair down to there. On Savile Row, Tommy Nutter made some the most exquisite suits, reinventing the classic style for his celeb clients of the new generation. On rue du Faubourg in Paris there was and is Hermes.
Equipage, a masculine Hermès fragrance was composed by Guy Robert and Jean-Louis Sieuzac in 1970. I was born that same year, so my perfume sniffing years were still way ahead, so I can't tell how Équipage was perceived then. Today, when smelling both my "vintage" (circa late 80s) bottle and the current version at the Hermes boutique, Équipage give the impression of an old world elegance and refinement. While it's generally a green leather masculine, I'm the one wearing Équipage in our house, as the husband isn't very taken with mossy perfumes on his own skin (I suspect he finds them a bit dated).
Lovers of herbal perfumes will enjoy the green blast in the opening of Équipage. I get clary sage more than anything else, which I love-- it's has complex presence that includes minty facets as well as an almost medicinal bitterness. I love this style of opening notes much better than the generic citrus you find in most masculine scents nowadays. There's life beyond bergamot, after all.
The lion part of Hermès Équipage happens in a wood-paneled, leather-upholstered room where just a hint of pine smoke or incense perfumes the air. There's also a carefully chosen antique vase on the vintage table that holds a large bouquet of colorful flowers that liven up the room. There are enough fresh carnations there to lend a clove note (which is why I never bought a bottle for my dad, dentist's son, who loathes clove). Sometimes I could swear I smell galbanum, but that is most likely just the effect of the other bitter green notes.
As Équipage dries down on my skin, most of the greenery disappears and what's left is a very chypre-like oakmoss-patchouli-vetiver base. It's an almost Bandit-light thing, perhaps a little closer to the original Armani (1981). The base is gender-neutral in my opinion, as long as one likes these kind of thing and enjoys bitter leathers. The sillage is pretty minimal, at least from my old bottle, and the staying power of this EDT is about 6 hours on skin and longer as elegant remnants on scarves and sweaters.
I'm very happy that Hermès keeps Équipage around, even if they don't advertise or promote it in any way. It deserves more attention and recognition, especially from a certain potential consumer who appreciates finer things, has an eye for vintage accessories and really wants to smell a bit different among the Creed and Tom Ford wearers.
Notes (via Bois de Jasmin): marjoram, clary sage, tarragon, carnation, lily of the valley, cinnamon, pine needles, hyssop, liatris, patchouli, vetiver, oakmoss, amber, coumarin, and tonka bean.
See more reviews of Equipage on Now Smell This and Bois de Jasmin.
Hermès Équipage is available from Hermes boutiques and top department stores as well as online. Older bottles are relatively easy to find.
Photo of Tommy Nutter circa 1970 from thebespokenfor.net.