Every week a different FADER staff member will pick a clothing item or accessory that he or she has lately been spending a lot of time with—or would like to—and write a little love letter to it. We would’ve done a column on who we’re dating but that seemed a little bit much. This week Alex Frank talks about Prada’s Amber Pour Homme Intense.
A few weeks ago, Christopher Glazek wrote something great in n+1 about Ryan Trecartin, the young filmmaker currently being called a very important artist by all sorts of publications. My favorite part of Glazek’s essay concerned taste. Glazek argues that Trecartin, with his aggressively hyperactive, YouTube-y movies, has shifted the barriers of what is stylish, ending the era of good taste by artists like Ryan McGinley, who, photographing beautiful waifish models in green and woodsy rural landscapes, presented a moneyed utopia of beautiful city kids let loose in the country:
Watching [Ryan Trecartin's] Any Ever, which calls itself “social science fiction,” makes you want to break up with your boyfriend.
You know the one: tall, wispy, often nude. Broad-shouldered, high cheekboned, snow-white skin beaming with preternatural youth. He doesn’t say much and avoids making sudden movements. He’s 35, but doesn’t look a day over 15. Urban-bucolic, avant-Danish, he describes himself as an artist but works in the fashion industry, either as a photographer, or, more often, a model.
Even if you’re not literally dating Ryan McGinley, or one of the hundreds of epicene abstractions he’s photographed over the last ten years in his studio on Canal Street, the person you’re fucking is likely a copy, though perhaps several removes from the ideal.
To Glazek, McGinley’s portraits are a bourgeois ideal of a young adult life—naked bodies at play, too rich to need food and as chic and aerodynamic as the oak furniture in their homes. That is to say, they are precisely the opposite of Trecartin’s suburban horror houses in which characters who don’t look like models angrily toss and shatter cheap plastic wine glasses and Ikea mirrors. As worthless household items break against the walls, Trecartin’s movies do feel like an attempt to explode gay ideas of good gay taste. When I was growing up, the fantasy was to move to the stylish big city. Until then, thrift stores were scoured endlessly to find clothes that made you look cool. Looking cool is, you hoped, what separated you from the high schoolers who didn’t understand. And so on and so forth. Trecartin upends this: his protagonists wear ribbed Express turtlenecks and lady’s pinstriped suits. They live in new but not particularly nice condos. They’ve stayed in the suburbs in which they were raised. Their furniture is not made out of wood.
What does this have to do with cologne? Glazek’s article got me thinking about my own preferences. Prada is as strongly associated with good taste as almost any brand on the planet. And, I must admit, they also make one of my favorite colognes. Prada Amber Pour Homme Intense is to AXE Body Spray what Ryan McGinley is to Ryan Trecartin. The bottle is as sleek as a skyscraper, but the scent has just enough hints of patchouli and wood to seem liberated and natural. It is bottled chicness, a black icon of good taste. Do I love it anyway? Yes. That’s the lure of good taste. It’s warm, cozy, feels like sleeping on a big Stickley bedframe. I am not powerful enough to resist. I am not even powerful enough that I want to resist. I want to smell good. Does this mean I am not cutting edge or contemporary? Maybe. I am probably too settled in my ways to be a Trecartin acolyte, as much as I love his work. Perhaps when I’ve sprayed the last spritz, I’ll throw the bottle against the wall, as one of Trecartin’s characters might in a fit of rage against valueless objects. If I care when it breaks into a million pieces, maybe I’m still old fashion. If I don’t, I’ve made some progress.