Thierry Mugler’s B-Men (2003)

Thierry Mugler's B-Men © Victor Wong
Thierry Mugler’s B-Men © Victor Wong

I was pretty late to the fragrance party, by the time I bought my first bottle of A-Men, they had already released over 10 A-Men flankers. Recently a sales person showed me their newly released A-Men Ultra Zest and I told him it smelled just like A-Men with orange. Really I should have kept it to myself, but I couldn’t resist, and the sales person couldn’t resist either, and politely hinted to me, “What did you expect? It’s a flanker.”

Last week I blind-bought B-Men because I thought it might smell completely different from A-Men, but also it was in its first edition acrylic box (just like my bottle of A-Men), and I associated that to a more potent fragrance. (I’ve read stories that A-Men’s potency has gone much weaker over the years.) As it turned out, through a bit of research, B-Men was A-Men’s first flanker, and it flopped, I guess, but if it didn’t, the marketing department might have a hard time introducing C-Men for guys.

The more I wear B-Men, the more impressive I find the whole line of A-Men flankers has become – I can still recognize the sharp silhouette of A-Men no matter how much Thierry Mugler’s perfumers change/adjust/mutilate it to give it a new flavor or character for the new flanker. On the contrary, Guerlain has released tons of Shalimar flankers and people complain that they don’t smell anything close to the original.

In 1967 Andy Warhol created a pop-art painting named “10 Marilyns”. It has 10 identical Marilyn head shots, except that each one receives a different color palette treatment. (In Photoshop, it’s called “Hue Shift”.) No matter which one you isolate, people can still tell it’s Marilyn, that’s because Marilyn is so iconic. So who is great here? Marilyn or Andy Warhol? To me, it’s both. What Thierry Mugler’s perfumers did here was their own painting of “10 A-Men”, and B-Men is one of the A-Men in the painting, except it smells spicy (spice and licorice) and tart (rhubarb), instead of milky and super sweet, and the industrial strength patchouli is always there.