"You simply take the value, multiply it by 1.8 and then add 32", a physics teacher told me once in a classroom inside a school that is no longer there, except in memory. I had no idea what he was talking about. I did badly at school and it wasn't until my mid-thirties that I found what I wanted to do.
I didn't understand the formula but I absolutely did understand the image that appeared in Arena Magazine in 1988. It shows a photo of a man stood at the end of a deserted jetty. He is alone, staring out into a limitless void. It's been copied endlessly since that time but back then, it was a truly exceptional advertisement in my opinion. Why was he there alone? What was he contemplating? It spoke to me on an unconscious level which is how all the best advertising works. Companies use advertising to make you buy things you don't need, everyone knows that but the image used for Fahrenheit remains a masterpiece for me because rather than play on your needs, it raises questions in one's mind - questions that you think may be answered by buying the fragrance.
A week later, I was in the Department Store where I made a very quick beeline for the Dior counter. These days, especially in the UK, lots of department stores have cheapened the look of designer fragrances - pop into a Boots or Debenhams store in the UK and you'll find most of them all on shelves inside glass cases. I don't know why I should be bothered about a thing like that - I don't even buy fragrances anymore. My last purchase was back in 1996.
The Dior girl asked me if I wanted to try it - which of course I did. There was another cardboard display of that image on the counter - I remember that too. "It's new," she said, "Floral".
It is almost 26 years since that day, and yet I have never in all that time discovered a fragrance that challenged my perception of how a man should smell. These days, scents for both men and woman are commonplace. Calvin Klein caused a lot of fuss with CK One but he could never have brought men around to that idea if not for Christian Dior's Fahrenheit - which dates CK One by some seven years. It's no mere coincidence that 'Eternity For Men' (1989) also appeared during this transitional period.
At the time, Fahrenheit was a paradigm, it represented a point of no return. It turned the industry upside down and forced men to challenge their own perceptions of what it was to wear fragrance. In the world we live in now, young people think nothing of spraying on very feminine scents. In 1988, most men didn't even wear fragrances, let alone one like Fahrenheit. It was a completely different age in many respects.
I left the store that day with a bottle of eau de toilette, an aftershave and a bar of soap. Over the weekend, I bathed in the glory of having discovered the new man inside me. The man who was somehow enigmatic, mysterious, standing there at the end of the jetty contemplating the infinite. Oh, what a good marketing campaign can achieve.
I wore Fahrenheit to school the following week and the fantasy I had created collided harshly with the reality of normal life. Comments from friends ranged from "What the fuck is that?" to "You smell like a bunch of flowers". But girls liked it. They commented on it. They spoke about it in a way that suggested, at least to them, that somehow I was ahead of the crowd - the guys with their Armani and Kouros - they represented the old way. The safer way. For girls, Fahrenheit was the future; a man in touch with his feminine side. I wore Fahrenheit constantly for the next two years and it wasn't until the arrival of Egoiste in 1990 that I felt so in love with a new fragrance again.
I only have two bottles of vintage Fahrenheit now. Thankfully, both are still sealed. One dates from 1994 with the other from 2000. The batch code on the later bottle is difficult to make out due to it being stamped into the cardboard. For reference it is 0G02. At sometime between then and 1994 (maybe even earlier), Dior began coding the bottles in black lettering. Maybe one day, someone will pin down exactly when that happened. The style of the top 'CD' seal also changed during that period.
Rather than open mine, I recently sampled a vintage 1996 bottle from a friend and it still had a very strong floral note. Today, vintage Fahrenheit seems very heavy to me. It's the kind of fragrance that announces itself even as you open the box, before you've removed the cap. The longevity on the 1996 bottle is excellent so I imagine the sealed bottles I still possess from much earlier must be of equal if not greater potency.
Fahrenheit is a fragrance that has received the unwarranted attention of forgers over the years. The clearest way to detect these are simply to follow the clues regarding packaging as well as batch codes and their historical significance. Badly designed boxes also have a letter C that is strangely hooked at the top compared to the regular Christian Dior lettering. The bottles themselves may also have a lettering that can only be described as frosted. The cap may also appear rough in texture. There is a selection of fakes detailed here. Some of this information was kindly supplied to me by a collector of this fragrance whose authority on the subject is extensive.
If you're looking for Fahrenheit in vintage form, remember to find something from the 90s or earlier. I have no idea how many times it has been reformulated but it must be many. The box itself has received more than a few modifications. As to what Americans call 'Flankers', a term I'd never heard of until the last few years - I personally would not bother. Variations on classics, cynical cash-in products with names like 'Aqua', 'Summer', '32' and 'Absolute' are the scourge of modern fragrances. Once upon a time, you created a scent and then moved on. Now we have houses creating a fragrance and then spending the next ten years throwing out spin-offs. For me, most of these (regardless of the brand involved), are failures. Find the original and stick to it. Just my opinion, of course.
I don't wear Fahrenheit now. It's still a classic though. Even the bottle and box felt like a revolution at the time. It's powerful, evocative and most of all it was made in an age when even the big boys took major risks rather than the little niche houses we have now.