Charlie / Charlie Blue 
Revlon (1973)

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Charlie / Charlie Blue by Revlon

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About Charlie / Charlie Blue by Revlon

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Charlie / Charlie Blue is a women's perfume launched in 1973 by Revlon

Fragrance notes.

  1. Top Notes

  2. Heart Notes

  3. Base Notes

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Reviews of Charlie / Charlie Blue by Revlon

There are 35 reviews of Charlie / Charlie Blue by Revlon.

I can't speak for "Charlie Blue", but I encountered a bottle of Charlie with a copyright year of 2005 on the bottle label.

This opens a lot like Dunhill for Men (1934) with spiced lemon, rose, sandalwood, a little clean on lavender, and plenty of musk. But...there's a sweet peach note with the lemon that shifts it off the vintage men's fragrance course. Then this becomes really powdery and sharp/bitter as aldehydes step in with the lavender. Strongly floral of gardenia beefed up with some oakmoss and the initial notes become a faint undertone.

Charlie by Revlon gets some unisex referencing but this one is for the ladies. Peach and gardenia are two very popular notes used at higher strength in women's fragrances and they definitely stand out in Charlie enough to lean towards a gender. Even if a man was comfortable wearing this and wore it for the first time to surprise their wife or a blind date? they'd suspect you were recently around another woman. I'm going to give Charlie by Revlon a thumbs up though. It's a cheap classic, dated, and pleasant. I wouldn't exactly call this a laid back women's scent smells more dressed up and conservative.

Ahhh.. Charlie (1973), that tender sweetheart of a perfume every high school girl and young twentysomething woman wore in the 70's and 80's. Charlie is a cultural watershed fragrance to be sure, and sadly not often talked about on perfume sites, which are admittedly focused more on niche, ultra high-end compositions, and trendy designer releases anymore, leaving anything mass-market out of the equation. Despite it's high degree of influence and artistry, Charlie gets ignored not just because its price segment has taste-makers considering it dreck before even a single spritz is released from the nozzle, but also because it belongs to a class of perfumery ironically almost extinct outside of artisinal and niche perfumes: the chypre. Most who enjoyed Charlie in it's day did so without really knowing all the where-tos and why-fors of the perfume, as it was marketed most successfully by Revlon as a "lifestyle fragrance", embodying the care-free, tomboyish, emancipated woman unafraid to strike her own path or flirt with gender-bending. This was rather groundbreaking marketing in the early 1970's, and it spoke to generations of young girls who didn't want to grow up to be housewives under the thumb of a breadwinner, or stuffed into a neat little dress and shopped to employers as a secretary, maid, or nursing assistant. Looking back on Charlie, it's because the stuff was in the drugstore/mass-market segment that the truth about its composition was never uncovered, as people in that demographic (no offense) usually drink the marketing Kool-Aid hook, line, and sinker, never exploring outside the box constructed for them. If they had, ladies might have realized that Charlie riffed rather close to a number of masculine-marketed chypres from the mid-century through the 60's, and really wasn't very womanly at all, even with tomboy aesthetics discounted. Sadly, like most Revlons, we don't know who the nose behind this scent was, but they sure knew what they were doing.

Charlie has a lot in common with citrus-led aromatic chypres marketed to men, but in particular, Cappucci Pour Homme (1967) bears a striking resemblance, which was awash with bright lemon, anise, herbs, and a fruity floral middle 6 years before Charlie, and had a dandy-like quality to it for that reason. Indeed, Charlie shares this same hesperidic and anisic fruity floral chypre development, with bergamot, lemon, and prominent anise in its top. The anise sits as equals alongside the citrus, not only recalling the Cappucci, but presaging scents like Azzaro Pour Homme (1978) and Aramis Tuscany Per Uomo (1984) with it's use. Cappucci uses basil while Revlon's Charlie swaps out for tarragon, but we're really splitting hairs at the difference it makes. The middle of Charlie has peach as the fruity note, while Cappucci rides in with nondescript pectin. Charlie is also joined by a larger host of mostly white florals than what is found in the Cappucci masculine. Even then, rose, jasmine, muguet, cyclamen, and carnation are all florals that appear in dandy-themed masculines anyway so it still isn't much of a push to the feminine side of things outside of the distinct peach. We soon turn towards a traditional chypre base, again like Cappucci Pour Homme, but not as dry or academic in execution, since the sandalwood, oakmoss, cistus, and cedar are joined by a touch of soft white musk and vanilla, but it still really isn't enough to shed the massive unisex potential Charlie has, the same unisex potential I also opined that Cappucci Pour Homme possesses as well. In fact, one could easily substitute for the other, as the underlying differences are Charlie is tweaked towards a bit more fruity sweetness, and Cappucci Pour Homme is tweaked a bit more towards dry herbs and leather, which in the 21st century doesn't make a huge argument since both are past-tense. One thing that hasn't changed much perceptionally is the casual nature of Charlie, and it provides 8 hours of fun-loving and easy-going sunny aromatic chypre pleasure for any time of year. This stuff screams "weekend" to me, and does a good job of communicating it's upbeat message in the development of the citrus, anise, florals, fruits, and its crisp semi-sweet chypre finish.

Gender paradigms sadly shifted as the decades went on, polarizing the sexes in the mass-market segment and killing most genderbending potential by putting men onto boring clean citrus aquatics or sugary amber woods tropes, while women sprayed themselves with "fruitchouli" kiddie punch or ozonic fabric softener florals that smelled like everyone's favorite variety of Gain laundry soap, meaning anything remotely green, mossy, or sharp that previously swung both ways was now too butch, and anything too spicy or rich in the oriental category was "too perfumey", lending Revlon to do a major re-orchestration of Charlie into the sweeter "Charlie Blue", releasing a full line of other colored flankers to try and revitalize the line for younger women. Charlie Blue is a scary metallic cyborg of synthetic lemon drops and florals underneath the skin of the now-dead original Charlie, so go vintage if you want to smell like what I described above. Women who dig vintage styles, and love old chypres for their sharp, sporty qualities will be enamored with Charlie, as it was every bit on par with the Estée Lauder chypres of the time, although the "real good stuff" like what Dior or Chanel were pumping out will still trump it. On the other hand, I'm surprised more guys aren't all over Charlie, as it does smell so uncannily close to a lot of the chypres men were dousing on just a decade or so before Charlie came to be, that it could be worn in a crowd of guys sporting Monsieur de Givenchy (1959), Moustache by Rochas (1949), Monsieur Lanvin (1964), or even Yves Saint Laurent Pour Homme (1971) while not standing out much at all. In fact, the anise and white florals are so nice that I reach for this when I want a "less dark Azzaro" with similar oakmoss bite, minus the barbershop fougère roundness, of course. Charlie is clever, sassy, upbeat, and a lot of fun, which are all things I aspire to be after I've had my morning coffee, so it's a huge thumbs up. Any ladies sporting (or still sporting) the original Charlie in the 21st century, you keep holding that torch up high, and maybe Revlon will have enough sense to kill that nasty "Charlie Blue" and bring the real Charlie back to shelves, albeit in IFRA-strangled form.

An excellent change from the uptight aldehydes. If Shalimar is a black evening dress, Charlie is jeans and a flower Tshirt. This is unique and stands out in a field of very similar others of the time.

When this was first launched, it was marketed as an emancipated tomboy of a scent, striding through the seventies in its high-waisted, wide-legged trousers (Jontue was for the romantic, feminine types). In reality, this is a nice floral chypre, not so different from what the rest of the ladies were wearing at that time, just packaged a whole lot differently. The marketing was a huge success and the Maxies and Babes followed in droves. Originally, this was a quality scent--sure it was at a low, attainable price point, which is why every high school girl could--and did--own this. Reformulations have not been kind to this iconic scent and I imagine that to today's young women, this smells as old and dated as any of the great classics. For a while, though, this blazed a trail and completely captured the zeitgeist of an age.

Revson of Revlon marketed the first "life style scent," with Charlie, according to Roja Dove. The emancipated, free-wheeling woman, Charlie marketed towards, was perfectly timed to coincide with a male-free, women's liberation attitude. It was also available everywhere and was affordable.

The original release used quality ingredients, though time has eroded most of those in the modern re-formulations. So go for vintage if you are sampling or buying.

I found it to be a pleasant, warm, floral, drying to a herbal chypre.

Top notes: Aniseed, Tarragon, Citrus, Peach
Heart notes: Hyacinth, Jasmine, Muguet, Carnation, Rose, Cyclamen, Orris
Base notes: Cedarwood, Sandalwood, Oakmoss, Musk, Vanilla

I love what Charlie symbolised - that emancipated Halston wearing Revlon girl of the Seventies. I love the original TV ads - especially the Shelley Hack version in high waisted satin trousers and a shingled bob - SO chic (check it out on Youtube). I even love the flourish of the signature. But the fragrance - OK til the dry down - I was wearing Chanel NO 5 on my other wrist and momentarily they smelled the same - but not for long. I will grudgingly give Charlie marks for longevity - six hours later it's still lingering, but boy does it smell cheap - a skanky honeysuckle that scarcely merits its bargain basement price. Whether it's been reformulated - I don't know, although what hasn't? Perhaps they should rename it Charlene - far more in keeping with its image today.

( apologies to all the Charlenes out there reading this)

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