Hugo Boss 'Hugo' Series - cologne reviews
Hugo Boss Hugo Man / Hugo Red / Hugo Just Different
So we’ve decided to review three Hugo Boss men’s colognes together in one single article – Hugo Boss Hugo (or Hugo Man); Hugo Just Different; and Hugo Red.
Being the only Hugo Boss men’s fragrances marketed under the ‘Hugo’ brand (as opposed to the ‘Boss’ brand), and with the similar styling of their flasks, these three seem natural bed-fellows.
Let’s see what they’re like:
Hugo Man - review:
Before we get started: what's the name of this EDT anyway?
You can clearly see on the image on the right that it is 'Hugo - Man'. It says so on the box, right?
But in almost all other places - including Hugo Boss's own website, by the way - it is known as just 'Hugo'. Or Hugo 'Hugo'. Or Hugo Boss Hugo. Not Hugo Man. How odd.
Anyway, despite nobody knowing what this badboy is really called, if we can believe Amazon.com, this cologne is the 3rd best-selling men's fragrance sold on that site (at the time of writing).
It deserves that accolade: it's a straightforward, fresh-smelling, masculine cologne.
When we first sampled this, we immediately over-interpreted it, arguably: it smelt exactly like the famous, amber French vermouth, Noilly Prat. All orange peel, wine, nutmeg, sugar, cloves and chamomile.
But a closer examination reveals the primary note to be the tart sweetness of green apple - just as is advertised on the reverse of the box. This, incidentally, is an oddity about Hugo Man cologne: the description of the fragrance pyramid on the packaging is admirably concise, limiting itself to just a single top, middle and base note. Dare we stoop to stereotypes? Yes, we do: to be frank, it's terribly German in its highly-organised, straight to ze point simplicity.
But confusingly, the Hugo Boss website elaborates the pyramid with all sorts of additional scents that only the most sensitive noses can detect (we didn't get any basil or grapefruit in Hugo, for instance).
In fairness, the vermouth-like blend is there, before the unifying primary note of apple shines through. This eau de toilette manages to be simple but certainly not plain or boring; it is classic, masculine and it doesn't mess about. But it's not for someone who wants to be a trend-setter: it just doesn't work like that.
Overall rating: an efficient, classic 7.5 out of 10.
HUGO Just Different - REVIEW
And now for something completely different....
And that's the problem: Hugo Just Different just isn't that different, we're sorry to report.
Don't misunderstand us. Nothing wrong with this one: again, the packaging is honest with you - this one is all about mint. But don't worry, you won't smell like a pack of Wrigley's. It's not a sugary mint: it's subtle, and couched in a smell of greenery. Hugo Just Different is plain and, erm, fresh, again. Let's just say that it won't win any prizes for originality (and neither will our prose in trying to describe this fragrance, at the rate we're going).
No, the real problem is the marketing: and this is where we need to talk about the promotional campaign and the flask design.
The branding guys obviously thought: '"Just Different" - what a great name... it shouts "original", "trend-setter", "not boring", "pioneer"... maybe even: "cool".'
But of course, you can take that name another way: for starters, most people don't like to stand out from the crowd - they want to fit in. Being different means being in the minority, and that's not always a comfortable place to stand. It might even mean being unpopular, to be honest.
And finally, 'just different' sounds like something you might say to euphemistically explain away the behaviour of your simpleton third cousin who's come to stay for the holidays: 'Oh don't worry about Cletus, he's... just different' (as Cletus conducts an involved conversation with a small pile of paperclips...).
The promotional video promises all of those positive interpretations of the phrase 'Just Different' and more, it seems. The campaign stars the Oscar-winning Jared Leto, whose bottle of Hugo Boss cologne gives him the divine power to change night to day, it seems.
Moreover, as he lies flat on his back on the tarmac, it gives him the power to defy ordinary traffic safety rules (more on that theme later). So, one for megalomaniacs with delusions of omnipotence, invincibility and a God-complex, then.
So we are told to be 'inspired' and all the usual shop-worn tropes. The voice-over doesn't even try to be articulate: 'At night, be inspired by... whatever'. Well, thanks for spelling that out like a sullen, frustrated teenager. Or whatever.
So it's all about different perspectives, inspiration, taking control. At least it's not all about a half-naked surf dude on a beach like most of the other cologne ad campaigns.
Jared Leto looks perplexed by the bottle in the ad, and with good reason (he doesn't even appear to know how to use, as he shakes it like one of those snow-flurry glass ornaments). Hugo Boss appear to be going for a sort of army canister look with the cologne flask here, presumably because the military has all sorts of connotations of strength and manliness.
But the bottles with their little screw top just look plasticky (particularly Hugo Red - see below). And why take the masculinity angle, when you've chosen Jared Leto to front your promotional campaign? Let's not forget, he's a 5 foot 7 inch man known for his Oscar-winning performance as the trans-gender Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club - a woman who has altogether renounced the masculinity she was born with. Jared may be a good-looking chap but he's no testosterone-fuelled hunk.
So, nothing wrong (but then nothing especially great either) about Hugo Just Different. But the messages sent out by: their choice of front-man; the flask styling; the promotional ad; and the nature of the scent itself all seem to be very confused, even contradictory, especially for a fragrance that smells fine but is fairly pedestrian.
Overall rating: an inoffensive 7 out of 10.
HUGO RED - REVIEW
So last but certainly not least, Hugo Red.
Probably the best of the three, this one instantly reminded us of Orange Tang. The top note is meant to be grapefruit, and middle note of rhubarb (according to the box), which would imply a sourness, but we were getting a (frankly synthetic) sweetness there that would belie that. Perhaps that would be the pineapple referred to on Hugo Boss's website (and again, not referred to on the box).
...'Red Army', 'We'll Keep the Red Flag Flying High', all those other connotations of 'red'... Hugo Red's good, but it won't trigger a revolution in men's cologne, we are sure of that.
And that means that once again, the promotional campaign is out of tune with the fragrance itself.
It's the same sort of idea: be different, make your own rules, blah blah. But this video is especially weird. It's Jared Leto again, and this time he walks along and finds himself confronted with a wall of what look like red headlights.
First problem: the lamps light up his face so he looks either a) like a severely sunburnt person or b) an Oompa-Loompa. Even his face looks Tang-coloured. Or maybe he's just been Tango'd.
Then, weirdly, Jared is able to shatter the bank of lights through sheer willpower. Jared, these things cost money, my friend! You could have just walked around them!
The voice-over tells us: 'Red means go'. Again, they mean overcome obstacles and naysayers and petty restrictions. Be a man, take control, own your life, and all that jazz.
But it comes across as silly. It seems that the only reason Jared Leto can overcome the barrier of red lights is because he has the telekinetic ability to shatter them by sheer willpower, like a kind of glass-breaking version of Uri Geller.
And again, Jared Leto never blinks and yet doesn’t get blinded by shards of glass flying into his eyes. Then he walks purposefully towards the camera in a manner that recalls Gaspar Ulliel at the end of the Bleu de Chanel advert.
So just as he was able to lie on his back on the tarmac in the Hugo / Just Different video without coming to any harm, Jared continues to defy traffic regulations with his 'red means go' motto - an attitude that has the additional benefit of making his skin impervious to razor-sharp glass fragments.
'Hugo Red - The daring new fragrance for men', we're told. Daring? 'The suicidal new fragrance for men blessed with the powers of telekinesis', more like. Follow these precepts the next time you approach a red light at an intersection and you'll end up getting squished by someone's SUV.
OK, so we've taken apart the message Hugo Boss are trying to convey, but to get back to the point, this fragrance doesn't smell at all bad. It's sweet, fresh and fruity. Like the other two, Hugo Red doesn't have much longevity, by the way. But it does the job. And no, it won't give you magic powers of mind control or make you invincible.
Overall rating: a distinctly un-revolutionary 7.5 out of 10.
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