Givenchy’s new fragrance Gentlemen Only Intense is the Paris fashion house’s attempt to bottle the swaggering generosity of old-school chivalry. A rebuke to the opportunistic cad bathed in cheap aftershave and well whiskey, the scent smells of fresh woods and deep spices. To put it another way, it smells like Simon Baker looks. The Australian actor your mother can’t get enough of is the face of the campaign – the Mentalist star sacrifices his Givenchy suit to the rain gods in order to keep his date dry in the commercial – and a convincing proxy for the idea of gallantry.
We caught up with Baker to talk about what qualifies him to play the embodiment of good-guyness, what smells stick with him, and how to be a (really nice smelling) man.
Are you actually a gentleman in real life?
Well, there are the obvious things that you’re taught: I’m courteous, polite, and well mannered. I try to live by those rules and try to instill those gentlemanly values in my sons. I think it’s a good approach to life as a man.
And how does one prove he’s a gentleman?
It suggests a sort of action towards a woman, right? You know, the gesture of putting a coat on a lady who has got a bit of a chill and opening doors for her. Those things are obvious examples. But there’s also the courtesy of general person etiquette that seems to, in some ways, be sort of disappearing because of the culture of electronic devices and stuff, and the way that we communicate.
Like listening, which is the ultimate courtesy.
Of characters you’ve played, is there one that stands out as being the most chivalrous?
I kind of like playing complex characters that aren’t necessarily this way. There are affectations of a gentleman at times, but most of them have an agenda.
Photo Courtesy of Givenchy
What was your first experience with fragrance?
My father didn’t wear any so it wasn’t like I was stealing his as a kid. No Old Spice for me. I really didn’t wear it until my 20s when a girlfriend bought me my first fragrance.
So is there a smell that triggers nostalgic feelings?
Sunblock. Zinc cream. You know, slip slop slap. That’s my childhood. I spent a lot of time surfing and hanging out at the beach, so that smell instantly takes me back there.
Photos by CBS