Sometimes, a man meets a fragrance. He sniffs. They spend a little time together. A little more. He falls in love... They begin to build a life together. They are happy.
One day, though, he takes a look - a close look. He notices things he's never noticed before. This fragrance, this dear love of his is... is... FOR WOMEN!
He sits down, in shock. It is quiet; he's not sure what to say. Everything has changed.
After a time, he can't resist: he sniffs. Again. Slowly he shrugs and takes another spritz. Nothing has changed. Their love is strong. They are happy.
Fragrance is essentially gender-neutral.
I can tell by your expression that this is making you feel uncomfortable, but let me assure you: this has been going on for years. Your great grandparents did it, their parents did it. It's time you do it, too. It's time to stop thinking "his vs. hers" when it comes to fragrance. Anyone should feel welcome to try any scent, not just the ones on his or her side of the aisle.
It's simply that we've been in a cycle (or trend) for many years that says "perfume is for women, cologne for the men." Notes like rose and lilac and lily of the valley are "feminine" and we leave woods and spices and vetiver for boys. It hasn't always been this way. Long ago, scents simply were, and they were unisex.
And by "we've been in a cycle" I mean the so-called Western World. Arab men regularly enjoy rose attars and perfumes. And events I've attended with Indian friends and clients have proved to my nose that scents seem pretty interchangeable in that culture.
Remember the old English spelling rule "I before E, except after C"? Well, the way I was taught it it was "I before E, excpet after C, with a hundred and one exceptions." Much more accurate, wouldn't you agree? Well, from what I see, the trend in using that mnemonic is on its way out of vogue, which is great because it's pretty useless. Almost as useless is gendered fragrance labeling. They're both silly. They're both confusing!
I know what you're thinking...
"Well, that's fine for Them, but it won't work for People Like Me." Nonsense! All you're doing with that mentality is limiting your exposure to a multitude of scents and possibly missing out on The One.
Listen, I'm not asking the boys to wear mascara and the girls to start playing tackle football...unless they want to do one of these things, of course, in which case have at it! I don't think men need to explore high heels (unless that's yer thang) and women certainly don't need to start slapping each other on the ass at a job well done. But ladies, we started wearing dungarees and trousers ages ago (we can even vote now!). Gentlemen, you've metrosexualized yourselves, borrowing moisturizer and appropriating sunscreen, without turning into a chick. What's the harm in to opening your mind and using the nose and skin chemistry as a guide? Or would you rather be prey to whatever is concocted in a marketing office and "follow the rules"?
While we're talking about "concocting", I want to show you a little chart I created for this article. It's a helpful Venn Diagram that shows how fragrances are broken down by gender and ingredients. Take a look...
To make this fragrance "team switching" easier, here are a few suggestions:
Guys, try a spicy oriental. The flowers won't bite! Lassies, I'm in love with vetiver and leather and strongly suggest recommend exploring those notes. Here's a little secret: flowers are already used in men's scents and woods and roots and musks are in most women's scents. You're already wearing The Forbidden Notes, so just get over it!
- "Niche" and smaller, independent houses seem to more readily abandon the "his and hers" labels. I would blindly follow the right man in Calamity J (Juliette Has a Gun).
- Some of the more expensive lines in certain brands (Les Exclusifs de Chanel, La Collection Christian Dior) have done away with "homme" and "femme".
- In my reading, it seems like Black Orchid (Tom Ford) has been a gateway drug for many a man. See also: Shalimar (Guerlain) and Jicky (Guerlain), Aromatics Elixir (Clinique), and even Angel (Thierry Mugler).
- Ladies should also try Jicky (Guerlain) and may find, like I did, that it launches them headlong into a love affair with "skank". The same goes for Bandit (Robert Piguet) and it's skank and leather (both of which can be found in many a "men's" scent).
- Women may also find a springboard in Habit Rouge (Guerlain) (a bottle is in my near future!), Obsession for Men (Calvin Klein), and even Bvlgari Black (Bvlgari).
doing the deed:
There's no real need to feel insecure or weird shopping both sides of the scented aisle. If you do feel awkward, just pretend you're shopping for a gift for a spouse, parent, sibling or friend... but you really don't have to explain yourself at all.
And should you pick and wear a gender-bender, make no apologies! If you simply must, be vague; a good-old "I forget. It's some sample I picked up somewhere" will suffice. But remember: bravery and confession is good for the soul (and will get us closer to a gender-free market!).
Sniff and spritz with an open mind... You'll probably be pleasantly surprised and may even fall in love! Now, boys, let's talk a little bit about that mascara...
Have you worn scent marketed to the opposite gender? Would you? If you have, which are your favorites?
Related reading from fragrant friends:
Cafleurebon: Gender Bender Fragrances- Sex Behind the Counter
Sorcery of Scent: Perfume- Transcending the Gender Barrier
Scented Pages: Perfume: Culture, History and Techniques
Now Smell This: Guerlain Mivsouko (Pour Homme) Fragrance Review