Pre-1930s Men's Fragrances, are any of them still decent in their current formulation?

_Nicolas_

Active member
Aug 16, 2021
Hi All,

I'm interested in trying some of the earliest male fragrances out there, but unisex is fine too! I only have (and love) Acqua di Parma Colonia and have tried Trumper's Spanish Leather Cologne, I rather liked the latter but didn't find it as wearable, so haven't bought a bottle. I'm looking for something wearable on a regular basis, under £100 for a 100ml bottle, decent longevity, still in production (no fan of hunting down vintage formulations) and fairly versatile. Any ideas?

Haven't really tried many colognes before 1960 either, so feel free to mention any fragrances released before then you think I should check out. Ones I adore are Chanel Pour Monsieur EDT and Dunhill For Men.

Many thanks,

Nick
 

Sheik Yerbouti

oakmoss fiend
Basenotes Plus
Jul 20, 2017
I don’t think there will be many from that era that haven’t been changed. It may be worth looking into older English shaving and grooming supplier Houses. (I see you already mention Spanish Leather). Here are a few
-GF Trumpers
-Taylors of Old Bond Street
-DR Harris
-Penhaligon’s (their traditional EdCs like Blenheim Bouquet only)

Most of these fragrances were Eau de Colognes in style (mainly citruses, with some florals, spices/woods/mossy flourishes).
 

_Nicolas_

Active member
Aug 16, 2021
Hello ! Maybe Tabac Original, first released in 1959 ?

Thanks, I tried the EDC a few years ago and found it a bit too sweet and floral. But then I got the EDT and absolutely loved it, greener, more modern and masculine, all in a good way! (y)

-GF Trumpers
-Taylors of Old Bond Street
-DR Harris
-Penhaligon’s (their traditional EdCs like Blenheim Bouquet only)

Thank you, they sound like excellent suggestions! Yes, I probably need to give the Trumpers stuff another sniff, haven't sampled them since 2015 and my tastes have changed a fair bit since then! I haven't tried any Penhaligon's before, definitely need to get some samples. Used to love Arlington Cologne by D R Harris but the latest formulation I got a few years ago wasn't great, think I'll still check out their other colognes. :) Keep meaning to sample Mr Taylors Cologne, that and Truefitt and Hill's Grafton, I'd probably really like both!
 

PStoller

I’m not old, I’m vintage.
Basenotes Plus
Aug 1, 2019
I would add 4711, Farina Gegenūber, Santa Maria Novella, Myrurgia, and Borsari as sources of eaux de cologne that at least nominally date back a century or more. I have all these along with a few from Trumper and Penhaligon’s. But I agree with Sheik that none of these is likely to be in its original formulation, no matter how much the marketing materials hype the legacy aspect.

Although they are now discontinued and hard to come by, the Crown Perfumery scents from the 1990s are reputedly faithful reproductions of the originals from the 1870s–1930s. (More so than Penhaligon’s, at any rate.) I’m a big fan, and they are not all in the EdC style.
 

_Nicolas_

Active member
Aug 16, 2021
Caron Pour Un Homme
SMN Peau d’Espagne
Knize Ten

Thanks, I tried the Caron and enjoyed the lavender, but it was too vanillic for me. I'm desperate to sample their Third Man, sounds amazing and I think it could end up being one of my favourites! SMN are another house I need to explore. :) I certainly appreciate K10 as a fragrance, but it's just too rugged and edgy for my style, so I gave my 30ml bottle away. Does anyone here know of a great online samples seller? I currently use Fragrance Samples UK and Notino, but they are more about the modern, trendy stuff and I'm more into the classic, gentlemanly, refined colognes.
 

grayspoole

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Feb 4, 2014
I certainly appreciate K10 as a fragrance, but it's just too rugged and edgy for my style, so I gave my 30ml bottle away.
Funny! I keep thinking about getting a bottle of Knize Ten for myself, and I don’t usually wear masculine scents. The opening petrol note is indeed harsh, but I do love the drydown on this one.

Does anyone here know of a great online samples seller? I currently use Fragrance Samples UK and Notino, but they are more about the modern, trendy stuff and I'm more into the classic, gentlemanly, refined colognes.

Surrender to Chance offers a wide selection, and the international shipping isn’t too exorbitant.

Basenoter Strifeknot is another great source. His samples can be found on the Crystal Flacon site, and he has samples of Third Man.
 

Sheik Yerbouti

oakmoss fiend
Basenotes Plus
Jul 20, 2017
Thank you, they sound like excellent suggestions! Yes, I probably need to give the Trumpers stuff another sniff, haven't sampled them since 2015 and my tastes have changed a fair bit since then!

I would recommend trying Trumper’s Astor. A gentlemanly spiced woody cologne with some musky sandalwood facets.

Eucris is also a bit of a favourite here on Basenotes.
 

_Nicolas_

Active member
Aug 16, 2021
Surrender to Chance offers a wide selection, and the international shipping isn’t too exorbitant.

Basenoter Strifeknot is another great source. His samples can be found on the Crystal Flacon site, and he has samples of Third Man.

Thank you! Yeah, the petrol-dominant opening in K10 is what I can't stand, but I really like the carnation and leather notes. One can't deny it's a well-crafted fragrance and one of those older ones that's so atypical of what's around now that it almost comes across as a modern niche scent! Damn it, I'm almost 're-selling' it to myself now! :ROFLMAO:
 

_Nicolas_

Active member
Aug 16, 2021
I would add 4711, Farina Gegenūber, Santa Maria Novella, Myrurgia, and Borsari as sources of eaux de cologne that at least nominally date back a century or more. I have all these along with a few from Trumper and Penhaligon’s. But I agree with Sheik that none of these is likely to be in its original formulation, no matter how much the marketing materials hype the legacy aspect.

Although they are now discontinued and hard to come by, the Crown Perfumery scents from the 1990s are reputedly faithful reproductions of the originals from the 1870s–1930s. (More so than Penhaligon’s, at any rate.) I’m a big fan, and they are not all in the EdC style.

I love 4711 but its longevity is appalling! I've wanted to try the Farina for years if only for its historical importance. :) Thanks for mentioning Myrurgia and Borsari, had never heard of them before and I look forward to researching them. I just heard of Crown Perfumery a couple of weeks ago on a YouTube video, they sounded interesting and there were a couple of their fragrances that sounded right up my street! I've got a lot of sampling to do after getting all these fascinating replies in the thread, gonna love every minute!
 

_Nicolas_

Active member
Aug 16, 2021
The current EDP formulation of Caswell-Massey Number Six (dubbed "Supernatural Number Six") is stunning, and was devised as a way to compensate for the shortcomings of the reformulations of the EDC.

Thanks! Another house that has intrigued me for years, but their stuff seems impossible to buy or even sample in the UK. :( I think the one you mentioned was one I wanted to give a try at some point, along with Jockey Club!

Guerlain Mouchoir de Monsieur is still good, from what I understand.

Keep meaning to sample that, I'm a tad trepidatious about trying it because it sounds a little animalic and I'm not a fan of animalic fragrances, but I think the animalic aspect is quite moderate from some descriptions. (?) I must sample the older Guerlain colognes, but some sound very fleeting. Eau de Guerlain sounds like it has decent longevity, tho. Thank you!

I would recommend trying Trumper’s Astor. A gentlemanly spiced woody cologne with some musky sandalwood facets.

Eucris is also a bit of a favourite here on Basenotes.

Ooh, Eucris! Totally forgot about that one and didn't realise quite how old it was! Conjured up mythological images in my head, like Rogue's Mousse Illuminee, but I wasn't quite ready for it when I tried it several years ago, think I'd love it now! (y) Astor sounds intriguing! :)

EDIT I see there's both a Eucris EDT and EDP, are they significantly different or is the latter just a more intense version of the former?
 
Last edited:

cacio

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Nov 5, 2010
I was going to suggest the same 3 as grayspoole, but you've tried. There's not much from that era, also because perfumery for men was definitely minor relative to that for female, and the big houses had several things for women but at most one or two for men (eg Coty, Guerlain, Caron, Parfums de Rosine, etc).

I would add Jicky, which I think was unisex and is very close to Mouchoir de monsieur as mentioned by bavard.
 

_Nicolas_

Active member
Aug 16, 2021
I would add Jicky, which I think was unisex and is very close to Mouchoir de monsieur as mentioned by bavard.

Thanks, AFAIK Jicky's a feminine and I don't do feminines. But I've seen it mentioned and heard of its relevance so many times that I'd still love to sample it, just as a reference. :) Another one I'd love to try is Mitsouko.
 

Brooks Otterlake

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Feb 12, 2019
Thanks! Another house that has intrigued me for years, but their stuff seems impossible to buy or even sample in the UK. :( I think the one you mentioned was one I wanted to give a try at some point, along with Jockey Club!
Caswell-Massey is a "Made in the U.S.A." house. That's a strictly defined designation that is hard to maintain.

I wonder if they just don't want to invest in additional certification for European distribution.
 

cacio

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Nov 5, 2010
I think I read that Jicky was originally marketed to both men and women (Jicky must be the diminutive for Jacques or the like). But you are right that right now it is marketed to women. Mouchoir de Monsieur is extremely similar to Jicky, to the point that they can almost be considered interchangeable., but Jicky is much easier to find and sample.
 

Sheik Yerbouti

oakmoss fiend
Basenotes Plus
Jul 20, 2017
Thanks! Another house that has intrigued me for years, but their stuff seems impossible to buy or even sample in the UK. :( I think the one you mentioned was one I wanted to give a try at some point, along with Jockey Club!



Keep meaning to sample that, I'm a tad trepidatious about trying it because it sounds a little animalic and I'm not a fan of animalic fragrances, but I think the animalic aspect is quite moderate from some descriptions. (?) I must sample the older Guerlain colognes, but some sound very fleeting. Eau de Guerlain sounds like it has decent longevity, tho. Thank you!



Ooh, Eucris! Totally forgot about that one and didn't realise quite how old it was! Conjured up mythological images in my head, like Rogue's Mousse Illuminee, but I wasn't quite ready for it when I tried it several years ago, think I'd love it now! (y) Astor sounds intriguing! :)

EDIT I see there's both a Eucris EDT and EDP, are they significantly different or is the latter just a more intense version of the former?

They are very similar. The EDP takes the structure of the EDT and tames the top notes but intensifies the scent. 2 sprays of the EDP is plenty and will almost fill a room. 3 sprays is brave. Longevity is excellent too.
 

_Nicolas_

Active member
Aug 16, 2021
They are very similar. The EDP takes the structure of the EDT and tames the top notes but intensifies the scent. 2 sprays of the EDP is plenty and will almost fill a room. 3 sprays is brave. Longevity is excellent too.

Thanks for the info. Blimey, the EDP definitely sounds like it's not messing about! :ROFLMAO: I think the EDT was the one I sampled and I really liked the opening, will probably get that one, then.
 

motorcade

Well-known member
Dec 21, 2020
+1 for Santa Maria Novella Peau d'Espagne. It's fantastic and VERY potent. Needless to say, not a safe blind buy unless you're really after a hardcore leather.
 
May 26, 2018
Hello
Good afternoon,
I believe that very few or no fragrances from before 1960, that are still in production have anything to do with the originals, in the past a lot of nitromusks and Oakmoss were used as well as other raw materials, which today are limited or prohibited.
The original Tabac I used 40 years ago, I think had a good load of nitromusks, possibly Musk Ketone and Musk Ambrette.
And Musk Ambrette I don't know many more modern musks with the same smell.
It's my humble opinion.
Greetings.
 
May 26, 2018
I think I read that Jicky was originally marketed to both men and women (Jicky must be the diminutive for Jacques or the like). But you are right that right now it is marketed to women. Mouchoir de Monsieur is extremely similar to Jicky, to the point that they can almost be considered interchangeable., but Jicky is much easier to find and sample.
Good afternoon,
It is said that a member of the Guerlain family (Aimé Guerlain, uncle of Jacques Guerlain) met a girl named Jicky, the perfume was a dedication to this young woman.
Best Regards
 

incense+heliotrope

Well-known member
Nov 20, 2017
Thanks, I tried the Caron and enjoyed the lavender, but it was too vanillic for me. I'm desperate to sample their Third Man, sounds amazing and I think it could end up being one of my favourites! SMN are another house I need to explore. :) I certainly appreciate K10 as a fragrance, but it's just too rugged and edgy for my style, so I gave my 30ml bottle away. Does anyone here know of a great online samples seller? I currently use Fragrance Samples UK and Notino, but they are more about the modern, trendy stuff and I'm more into the classic, gentlemanly, refined colognes.
Worth checking out these other sample sellers.
Les Senteurs
Scent Samples
perfumista (more niche modern)
Rouillier White

I see that Knize Ten, Trumper's GFT, and Penhaligon's Blenheim Bouquet have already been suggested.
Roger & Gallet's Jean-Marie Farina Extra Vieille is another eau de cologne alternative.

1961 : Guerlain Vetiver - a classic
1970 : Hermes Equipage - another classic
 

_Nicolas_

Active member
Aug 16, 2021
Thanks! I did not know the story of Jicky

There appear to be two possibilities there, this from Fragrantica:

"According to the legend, the perfume was named after a girl Aime Guerlain was in love with when he was a student in England. It is more likely, though, that this perfume is named after his uncle Jacques Guerlain’s nickname – Jicky."

I love these little stories that one comes across when researching old fragrances and almost don't want to know which is the true one, it's rather nice to have a little mystery attached to it IMO! :);)
 

Varanis Ridari

The Scented Devil
Basenotes Plus
Oct 17, 2012
Caswell-Massey Jockey Club (1840) is very powdery by modern standards, and may be seen as feminine by the conventional male nose trained that anything powdery, rosey, or overly fruity is for girls.

That said, it was pretty much de rigeur dandy fragrance for American gents as late as JFK, who according to C-M, used to order the stuff in the 1940's before he was anywhere near being President. Like with Creed however, these stories are hard to verify, so take that with a grain.

For me, I think the best stuff from pre-1930 that is still somewhat available is going to be the old UK barbershop grooming brands like Floris, Trumpers, and the like. Mostly citrus and woods fragrances, not the vanillic stuff American barbershops would later adopt.

Barbershops, wet shaving, and dandy culture really took root in the London mainstream first (despite the concept coming from French nobility), so they have an invested love in keeping that stuff alive, even if it can be hard to source their fragrances across the pond.
 

Toxicon

Well-known member
May 29, 2021
I haven't smelled either in some time, but I remember liking both Trumper's Wild Fern & Penhaligon's English Fern back in my wetshaving days. Both date to the late 1800s and have a similar vibe, i.e., very early fougeres with some aromatic quirks.

Also, worth looking at the Pinaud Clubman line for cheap old school thrills. I think the exact provenance is unclear, but some apparently date back almost as far and are still reasonably wearable for what they are. (Besides Lilac Vegetal, which smells like a plastic bouquet marinated in a septic tank, and should be worn by no one.) The original Clubman is great (lavender, moss, lots of powder), and you can't go wrong with Clubman Musk (milder take on the original + musk), Clubman Vanilla (slightly vanillic, less mossy take on the original), or Clubman Special Reserve (a surprisingly serious leather scent with impressive staying power for the price). They're all extremely barbershop and old school by definition, but absolutely worth the $10 / bottle asking price. I'm not sure if any of these meet your criteria of being "wearable on a regular basis" or "versatile", but I'm glad to own them nonetheless.
 

mikeperez23

Be Here. Now.
Basenotes Plus
Dec 31, 2006
Thanks, AFAIK Jicky's a feminine and I don't do feminines. But I've seen it mentioned and heard of its relevance so many times that I'd still love to sample it, just as a reference. :) Another one I'd love to try is Mitsouko.
Try both Mouchoir de Monsieur (the 'sister' of Jicky) and Jicky (there are several versions - get Parfum if you can, it's great but honestly I like ALL versions of Jicky) and Mitsouko (which is also a feminine but easily worn by a dude)
 

PStoller

I’m not old, I’m vintage.
Basenotes Plus
Aug 1, 2019
Try both Mouchoir de Monsieur (the 'sister' of Jicky) and Jicky (there are several versions - get Parfum if you can, it's great but honestly I like ALL versions of Jicky) and Mitsouko (which is also a feminine but easily worn by a dude)
Yeah, the thing about “not doing feminines” is tricky, because perceptions of gender orientation change over time/space in the broader culture and are individually subjective as well.

Nicolas, you might be surprised at how “butch” some nominal feminines are compared to nominal masculines (or at how little you ultimately care about that metric), so keep an open mind about what works for you vs. who somebody else decided it was for. This is not the same as saying “men should wear feminine fragrances!” (though I see no reason they shouldn’t if they feel like it). Rather, “feminine” or “masculine” is sometimes just arbitrary branding with no olfactory basis.
 

Tristan45

Well-known member
Jun 30, 2017
Mouchoir de Monsieur seems restricted to the Paris Boutique now , and then only in bespoke ordered bee bottles. Jicky is similar but isn't a perfect substitute to be honest. Eucris from Trumper is excellent, especially the new EDP which seems to be laden with oakmoss way beyond IFRA levels. Penhaligons have cleared out most of their old scents, most recently the 1890's Hamman Bouquet has been stopped, it was a gloriously heady animalic rose laden affair, worn by the Duke of Edinburgh supposedly. Trumper and Truefitt & Hill both do a Spanish Leather from way back, but the best leather in that style has to be SMN's Peau d'Espagne.
 

Sheik Yerbouti

oakmoss fiend
Basenotes Plus
Jul 20, 2017
Yeah, the thing about “not doing feminines” is tricky, because perceptions of gender orientation change over time/space in the broader culture and are individually subjective as well.

Nicolas, you might be surprised at how “butch” some nominal feminines are compared to nominal masculines (or at how little you ultimately care about that metric), so keep an open mind about what works for you vs. who somebody else decided it was for. This is not the same as saying “men should wear feminine fragrances!” (though I see no reason they shouldn’t if they feel like it). Rather, “feminine” or “masculine” is sometimes just arbitrary branding with no olfactory basis.

I don’t think it’s tricky. There is a mindset among many perfume enthusiasts that all fragrances, whether feminine or masculine in timbre, should be worn be both men and women alike. This notion is a niche one held mainy by a subset of perfumistas.
What it fails to recognise is that some fragrances through the accords created and blended smell and felt manly whilst others don’t. Also some smell womanly. That is not to say that there can’t be some overlap. An example of a more ambiguous fragrance is Nicolai’s New York Intense - it’s use of aldehydes in the top is rather feminine, it’s use of powder is also quite feminine but the rest of the fragrances works well for both men and women.

@_Nicolas_ One problem that can and will probably come up is this - you start wearing women’s fragrances because a few people on Basenotes told you it’s a good idea. You wear Patou’s Joy or YSL’s Opium or Guerlain’s Mitsouko, go out with some friends or you go out on a date. A friend leans in to give you a hug and says ‘erm mate you smell like my mum’.

I think at least up until perhaps a decade or so ago most fragrance makers had a good grasp about gender labelling their fragrances in line with the corresponding sex and how it would work on them, not arbitrarily. These days with a more aggressive pushing of certain ideas by MSM and companies eager to pander to a ‘woke’ crowd it’s easy to see why this topic rears it’s head again and again.

You will keep being told how ‘right’ it is to wear women’s fragrances over and over but ultimately, you ask a random stranger in the street and they’ll have a better instinct for it than the expert echo chamber on most forums.

I make no bones about it. I don’t wear fragrances marketed to women. I wear men’s and some unisex. It’s not just about the notes but the spirit of the fragrance. Does it smell masculine or feminine? I don’t subscribe to the idea that all is neutral and everyone should wear everything. No shade on guys that wear women leaning stuff, it’s their life, but I’ve made decisions about mine.
 

PStoller

I’m not old, I’m vintage.
Basenotes Plus
Aug 1, 2019
I don’t think it’s tricky. There is a mindset among many perfume enthusiasts that all fragrances, whether feminine or masculine in timbre, should be worn be both men and women alike. This notion is a niche one held mainy by a subset of perfumistas.
What it fails to recognise is that some fragrances through the accords created and blended smell and felt manly whilst others don’t. Also some smell womanly. That is not to say that there can’t be some overlap. An example of a more ambiguous fragrance is Nicolai’s New York Intense - it’s use of aldehydes in the top is rather feminine, it’s use of powder is also quite feminine but the rest of the fragrances works well for both men and women.
I know you feel that way. I respectfully disagree with the notion that there is anything absolute about gender and fragrance.

That’s not to say I don’t perceive gender in fragrance—I most certainly do, and generally prefer to wear what I perceive as masculine. However, my perceptions are shaped by my time and place. Wearing fragrances from different times and places makes it evident that their ideas of masculine and feminine were/are quite different from mine.

Even then, it’s subjective. For example, I don’t perceive any aspect of New York Intense as feminine. That doesn’t make either of us wrong: we just view (or smell) NYI through a different lens.

Unperfumed, women don’t smell of aldehydes, powder, peaches, and jasmine; and men don’t smell of bergamot, clary sage, bay rum, and pine trees. We may be conditioned to assign gender to those notes and accords, but not by anything in nature.
 

Sheik Yerbouti

oakmoss fiend
Basenotes Plus
Jul 20, 2017
I know you feel that way. I respectfully disagree with the notion that there is anything absolute about gender and fragrance.

Could you clarify your statement above as it’s worded ambiguously.
That’s not to say I don’t perceive gender in fragrance—I most certainly do, and generally prefer to wear what I perceive as masculine. However, my perceptions are shaped by my time and place. Wearing fragrances from different times and places makes it evident that their ideas of masculine and feminine were/are quite different from mine.

Even then, it’s subjective. For example, I don’t perceive any aspect of New York Intense as feminine. That doesn’t make either of us wrong: we just view (or smell) NYI through a different lens.

Unperfumed, women don’t smell of aldehydes, powder, peaches, and jasmine; and men don’t smell of bergamot, clary sage, bay rum, and pine trees. We may be conditioned to assign gender to those notes and accords, but not by anything in nature.

I feel that there are aspects of gender, specifically sex. It isn’t about individual notes, hence my comment about how they are blended; how they come across when they are combined together. It’s possible that some notes come across as more masculine or feminine naturally. Jasmine is beautiful in both appearance and scent. It could be argued that it comes across with a more feminine air, however when blended into an accord or fragrance it can work as part of a masculine fragrance. The working and balancing of these notes is what provides a large part of what is perceived as male or female and this is what many fragrance makers would try to sensibly assess before labelling a fragrance Pour Homme or Femme. It wasn’t willy nilly until more recently. I will also say there are certain compositions that feel equally masculine and feminine (unisex) and still others that feel like neither.

You say there is nothing in nature, but healthy men and women still have their own distinct scents (hormones and skin chemistry) and perhaps it is in our subconscious familiarity with that that we identify, when identifying masculine or feminine fragrances.
 

PStoller

I’m not old, I’m vintage.
Basenotes Plus
Aug 1, 2019
I know you feel that way. I respectfully disagree with the notion that there is anything absolute about gender and fragrance.
Could you clarify your statement above as it’s worded ambiguously.

I'm not sure what's ambiguous about it, but I'll rephrase: nothing about the relationship between fragrance and gender is absolute. It is dependent on culture, with "culture" broadly defined to include era, social class, and so on, as well as ethnic/national/geographical aspects of culture. You and I are not in exactly the same culture, but I would guess our backgrounds are alike enough that we pick up similar gender cues from fragrances more often than not.

Our tastes in fragrances are sufficiently similar that half of what's your posted wardrobe is also in mine, and half again might someday be. And, of course, a few will never be, though that might come down to a particular note (e.g., dihydromyrcenol) one of us likes and the other doesn't. I wouldn't expect you to be nearly so sanguine about much of my collection, but that's because I've purchased many things for exploratory purposes rather than a particular love for the fragrance. If I knocked my collection down to 50, you'd probably like most of those. For that reason, I'm always interested in how you evaluate specific scents.

I feel that there are aspects of gender, specifically sex. It isn’t about individual notes, hence my comment about how they are blended; how they come across when they are combined together. It’s possible that some notes come across as more masculine or feminine naturally. Jasmine is beautiful in both appearance and scent. It could be argued that it comes across with a more feminine air, however when blended into an accord or fragrance it can work as part of a masculine fragrance. The working and balancing of these notes is what provides a large part of what is perceived as male or female and this is what many fragrance makers would try to sensibly assess before labelling a fragrance Pour Homme or Femme. It wasn’t willy nilly until more recently. I will also say there are certain compositions that feel equally masculine and feminine (unisex) and still others that feel like neither.

You say there is nothing in nature, but healthy men and women still have their own distinct scents (hormones and skin chemistry) and perhaps it is in our subconscious familiarity with that that we identify, when identifying masculine or feminine fragrances.

Well, first, let's clarify something: sex is not "an aspect of gender." Sex and gender are related, but distinct: sex is biological, while gender is a social construct. Colloquially, people confuse and conflate those things all the time and no harm done, but in a discussion like this one, the proper definitions are paramount.

So, in terms of sex: yes, men and women have different body chemistry, notably hormones and pheromones. And, yes, these are a factor in what people find attractive about each other. In double-blind tests, heterosexual men responded most positively to the scent of healthy women at the peak of fertility in their cycle (more estradiol, less progesterone), gay men preferred the smell of other gay men, etc. However, we have not isolated the olfactory components of these to the degree necessary to make them practical ingredients in perfumes—and not for lack of trying. Likewise, no ingredient in perfumery has been demonstrated to have any particular resemblance to the scent, much less to mimic the stimulatory function, of human hormones or pheromones.

Furthermore, pheromones don't primarily signal sexual health and availability, but rather genetic compatibility (in terms of similarity and difference) for the production of healthy offspring. That's an individual factor that couldn't possibly be mimicked for everyone by a perfume note.

Ergo, although plenty of perfumes have been marketed as veritable love potions on both romantic and "scientific" bases, it's hogwash on the basis of actual science. That's not to say there couldn't be something we haven't discovered yet, since there's so much more that we don't know than that we do; but as of yet, there's no real evidence for it, and a fair bit against.

What about gender? That's all about role identification and performance, not biology. In that sense, notes and accords can absolutely signal masculinity or femininity—or something else, given that some societies recognize more than two genders. However, these signifiers are cultural and personal. They're not biological in any way beyond the cultural expectation (not present in or consistent across all cultures) that gender roles will be mated to biological sex.

That doesn't mean our feelings about scent and gender aren't real. Social constructs are as real—and can feel as tangible—as physical ones. And, like physical ones, they are human creations that may stand, fall, or change over time, and about which attitudes may likewise change over time. Not necessarily much time, either: there are fragrances a mere hundred years or so old that smell quite different in terms of gender expectation today from when they were created. Likewise, current fragrances sold as "masculine" and "feminine" may not seem that way to you or me because we came of age at an earlier time. And that's not even taking into account the wide range of conflicting ideas about gender and scent in different parts of the world.

So, nobody is wrong to perceive gender associations for a particular smell. They're just not right in any immutable, universal sense, either.
 

Latest News

Top