Woman's Perfume, Man's Perfume

How could a man wear the same perfume as a woman? Stereotypes die hard.

Modified on
January 20th 2021

Samuel Fillon, Elizabeth Kupervaser-Gould

@ Unsplash

On the left, the men, on the right, the women. If the distinction has the merit of being clear in perfume chains and in the minds of the general public, it is less justified if we look at the origin of this olfactory segregation.

Sacred among the Egyptians, therapeutic among the Romans, perfume was unisex and mainly functional until the 18th century – even if the Great European Courts sprayed it readily to cover certain unpleasant body odors! Extracts of orange blossom and tuberose were used by men and women in a perfectly undifferentiated way. The beginning of the 20th century saw a shift in perfume reception, as fragrance access became more democratic while remaining luxurious. At the same time, it began to be conceived exclusively as a female concern. Finally, the 1970's and American-style marketing flooded the collective imagination with binary gender targets and specific advertising objectives. Men are reincorporated into the equation and thus, notes become synonymous with gender: aromatic and woody for men, floral, fruity and sweet for women. Jr –

Of course, these conceptual assignments are anything but arbitrary. Women are associated with floral scents, reinforcing concepts of fragility and subtlety while stereotypical ideas of the “strong and dark man” were accentuated by intense, woody scents. The first perfumes for men, in fact, recalled the scents of barbershops (lavender, bergamot, etc.) to reassure consumers that their virility was not at risk.

Niche perfumery, which has been growing in popularity since the 90s, offers a refreshing movement away from these clichés that confine man to woody scents and women to florals. Instead, most fragrances are designed to be unisex! After all, why stay in your olfactory comfort zone when there’s so much to gain from breaking the mold?

A note to keep in mind for the future: Whenever we find a perfume that states that it is exclusively meant for men or women, we will know that this binary qualifier is merely a marketing tool of recent history.

Le parfum idéal est à votre portée.