Beauty Without Fuss

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Project Perfume: Give me Strength

Since I started Project Perfume, I've been lucky to speak to 'Fumeheads from around the world, and I've been delighted to speak to some of the finest perfumers in the world too.  What's been especially great about getting involved in the perfume world has been how inclusive it is, people from all kinds of different backgrounds, just having an interest in something because it smells nice.

Okay, that makes us all look mad now I've written it down, but, speaking of mad, this link was making the rounds on twitter recently, and it made me roll my eyes somewhat.  You don't have to click the link, I'm transcribing the content here:

DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: My new boyfriend's place smells suspiciously like women's perfume. At first I thought it was another woman but I'm so hot I don't see how he would have time or leftover desire. Lightbulb! I finally got him to show me where the scent was coming from. He had a whole collection of women's expensive perfumes and he wears them when no one else is around. How weird is that? I don't care so much, except does that mean he's toying with gayness? Do any other guys out there secretly wear women's perfume? Why does he do it? He says his former girlfriend was OK with it, and she would sometimes wear men's cologne. -- Boyfriend Has Girly Smell, Winnipeg 

To which, "Miss Lonelyhearts" replied:

Dear Freaked: Yes, some men do, but it's unusual and means something -- it came from somewhere. Ask him about the origins of his love for perfume. You need to know. Does it have anything to do with his sexuality? Did it start with a certain female in his life: his mom or his sister or his babysitter or an old girlfriend? Is it a method he learned to use for self-stimulation? And finally, does he dress up like a woman and wear the perfume when he's alone? Gently find out what the perfume thing means. It may be nothing or it may be part of a bigger scene he has yet to mention.  

So, apparently, men who wear women's fragrances are gay.  I wonder if the reverse applies?  Women who wear aftershave, are they gay too? Or just ... butch?  It's interesting that this kind of distinction still has a foothold on people's imaginations.  Personally, if I came home and found MrLippie had been raiding my collection of perfumes, I'd be delighted, well, it'd mean I'd finally cured him of his Lynx obsession, once and for all, which has to be a good thing.  Plus, he'd smell AMAZING. I have a great collection these days, it has to be said.  As I'm a frequent stealer of his fragrances too (currently wearing Fleur du Male by Jean Paul Gaultier), I think it would be only fair to let him have his way with my collection.  So to speak.

For a long time through history, there were no distinctions along gender lines in fragrance, there were only things that smelled good - and they were necessary because people smelled bad. Men smelled of flowers, women smelled of flowers, and no one batted an eyelid.  Now, because of aggressive marketing campaigns over the last fifty years or so, apparently men smell of manly things, women smell like womenly things, and apparently the only scent everyone has in common is "sexy".  Or candyfloss.  But never the twain shall meet, it seems. 

Do you think "Miss Lonelyhearts" had a point?  Personally, I'd like to know who she thinks wears unisex fragrances.  I'm sure it'd be  ... interesting.

This post originated at: All rights reserved.


  1. Her response was ignorant, misinformed, and altogether ridiculous. It's sexist and also smacks of bigotry although I don't think she intended either.

    It's just a case of horrific small-mindedness.

    I've worn masculines since I was around 13 or 14. Only rarely have I ever had someone negatively comment about "my wearing guy's cologne". Normally, men and women alike just compliment me on how I smell. So now, I am apparently a butch sexual deviant! Woo!

    People need to be less concerned with titles of "feminine" and "masculine" and more concerned with "Does this smell good or does this make me smell like cotton candy vomit?" Fragrance is genderless.

  2. I think Miss Lonelyhearts is a fool -- a limited, tragic, fool. She just did that poor woman a terrible disservice, and probably several readers along the way.


  3. I find this kind of ignorance quite humorous. I must write a letter to Miss Lonelyhearts to see what advice she can give my darling beloved and I, who were in a heterosexual relationship yesterday but would appear today to both be gay. I've always believed these Q&A's to be authored by underperforming hacks as punishment from an editor. The more ridiculous the better.

  4. Wowww at the response. My favourite scent to wear is a man's, and I wear it with a floral dress all the time. I am not butch, and straight. And even if I wasn't, I doubt the scent would be a factor in it at all!
    Given me something to think about next time I put perfume on

  5. How very closed minded - I remember when I was teen there was a big craze for girls to wear male body spray... Lynx sales were massive!lol

  6. How peculiar! Hate to think what either of them would say about adults using/smelling of Johnson baby powder. By their logic would that imply paedophilia. Utterly mad

  7. I think this is probably what would be a typical reaction of someone who, unlike us, is not fragrance-obsessed. Still, she really should have done some research into the matter, before putting her "advice" out in the public domain.

    And I don't think it's going to change anyone's opinion who is already into wearing scent marketed at the opposite gender.

    My wife still jokingly calls me gay for my love of scent ("man perfume", as she calls it), and I do sometimes wear stuff like Mitsouko and Vetiver pour Elle, and nobody (else) has ever said anything to me.

    So I think this is just some lazy, ignorant journalism - who'd have thunk it? ;o)

  8. Oh, and I bought my wife Caldey Island Lavender, which we both wear, though we can't decide who's being gayest ;o)

  9. I LOVE men who wear perfume. In fact, the stronger the character, the more distinctive the fragrance. One of my former beaus wore Mouchoir de Monsieur by Guerlain - as feminine and as close to L'Heure Blue as you can get. Heck, if it was good enough for Cary Grant...And, often, older fragrances with distinct feminine scents have been worn by men. See Guerlain, Hermes and even Penhaligons where Winston Churchill's favourite Blenheim Bouquet is very feminine. It's only in modern times that mens' scents have become more woody and dense, reeking of masculity. Sometimes, it's actually too too much. Less is decidedly more.

  10. Ooh, have been meaning to try Mouchoir for ages - thanks for the reminder. And for making me feel, well, more like Cary Grant :o)

  11. Someone needs to drag Miss Lonelyhearts out on the back lot, point a loaded 100 ml spray nozzle of Knize Ten at her sensibilities and say: "Grow up and smell THIS leather, baby!"

    Alas, they never will...If that situation happened to me, I would be delighted. Finally, someone who doesn't consider (one of) my passions frivolous!

    Theophrastus wrote, in his treatise "On Plants" over 2000 years ago that florals were so much better on men. Women should, as he said it, go with the heavy, heady perfumes.

    Pompey the Great, said Diodorus Siculus, favored rose oil to an extravagant degree, whereas the very manly Caesar was quite partial to lilies...And these many years later, one man dubbed the Sexiest Man of the 20th century - Sean Connery - wears Jicky, which was, after all, created for a woman...

    Wear what you love. And never mind what the Miss Lonelyhearts of the world may think. Such prejudices make their lives so much poorer than our own! ;)

  12. You were the one that needed to write about this abomination, Louise, I'm glad you did. xox

  13. Marketing does play a huge role in the gender division within the perfume industry, and for the most part people do not understand that aside from scent profile, words like perfume, parfum, cologne, eau de toilette etc, are indicators for the concentration of a scent, not a gender marker. That being said, the human sense of smell is genderless. When we are out in nature smelling the flowers, herbs and the like we do not make masculine/feminine distinctions. We are more apt to make judgments based on the smells we like and dislike. We would certainly NOT make cultural or social assessments of the smells.

    It all boils down to conditioning, some folks fall in line and mindlessly follow the crowd, while others are more independent and march to their own beat.

  14. I haven't heard about this until now but I am very glad you addressed the issue! I don't like to wear light scents, I tend to prefer more heavy scents that sort of linger in your nose and aren't very airy or floral. Does that make mean I secretly wish I was a man? If my large collection of nail polish, dresses and shoes are anything to go by....I think not! What's wrong with smelling nice? As human beings we are attracted to such a wide variety of scents (and it's so beautifully individual) that I hate having to distinguish between male or female scents. Most of my favourite companies don't make the distinction and their scents are just "scents" for everyone!



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