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Zealot Crusader

You Are What You Wear: The Perils of Perfume Snobbery

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My crazy reinvigorated journey into fragrance once again has taught me a lot. For starters, I never knew there was a discernable difference between eau de cologne and eau de toilette, and that eau de toilette concentrée is a fancy way of saying eau de parfum for all intents and purposes at a time when men saw the word "parfum" as inexorably female. I also learned that high-end perfumes don't stop with Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, but keep going into exclusive ranges, and finally niche houses that are not attached to an over-arching design house, but just exist to explore perfume as art.

Obviously, commodity economic practices fall into place based on supply, demand, cost of production, and that red herring known as perceived value, which we all have moguls like Helena Rubenstein, Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, and Estée Lauder to thank for, since that last one really allows for an unlimited profit margin based on the logic of "get what you can get away with", which in the world of totally discretionary luxury goods, is a sound argument, like it or not. What does this have to do with snobbery? Well nothing really, yet also everything.

Human beings in general have always loved arranging themselves in classes or ranks, to form a "pecking order" if you will, in their social interactions. In the military, chain of command is a necessary evil for efficiency and at least is (mostly) organized by merit. More capable soldiers lead and advise, newer or less-capable ones follow and obey. In most societies, ranking seems far more arbitrary, with those who are more physically beautiful, professionally successful/wealthy, or coming from ennobled lineages seeing themselves as superior and thus entitled to more. One could debate until they're blue in the face whether or not this is valid, but what does it have to do with perfume snobbery. Again, the answer is nothing really, yet also everything.

You see, we Human beings create then like to make fun of fictional creatures like dragons and dwarves for coveting their treasure and attaching their self-esteem to it, because that character flaw starts with us, but giving it a fantastical form makes it easier to lampoon than address directly. Like any collection hobby, the person with the biggest or rarest (or most expensive) shinies likes to see themselves as the most accomplished in that hobby, like the comic nerd with a beard of Doritos crumbs, or the tail-gating yahoo with every single Mickey Mantle baseball card ever printed. I'm all for letting those folks enjoy the fruits of their exploits, and even brag a little about them. Hey, they earned it, so let them enjoy the thing!

All of that tolerance, "live and let live" platitudes, and back-patting ends when their egos dictate that their accomplishments in their hobby or the means they have at their disposal to pursue said hobby (or both) gives them cart blanche to tell others what's fit for them, or what's the only true proper way to enjoy the hobby unilaterally. It really does not give them any rights to do so, but they take those rights as granted when in fact most folks can't be bothered to try opposing their bad behavior, or if not condoning it, side with and support it in agreement, which makes the community revolving around said hobby just that little bit unfriendlier and less inviting. The risk of harming the hobby itself by keeping folks from joining in is real, and the term "toxic" starts being slapped around like a "Mr. Yuck" sticker. Hobby communities are supposed to unite like minds, not stratify and separate them.

So whether you're a cashier at the grocery or the billionaire CEO of a fortune 500 company, grant others the same space they've granted you, and don't you dare think you deserve yours more than theirs no matter what or how much you have or the other person. So what if you think only niche perfume sold for $200 and up to only the wealthiest, most-cultured, and refined noses is true perfume? That's all you baby, not the other fella! Likewise, if you think anything above $60 is a total waste and just a marketing gimmick to sucker insecure rich people out of their money, go on with your bad self and let them be. At the end of the day, everyone wearing pefume smells "good" to someone anyway, so if you're happy, keep your justifications to yourself unless asked for or probed by an open question.

That's not to say you can't opine that all Calvin Klein is synthetic drivel meant to catch the impulsive mall shopper with a blitzkrieg of flashy flankers and shiny bottles (and it sort of is but I still like it), or that Creed is potentially fabricating a backstory to enhance their prestige and thus their perceived value (thank you again Helena) to justify that $499 price tag you see at Neiman Marcus (I'm not even touching that one). You could even say that anything made after the restriction of oakmoss is not true perfume or that deep vintage/first release is the only proper version of anything (at any price point) and you wouldn't be wrong... for you.

The moment you go "you don't really own Roja Dove if it's decanted" or "if you own the newest version of Oscar de la Renta Pour Lui then you really don't", or even "Your Creed Green Irish Tweed is really just expensive Cool Water and you should be ashamed for lording it over me" you've essential invalidated somebody else's experience in the hobby. You've set boundaries or requirements for somebody else uninvited. You don't get to tell somebody else what's good for them unless there is a rational need to (Are you their care provider or hold a position of authority?) and even if you are actually better than them, you don't get to prove it unless challenged to do so. These are very basic social skills we learn in grade school folks. Regardless of your walk in life, 99% of us start that walk in grade school.

I started at the bottom and worked my way up, and it's been my choice to wave the flag of Avon and drugstore scents because like a good cheeseburger, they don't see enough appreciation, but even I'd admit there's vastly better choices than nearly anything Avon's made outside a tiny handful of really exceptional ones. I've smelled the Kleins and Laurens, the Chanels and the Guerlains. I've sniffed deep vintage stock over 40 years old, and the same fragrances in current IFRA-compliant forms. I've held Creed and Bond both under my nose, and make comparisons between common and elite fragrances all the time. I couldn't have done it without the help of some very un-snobby friends here. Do I ruffle feathers? I'm sure! Do I really care? Not really. Got your attention though didn't I? Sorry, not getting that time back. No deposit no return.

At the end of the day, you are what you wear, so why not be everything by wearing everything?!?! There's so much variety stimulating experiences out there, why would you pigeonhole yourself or let anyone else do it? The pefume snob lives in a hyperbaric chamber of their own creation. They only wear X or only talk to people who do Y to keep appearances. They might think they're doing it better than you, and know what's really up, but they haven't layered a 50 year-old lime after shave from Avon with a world-renowned Guerlain fragrance like you have. They haven't compared first-production scents with their reformulations side by side, and they don't have the freedom of mind to contemplate the newest Amouage over the newest set of designer flankers. They're the ones more worried about what everyone else is doing rather than having fun with a hobby they chose to enter from the start.

What does this have to do with snobbery? Well, nothing really, yet everything.

Be good to each other and keep smelling pretty my friends.

-ZC

Updated 12th May 2018 at 11:36 PM by Zealot Crusader

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Random Musings

Comments

  1. epapsiou's Avatar
    But Creed Green Irish Tweed is really just expensive Cool Water. really
  2. Zealot Crusader's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by epapsiou
    But Creed Green Irish Tweed is really just expensive Cool Water. really
    Shhhhhh.... you don't want to disturb the natives.

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Loving perfume on the Internet since 2000