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Zealot Crusader

2010-2020 - A Decade of Men's Perfume in Review Pt 1: Aventus and the Bleu Man Group

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A lot of huge changes came to men's perfume in the 2010's, from a changing of standards in design to the sheer influx of men adopting fragrance as a regular part of their grooming routine, with both good and bad along the way. Some men might say most changes have been bad, as "the world as they know it" in regards to fragrance ceased to exist during this transition, while others call what we have now a new renaissance. It's difficult to say for sure if guys are better off now than they were at the start of the decade, as many signs point to them not being, but that's just it isn't it? The fact that there are so many signs pointing to choice or change at all means someone decided guys are important enough to the fragrance industry to make such effort in the first place.

For starters, we had two huge blockbuster releases that were quite literally game-changers to both the industry, and the buying public. Creed Aventus (2010) was the surprise hit in the ultra high-end luxury niche segment that nobody expected to have any effect on mainstream style, let alone convince so many people who couldn't commonly afford a Creed fragrance to bend over backwards to get their hands on the stuff, whether from a "back of the truck" gray market source or a discounter selling liquidated inventory. Hell, even boutique flacons ended up in the hands of decant sellers, putting more Aventus into the wardrobes of men than otherwise possible by running splits (that Creed fought tooth and nail), meaning a demographic Creed didn't actually want sporting their wares for fear of tarnishing their exclusivity were doing so anyway. Trust me when I say that the rest of the perfume industry took note of the feverish cult-like swarm that emerged in the wake of this release, and the fact Aventus proved that guys would spend far more money on a perfume than they had once thought if it meant impressing someone else was not lost on them either.

Designers had their own watershed right at the beginning of the decade with Bleu de Chanel (2010), an iconic release hated at first but eventually responsible for moving mainstream masculine style past aquatics and fresh fougères into what some call the "post-aquatic blue" style, showcased throughout the rest of the decade by rival houses. Bleu de Chanel may be the most stylistically-important scent of the decade due to the ripple effect it had on mainstream brands, but Aventus moved like a shadow hand through the men's world by becoming one of the most-copied fragrances on the market, starting with other niche houses then spreading to the Middle East where attar houses made Western-style toilettes or parfums and eventually outright clone operations basing their entire business model around duplicating the smell of Aventus. Designers eventually began dissecting elements of Aventus and Bleu de Chanel to build new fragrances around (like Dior Sauvage in 2015), or eventually making fragrances inspired by the entirety of either (like Montblanc Explorer in 2019) until a new unnamed genre was born. It was a new and exciting time at first, with a lot of really interesting and innovative new things hitting shelves for the first half of the decade.

Whatever you want to call the modern fresh citrus generalist powered by faux-ambergris and sometimes one of several faux-wood notes, it isn't a fougère, isn't an aquatic, but is absolutely everywhere thanks to these two releases. Entirely new subcultures of men obsessed with compliments, performance, and versatility have resulted from the success of both Creed Aventus and Bleu de Chanel, "weaponizing" fragrance for men in a sense that now even the average Joe expects "results" from a fragrance rather than something he just happens to find personally enjoyable. This has given rise to YouTube and Instagram influencers capitalizing on the demand for such "weaponized" results-focused fragrances, sometimes launching their own brands outside of just rating and recommending what's available, culminating in a homogenization of sorts within the men's market as mainstream houses scramble to meet the demand. On the plus side, you have more ways than ever to smell good for a date or a job interview, but on the minus side, everything sitting on department store counters that isn't an expensive limited-distribution niche fragrance seems to follow the same compliments-driven formula.

Variety was not completely dead of course, but now it carried a higher pricetag, as those old fougères and chypres you used to find at drug stores were getting remade by Tom Ford or Roja Dove and selling for ten to twenty times what they used to when your dad was buying them. Likewise, industry regulators such as IFRA went about restricting several common fixatives and popular essences like oakmoss into oblivion in the name of public health and safety, making sure the continued manufacturing of older styles was untenable without pricey processed or patented alternatives. If you were just coming into the market in 2011, this probably didn't affect you as you never knew what you were missing, but for nearly anyone over 30 at the time, 2011 was like the end of the world as hundreds of fragrances were discontinued if reformulation wasn't economically feasible. Scalpers on eBay have naturally had a field day since then, and all those vintage men's perfumes that were outmoded, unwanted, and sold for peanuts before suddenly cost more than many niche perfumes at retail.

2020 doesn't show much change from what has now become the norm outside maybe increased exploitation of scarcity/exclusivity because guys like trophies, much like there wasn't much change in 2010 from the decade before, but we now sit in an era where some high-end chains like Nordstrom have erected entirely separate fragrance counters for men in their respective departments, and with the majority of hobbyists entering online spaces being men from seeing heavily-hyped or viral-marketed fragrances that just a decade before would have barely gotten a blip in a magazine, I can only surmise that things will start evening out between quantity and variety. We may never see animalic or oakmoss-heavy fragrances again (unless someone comes out with killer synthetic alternatives), but I doubt a market filled with clones of clones of mass-appeal styles will remain tenable forever, or else Baskin-Robbins would sell 31 varieties of vanilla ice cream in their shops.

Updated 9th March 2020 at 10:01 PM by Zealot Crusader

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  1. Electric_Lain's Avatar
    It seems like a lot of people are just getting into fragrance, myself included. The fragrance subreddit is growing by 100 people a day, and the fragrance thread on /fa/ seems to have a lot of new people as well. Neither of which seems to be too dominated by "bro" culture from what I can tell, thankfully. I think as fragrance becomes more mainstream, a small portion will inevitably want to dig deeper. My friends have been very receptive to what I've told them and want to find their own scent.
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