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Jaime B's Blog

Does This Fragrance Make Me Smell Fat?

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.
So some dudes on Basenotes have occasionally used the phrase "old man's fragrance." I read this, and I think, "Wow, this expression is carrying an awful lot of freight!"

What do I mean by that? Well, I mean that there are a lot of unconscious assumptions behind this statement. Maybe I should detail some of these, first of all, just for fun, but secondly, to deconstruct some unexamined ideas that show some pretty shocking attitudes — attitudes that people wouldn't want to be putting out there if they knew the impression they were making with them.

First there is the idea that somehow "old men" are less cool than younger men. That's kind of like saying that women aren't as cool as men, or that ethnic minorities aren't as cool as white folks, or even (how do you like it if I turn this around?) that young guys aren't as cool as older guys. Bigoted ideas are kind of like packs of wolves: where you find one, you often find a whole bunch. So where I hear one kind of prejudicial assumption, I suspect there are others lurking about. The thing is, I don't think people who put down one unpopular group realize that they are showing their probable general disregard for the dignity of others. In fact, I think that they would deny that they are prejudiced at all. Yet, I think others see that pretty clearly.

Secondly, they reveal their susceptibility to the manipulation of marketers, who want consumers to believe that the new scents are better than older ones — because obviously (duh!) the really cool folks have the latest stuff, and only the old fogeys still buy stuff that the cool kids don't want any more. This is pretty obvious, isn't it? Well, it is if you ignore the fact that the new stuff is made from cheaper materials, that it was rushed to market to save money on development, and that most of the money that was spent on it (and now has to be recouped) was spent on marketing intended to dupe the gullible.

Now I'm not saying that everything old is good or everything new is bad; that's simply not true. Still, if you think about it, the trends in fragrance are in the direction of downgrading quality and overemphasizing marketing images to get the advertising budget back.

Another thing about the "old man" assumption is that it reveals the purposes that people assume for using fragrance. It kind of says that scents have the function of creating an image for the wearer, rather than being a measure of the wearer's taste and sophistication. Now, I think we all consider the effect our choice of fragrance has on others, but I still believe that I mostly choose what I wear because I think the stuff I wear shows that I know what's intrinsically good and well-crafted, rather than because I think "chicks dig it" or it makes me "smell cool." These assumptions about how my selection affects others are, I think, not well-founded in reality. First of all, most people don't even notice what others wear. To think otherwise is, I'm afraid, rather naïve. Whatever may convince a romantic target to decide to concede physical affections is based on many more factors than the notion that the suitor "smells cool." In my experience, men seem to give considerations of superficial appearance and impressions more importance than women generally do. But, of course, it takes all kinds to make a world...

Lastly, looking for security in the protection of the crowd marks one as relatively insecure in one's own personal merits or as not having a grounded belief in one's own ideas, especially where these may run counter to the common stream. A person who is overly concerned with following popular trends sometimes reveals himself to others as being anything but his "own man."

Well, there are probably other debunkable assumptions behind the notion that fragrances are tied to the age group of the wearer. I'm sure there are also other ways in which people who consider such things may be revealing themselves to be rather shallow or relatively unconscious of the significant concerns of others. On the whole, such things are not pleasant to write about, so I think I'll leave off for now.

I'll just say that it might be a worthy thing to consider what one reveals about oneself when one expresses these kinds of casual opinions, namely, those that put down others.

The best thing about being young and naïve is that it's a temporary disease, and that most people have a chance to recover from it. On reflection, I think I could put it this way: For me, growing up didn't end when I reached age 18; in fact, at that age growing up had barely just begun.

Updated 14th September 2011 at 09:52 PM by JaimeB

Categories
Philosophy of Fragrance , Personal Reflections

Comments

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  1. drseid's Avatar
    Extremely well said. This "old man" gives his stamp of approval. :-)
  2. Subhalen's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by drseid
    Extremely well said. This "old man" gives his stamp of approval. :-)
    Here...Here..!
  3. Larimar's Avatar
    Very wisely put and concluded!
  4. pince_nez's Avatar
    A commendable and highly informative post about assumptions/prejudices we all hold regarding youth and getting older and also about following trends and being your own person. I am no longer young but I am wiser. I like what you wrote about one's self-concept; that if one feels secure, he doesn't need validation from others. It is after all your idea of your "self" that you should hold dear; not the opinions of others. For if that is so, what does your "self" count for? Again, many thanks for sharing.
  5. Primrose's Avatar
    Just as with some young women referring to "old ladies'" scents.

    I embrace my love of geezer fragrances.

    I guess the flip side of this is the "immature and unsophisticated" scents.

    The younger crowd are much addicted to the latest celebrity scent and what is heavily pushed by the markets with slick advertising with famous "faces."
  6. Jo.'s Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by drseid
    Extremely well said. This "old man" gives his stamp of approval. :-)
    And this one refuses to give his!
  7. Classix's Avatar
    Many good insights here. I especially agree that it's important to be one's own man and there's nothing admirable about smelling like everyone else. At the same time, I'm in my 40s and I can certainly understand how a young person would not be comfortable wearing some of my favorite frags. It takes a certain level of maturity to comfortably wear Vetiver, Antaeus, Santos, Aramis, Tiffany, Habit Rouge, Eau Sauvage, etc.
  8. JaimeB's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Classix
    Many good insights here. I especially agree that it's important to be one's own man and there's nothing admirable about smelling like everyone else. At the same time, I'm in my 40s and I can certainly understand how a young person would not be comfortable wearing some of my favorite frags. It takes a certain level of maturity to comfortably wear Vetiver, Antaeus, Santos, Aramis, Tiffany, Habit Rouge, Eau Sauvage, etc.
    I see your point, but some young people *are* comfortable enough to wear them, and I think it's precisely because those young people do have the confidence to be their "own man."
  9. EdwardBenton's Avatar
    I wear vetiver almost every day (despite my skin not liking it the best, lol). Truth be told I only ever were a fragrance for me. It's like fragrancing a room but portable. I couldn't care less what the chick next to me on the bus thinks of what I'm wearing, and the dude on the other side, same.
    I wear what I want to wear, and heaven any stranger cheeky enough to negatively comment when I don't even know them.
  10. teardrop's Avatar
    Great post Jaime, l couldn't agree more! And l agree with Primrose that the same goes for comments about "old lady" perfumes. Those who make such comments reveal more about themselves than the people who choose to wear the classics. As you say, hopefully these naive youngsters will have the chance to "grow up" & become more open-minded about what is "appropriate" or desirable in a fragrance. Let's hope that reading & learning from basenotes will help some of them to do that!
  11. MissLucy's Avatar
    I always just assumed the term "smells like an old man" was a compliment. When someone tells me I smell like an "old woman" I think of maturity, sophistication with a touch of class. We cannot please everyone, so we can at least please ourselves.

    I really enjoyed your blog. Anything that covers human nature is a good read. Especially when it is spot on.
  12. lupo's Avatar
    Or maybe we are reading too much between the lines? Sometimes "old man" is intended to mean "old fashion". Trends in perfumery are no different from trends in clothing, and what you were wearing thirty years ago might feel out of place on some people, and same for perfumes. Yes, we might feel touche' when the "old men" issues pops up, and I'm close enough to 40 to feel that, but I'm keen to admit that Habit Rouge, Bel Ami, Shalimar smell somehow outdated, old fashion, while Dior Homme or Infusion d'Iris smell more modern. That does not make them bad at all, mind you, but maybe uneasy to wear for those who are not familiar with them, simply. Don't you think? Love your blog, always so insightful! - lupo
  13. Diamondflame's Avatar
    Pretty sure there are many young women who would rather date an older guy like George Clooney than a teen hunk like Taylor Lautner. Now I'm not about to insult anyone's father but perhaps these boys who dismiss old men don't have cool dads as role models?
  14. Birdboy48's Avatar
    Great comments, Jaime. As someone who used to be young once myself, yet still remains eccentric enough to think myself "cool", I tend to think "old man" is another one of those code words for anything the speaker would not like to be themselves. As in, a woman, an ethnic minority or any other thing which seems somewhat alien to the currently cool place the speaker has a emotional need to picture themselves in. The odd thing in all this is that when I *was* young there was a pretty fair reason to think older people were indeed in some other space, given that there was very little from their generation that us late-60's youngsters could relate to. But now there are any number of people from my generation who are admired across all age ranges, whether it be for their music, their art, or their against-the-grain thinking.

    As to being older, as long as a person retains their curiosity, finds interest in the world, and can still feel as though they are contributing something meaningful to others...there comes an unexpected point where you begin to suspect that in spite of the variety of different and apparently self-assured mind-spaces you've found yourself in over the years, you may indeed have accumulated a tiny measure of authentic wisdom, and can step back and congratulate yourself that you've made it this far without, apparently, loosing your cool.
  15. Duke of Buckingham's Avatar
    Great post, and I agree completely. (I have to admit that whenever I see the line "smells like an old man" in a review I get interested, just as a negative review by some illiterate kid on Amazon has sold me more books than all the fanboy hype.)

    And cudos for pointing out all the (male) insecurity going on behind all this. Will this frag. make my boss like me? Will it attract females? That aspect of the forum drives me nuts.
  16. Primrose's Avatar
    I think people use the phrases "old man," while others say "classic."
  17. Fred360's Avatar
    I love the post, and wonder if the phrase "smells like an old man" might have also referred to the lack of cologne or the perceived hygiene habits of an older person who has "let himself go."

    Ironically, I have encountered a physically attractive young man (visually) who smells really terrible, of mildew from clothing that not has been completely dried. . . and I wonder which is stronger, the visual attraction or the olfactory repulsion . . . .
  18. Classix's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by JaimeB
    I see your point, but some young people *are* comfortable enough to wear them, and I think it's precisely because those young people do have the confidence to be their "own man."
    I still maintain that certain frags -- as well as certain clothing styles, automobiles, publications, etc. -- are mature by their very nature and wouldn't generally appeal to a young person. I'm curious: Would you say it's prejudicial for a middle-aged man to dismiss Abercrombie cologne and low-rise skinny jeans as too "young man"?
  19. Larimar's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Classix
    I'm curious: Would you say it's prejudicial for a middle-aged man to dismiss Abercrombie cologne and low-rise skinny jeans as too "young man"?
    The point is that the middle-aged man is most likely jealous he can't wear the skinny jeans anymore and masks it with dismissal...
  20. JaimeB's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Classix
    I still maintain that certain frags -- as well as certain clothing styles, automobiles, publications, etc. -- are mature by their very nature and wouldn't generally appeal to a young person. I'm curious: Would you say it's prejudicial for a middle-aged man to dismiss Abercrombie cologne and low-rise skinny jeans as too "young man"?
    OK, so I'm nearing retirement age and I still have some A&F fragrance on the shelf. I have so many bottles that I don't wear any but a few very persistently, but I do wear that one from time to time. I would wear low rise and skinny jeans if I could, but I really never had the body type for that, so I didn't wear them even when I was young. But no, I don't think there's any intrinsic reason why an older man shouldn't wear the same fashions as younger people if he likes them and they work for him, or why younger men shouldn't wear Antaeus if they like it. I wear what I think is good, or tasteful, or well-made, or even just interesting. If other people choose to set certain limits on themselves, that's fine with me. I just don't want anyone over-generalizing, stereotyping, or prescribing for me. I'm my own man.

    If you think something is old-fashioned, I have no beef with that. Old-fashioned can be good if you like that, or not good if you don't; but if you use "old man" to put something down, then you're revealing an ageist attitude that demeans older men (who are not fashions, but human beings), and that I don't feel is either flattering to the person expressing it, or respectful of the people whose age is being used as a descriptor to diss something. I won't argue with another person's taste, but I don't let bigotry pass without comment.
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