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  1. #1

    Default The recent shift in gender distinctions in fragrances

    I'm only a newbie here, but having been totally ensnared by the art and majesty of fragrances I have done what I usually do: read as much as I can about it and try as many as I can.

    Among the many things I have noticed are the major shift that has taken place in the gender distinctions that until quite recently existed in the products on the market, which I think reflect a change in the western cultural attitudes towards gender roles, ie "femininity" and "masculinity".

    An example of this is the incorporation of sweeter fruitier notes and some distinctly floral notes in quite a number of fragrances for men. For instance, Dior Homme has a very floral mid-note range, and Allure is distinctly peachy in its topnotes.

    Traditionally, these sorts of notes were the domain of women's fragrances, whereas the citrus top with cedar or patchouli base were considered "masculine".

    I'm interested in people's perspectives/opinions on this.

    Comments are well and truly invited.

    ~ Snifferdog.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: The recent shift in gender distinctions in fragrances

    I think this observation reads true to some extent. The catch is that throughout the history of scent traditionally "male fragrances" have always had floral notes as important components. It's just that they weren't much talked about. It's likely that most oriental scents for men have significant proportions of rose and/or jasmine notes at their heart. Ylang-ylang and carnation have long been quite common in men's scents as well. Meanwhile, even such a determinedly "masculine" scent as Knize Ten features a prominent note of plum, and all of those traditional Eau de Colognes are fundamentally fruit scents.

    For marketing purposes the floral notes have been underplayed (at least during the 20th century), but I think you're correct to point out that as gender boundaries break down, floral notes in men's scents have been "coming out of the closet." Masculine rose scents in particular seem to be enjoying some attention these days. Even so, there are still very few overtly/primarily floral scents for men on the market.

  3. #3

    Default Re: The recent shift in gender distinctions in fragrances

    Gender is a man made illusion. We are not "gangstas", "ho's" or "yuppies", we are all unique creations. So celebrate that and you'll be fine. I'm a 6 foot tall, athletic guy who likes tuberose. Flaunt it!

  4. #4

    Default Re: The recent shift in gender distinctions in fragrances

    I agree with all of the above comments but really like Ruggles'. I'll add that BNers are far more likely to break the barriers because we are educated about and interested in what makes a fragrance. A young inexperienced guy in the mall is not likely to try "women's" scents at the counter. A BNer who knows what he's looking for and what "women's" scent will actually be "masculine" for him could walk right up and ask for it without blinking an eye. I have explored some "feminine" fragrances which I never thought I'd do.

    As for the traditionally feminine ingredients: Yeah- they've always been there 4711/Hammam Bouquet etc. The late '70s seemed to have a burst of men's fragrances that tended toward a very soft, powdery dry down. I always thought of them as feminine. Of course I first came across them in the late '80s and early '90s when the designer fragrance boom occurred during advertising's heyday. So I was being brainwashed to think of masculine and feminine in terms of what the marketing folks told me.

    Trends come and go. Masculine and Feminine will always be redefined to fit the market.

    Robert Piguet's BANDIT and Penhaligon's LAVANDULA are both masculine on me.
    Last edited by argogos; 10th February 2008 at 04:21 AM.
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    Default Re: The recent shift in gender distinctions in fragrances

    Quote Originally Posted by Ruggles View Post
    Gender is a man made illusion. We are not "gangstas", "ho's" or "yuppies", we are all unique creations. So celebrate that and you'll be fine. I'm a 6 foot tall, athletic guy who likes tuberose. Flaunt it!
    You go Ruggles!

    I'm the mean-lookin' (so said my dentist yesterday) dude in the beard wearing Carnal Flower.

    And yes, Basenoters are far removed from the general public in terms of breaking the manufactured gender boundaries in scent.

  6. #6

    Default Re: The recent shift in gender distinctions in fragrances

    Basicly, big diffusive floral/aldehyde/indole type fragrances are obviously feminine. If a man tries wearing something like Lanvin Arpege, people are going to think you have been playing in your mothers cosmetics drawer.

    Same thing with modern fruity/florals. Something like Guerlain "My Insolence" or Delices d' Cartier are obviously feminine. It's a rare man who could wear Paris Hilton "Just Me".

    Outside of the obviously femminine fragrances you have a sphere of unisex and masculine fragrances. Fresh/Citrus, light ambery and gourmand tend to be unisex. Within gourmand, I would say that brown/black foods coffee and cloves are more masculine.

    Big fougeres, dry mossy, dry spicy and strongly musky tend to be clearly masculine. So in general you won't find many women wearing Kouros, Paco Rabanne PH, or Bay Rum

  7. #7
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    Default Re: The recent shift in gender distinctions in fragrances

    Quote Originally Posted by snifferdog View Post
    ... Traditionally, these sorts of notes were the domain of women's fragrances, whereas the citrus top with cedar or patchouli base were considered "masculine".

    I'm interested in people's perspectives/opinions on this.

    Comments are well and truly invited.

    ~ Snifferdog.
    A scent with bergamot (a citrus oil) in the top note and patchouli and oakmoss in the base is called a "chypre," and for many years, most of these were made for women. They usually had a floral heart accord. This type of heart-note blend is not necessarily the only way to make a chypre, and men's chypres traditionally balanced a few florals in the heart with more prominent spice notes or green notes.

    I love chypres a lot, and I especially value them because they are the scent genre where it is the easiest to cross the so-called gender line.

    I have to say that, in general, I agree with your basic premise that the types of notes and the balance of notes is shifting towards a "shared fragrance" center, and away from strongly differentiated "male" and "fmale" scents.
    Last edited by JaimeB; 12th February 2008 at 10:13 PM. Reason: ... those damned typos...
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  8. #8

    Default Re: The recent shift in gender distinctions in fragrances

    I would have to say that dior homme does not contain any floral notes *gasp* yes of course Iris is never the extration from the flower itself but the root - you dont give your girlfriend a bouquet of dirt covered roots do you. Iris is not a floral note. Its like saying ginger is a floral note just because a ginger plant also flowers to pro create.

    Second point, in terms of using the same ingredients, that has been the case for a long time, many super macho man frags contain floral notes, versailles homme, cool water, 88, etc. They just have them in different ratios, this doesnt make the perfumes in any way "more feminine".

    Fruity fresh is unisex, its the smell of chewing gum and candies - people's tastes are just getting more and more juvenile when it comes to perfume lately, so perfumes are made to smell like gumballs (notice mens gumball perfume smells like manly gumball and womens like womens gumball), nothing gender bending about that, both male and female children eat gumballs.

    In terms of people crossdressing with regards to perfumes (I do this wear some womens perfumes as well, but just because I believe they were created as unisex and marketed towards women in the past as the womens market was larger back then: tabac blond etc). I dont think theres anymore crossdressing now than there ever was, its just now in the 2000's we can all get together on the internet and talk about it semi anonymously in little online communities and blogs so it seems like theres so much more of us. its like now that gay people have become more accepted, all of a sudden it seems like theres so many more gay people, which we know is not the case. I suppose there could be some small increase in perfume crossdressers as one poster said, people become more educated and open after coming to a place like basenotes - but I don't believe its a very significant figure.

  9. #9

    Default Re: The recent shift in gender distinctions in fragrances

    Unisex didn't sell, but in metrosexual 2008, it's perfectly okay to be feminine if you're a guy and masculine if you're a gal.

    Very different than the powerhouses in the '80s.
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  10. #10

    Default Re: The recent shift in gender distinctions in fragrances

    Viewed from a bird's eye perspective it seems there are pendulum swings in Western culture from favoring heavy sultry scents to lighter ones and from stricter to more permeable gender borders. With a good deal of national variation, though. Baroque perfumes were based on thick florals and tons of musk, only to be replaced by the Eau de Cologne craze, followed in France again by richer scents, while Victorian English ladies were only permitted morally acceptable light scents. A British gentleman could spritz his hanky with Hammam Bouquet, which would have appeared womanish to a virile American. I just read that Canoe by Dana (a Spanish firm) was the first perfume (as opposed to after shaves, skin bracers etc.) for men introduced in the US market - in 1961!!! BNer Marcello has written a great scholarly paper (in Dutch) on changing constructions of masculinity in the perfume world. Now if I could only relate these trends to stock market fluctuations I could make a pile of money and buy the license for Patou pour homme .
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    Default Re: The recent shift in gender distinctions in fragrances

    I'm curious about a date/time period when fragrance shifted into a male female dichotomy - since from what I know of earlier cultures globally men in Africa, Mesopotamia, India, Greece and Rome, the Islamic period in Andalusia - even the bewigged courtiers of Royal France - wore the same scents as women.

    Did the shift away from color in men's clothing happen at the same time? Was it Puritanism or Victorianism that had this impact?

    Marcello's article sounds very interesting. Is there a translation available?
    The fragrance of flowers spreads only in the direction of the wind. But the goodness of a person spreads in all directions.
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  12. #12

    Default Re: The recent shift in gender distinctions in fragrances

    I don't know when there was a shift and split between the two, but for a long time, there wasn't the split. Indian Men about two generations ago, still wore heavy jewelry such as pearls and extravagant gemstone necklaces (Mainly Royalty and Villagers)

    But, recently I've noticed more of a merging, clothes are getting very similar, in design and style, masculine is now used to describe a much larger range of things nowadays than say, what it was 5 years ago.

  13. #13

    Default Re: The recent shift in gender distinctions in fragrances

    It seems a Western distinction that perhaps came about in the late 18th century in dress and perhaps the subsequent sombre and sober victorian styling phased out anything that seemed extravagant for men.

    Oddly, a concoction called "hungarian water" was used by both men and women for quite some time. From all accounts it appeared to be a citrusy-orange blossom type of odour.

  14. #14

    Default Re: The recent shift in gender distinctions in fragrances

    Quote Originally Posted by DeeOlive View Post
    I'm curious about a date/time period when fragrance shifted into a male female dichotomy - since from what I know of earlier cultures globally men in Africa, Mesopotamia, India, Greece and Rome, the Islamic period in Andalusia - even the bewigged courtiers of Royal France - wore the same scents as women.

    Did the shift away from color in men's clothing happen at the same time? Was it Puritanism or Victorianism that had this impact?

    Marcello's article sounds very interesting. Is there a translation available?
    I think it's good to sort out a few things before we answer that question, just to put things in a clear historical perspective. The first thing may seem trivial but it's not – the fact that in Western societies, the use of perfumes went through some fundamental transformations in time. You've heard of the magical and ritual use of fragrances in Antiquity, but I think it's best to put that part aside for now. If we focus on the use of liquid perfumes as we more or less know them today –fragrant oils diluted in alcohol– we need to remember that from their origins in the 14th century until the mid-19th century, their purpose was cosmetic and medicinal at the same time. In fact, Napoleon issued a decrete (in think it was in 1810) stating that these fragrant products were to be sold in apothecaries only, and that they had to be accompanied by a leaflet listing their 'medicinal' effects (a practice that still applies to drugs). This was the time when Eau de Colognes and similar preparations became very popular; of course, manufacturers were very keen to attribute all sorts of beneficial properties to them. Even notorious houses like Houbigant sold their fragrances in this manner. The notion of 'perfume' wasn't as clearly delimited as it is today.

    My snapshots of an apothecary in the city of Brugge, Belgium





    Then there are social and economical developments to consider. If we put the relatively affordable Eau de Colognes aside (most people in Western societies had no access to them anyway), perfumes were used exclusively by the elite. Let's not forget that there were no such things as "eaux de parfum" or "eaux de toilette" until recently (these are 20th century marketing inventions, reactions to mass-consumption), and that the production costs of perfume were enormous. Not only were they produced artisanally until the turn of the 20th century, but 6.7oz / 200ml was a common size in those days (just imagine filling that with an 'extrait' nowadays). Perfumes were very often custom-made, meaning that they were based on individual preferences; famous 18th century perfumers like Jean-Louis Fargeon kept records of their clientele, which consisted of men and women alike; the people in these records were usually members of the aristocracy. Another important thing is that compositions were limited by the availability of raw materials – the perfumer's palette was relatively small in those days.

    Okay, now the gender dichotomy. Throughout the history of Western societies, there have been various periods in which the use of perfume was banned by governing institutions, often on religious grounds. But what I believe made the difference in the 19th century, was a very largescale and widespread social phenomenon: the rise of the bourgeoisie. What we see in this period, is that old aristocrats were losing their institutional power, and consequently their cultural influence. The etiquette of the new elite (self-made, successful industrialists) was in many ways a reaction against the habits of the old aristocracy (who had status by birth, not by merit); among aristocrats, a certain 'decadent' lifestyle was not uncommon – it shouldn't be exaggerated, but they definitely had a different attitude towards aesthetics and consumption. According to the new bourgeois values, there was no place for 'wasteful frivolities' such as perfume, at least not for men who wished to be taken seriously. In the second half of the 19th century, the medicinal use of perfumes had practically disappeared, and wearing fragrance had become a purely aesthetic practice. But money was better spent on other things – solid assets, if you will. Perfume was okay for women to use (as long as it was not too reminiscent of the infamous French court), but men generally preferred to abstain from it. In this context, anthropologist Constance Classen describes a process of 'feminization' of smell culture in general, which obviously includes perfume culture as well. There was only a small contingent of men who went "against the grain": they were dandies and artists who deliberately cultivated a decadent lifestyle, as a counter-reaction against the dominant bourgeois values.

    It's no coincidence that in the 19th century the sartorial divide became so clearly demarcated in the West, but in perfumery we see a slightly different thing happening – something I'd call 'male withdrawal'. Using perfume had become a sign of effeminacy in Western societies; while men continued using lavender waters from barber shops (they were functional accessories in the daily "toilette", and therefore acceptable), I think it can safely be argued that perfume had become the (almost exclusive) domain of women. Note that the days of heavy animalic scents (used by 18th century French royals) were over.

    The gender dichotomy in perfumery (the rise of gender-specifc fragrances) originated from this process, but in fact it only emerged in the first half of the 20th century, and didn't really take off in a big way until the 1950s. The mass-production and -consumption of perfumes, the affiliation with fashion houses, and the availability of a wider fragrance palette all contributed to this new "for him/for her" phenomenon; I could spend another hour explaining the sociological context in which this took place, but that means going deeper into things that have little to do with perfumes per se. As once suggested by Francis Kurkdjian, the barber's lavender has been a fundamental point of reference for many fragrances "for him", with all sorts of woody and spicy variations following soon.

    As you see, I left out references to Puritanism and Victorianism here; although they're often mentioned by perfume historians (in relation to sumptuary laws, for instance), I believe that in most European nations at least, the rise of the bourgeoisie was a far more significant factor in this process.

    Btw, that paper I wrote last year is not translated, but my plan is to further elaborate it in English.
    --------------------------------------
    Quote Originally Posted by snifferdog View Post
    Oddly, a concoction called "hungarian water" was used by both men and women for quite some time. From all accounts it appeared to be a citrusy-orange blossom type of odour.
    Two days ago I smelled a recreation of the famous Eau de la Reine d'Hongrie (made for queen Elisabeth of Hungary) at the Osmothèque in Versailles; it is said to be the first fragrance containing alcohol (although recently some historians have contested that). It's an au bain marie distillation of rosemary mixed in wine spirit. I have the blotter in front of me: it doesn't smell like the rosemary you use in the kitchen - it's a clean and very fresh scent. And it's not citrussy at all. I have a sample of orange blossom in front of me too; I guess there are some similarities there, but I'd say the Eau d'Hongrie leans more towards a very light, very discreet floral.
    Last edited by Marcello; 11th February 2008 at 06:34 PM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost

  15. #15

    Default Re: The recent shift in gender distinctions in fragrances

    Thank you, Marcello for putting it all together in a few paragraphs! This is the best I have read about the recent history of men and perfume – ever!

    When I started to scan available sources of perfume culture a few yours ago, I almost got lost. I then quickly concentrated on the profane use of scented materials, and within that section I chose ‘perfume, a masculine desire’ as my subject. It is amazing how little can be found about men’s habits and needs relating to fragrant materials. This made me suspect that the widespread opinion that both genders used essentially the same scents, may be based on assumptions more than on positive confirmation of facts from original records. Shakespeare’s sonnets drenched with the smell of the wild rose is just as close to me as it has been to many over the centuries. Would he maybe wear rose, or was it just the eternal symbol for love the cravings od youth? - Some believe that Guerlains Jicky and Mouchoir de Monsieur might be representative for men's taste in the late 19th, early twentieth century. But the fact that these two existed does not make them representative yet. Mouchoir certainly didn't set a trend in the early twentieth century beyond France. It is more likely that it only gained nostalgic fame towards the end of the last century. English men’s fashion seems to have dominated the first half of the 20th century, and the BN directory is witness of a great period of ‘barbershop fragrances’ in that same period. Leather fragrances (Juchten) were popular on the continent. But old beliefs die hard, and the rumor that men and women wore the same fragrances during the history of perfumes seems to stay around for more years to come.

    If we look at men's scenting habits between 1850 and 1950 we also have to consider men's hair and beard grooming habits, and the forerunners of colognes for men as mass products: scented shaving foams, after shaves and balms. In homes with Mennen Skin Bracer on the bathroom shelf, Mitsouko used to be for mom only, at least officially. Today we have a very different situation altogether. Fragrances for men have become richer, more varied and are no longer neglected by master perfumers. It is time that the best of perfume critics acknowledge these changes also. But of course – the bandwidth of masculinity in perfume is broader too, and must be seen against the background of our culture(s) and other developments these days.
    Last edited by narcus; 12th February 2008 at 08:40 AM.
    'Il mondo dei profumi è un universo senza limiti: una fraganza puo rievocare sensazioni, luoghi, persone o ancora condurre in uno spazio di nuove dimensioni emozionali' L. V.

  16. #16

    Default Re: The recent shift in gender distinctions in fragrances

    For historians, particularly those with a social science bent, this kind of discussion must be appealing. After all, the history of human grooming must surely play a part in highlighting our development as a species. At least, that's what I choose to believe.
    I'm just happy that there is now a market for more complex "masculine" scents instead of the citrus-heavy one-note monstrosities of earlier decades.
    De gustibus non est disputandum

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    Default Re: The recent shift in gender distinctions in fragrances

    Thank you Marcello! I look forward to reading your paper. Have read Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell and thank you for the link to Scented Pages and the extensive references there - I see I have lots more reading to do. Interesting premise that bourgeois values would turn away them from scent aesthetics, since there were so many marriages between the rising Western merchant class and the impoverished aristocracy.

    I admit to being more interested in exploring non-western experiences of smell/scent - but since I am teaching gender studies next semester - will be exploring these issues with students.

    I smiled at your reference to Mennen's Skin Bracer - remember seeing it in my dad's bathroom cabinet.
    I suppose that the shift must have started in the late 60's or early 70's with radical change in men's hair lengths, and the advent of unisex clothing, which seems to have finally been applied to fragrance as well.
    The fragrance of flowers spreads only in the direction of the wind. But the goodness of a person spreads in all directions.
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  18. #18

    Default Re: The recent shift in gender distinctions in fragrances

    Thanks, Marcello.
    to add a few tidbits: it was that Napoelonic edict which forced manufacturers of Eau de Cologne to reposition their product in the market - because the law demanded that medicines must come with a concise declaration of ingredients. As the secret cologne formulas were the major capital of competing firms, they had to drop the references to EdC as actual pharmaceutica and focus on the refreshing, aesthetic etc. qualities instead.

    Apart from EdC, which was ingested and diverse tonics and rubs, perfume was not applied to the body until the 20th century, but to gloves, fans, handerkchiefs etc.

    It's correct that bourgeois values contained a rejection of aristocratic decadence, but at the same time, the aristocracy set a cultural standard which the bourgeosie tended to desperately imitate with the means at its disposal (if you couldn't afford to commission paintings, you hung Currier&Ives prints on the wall etc.). I imagine such a dialectic determined the view of perfume in 19th century Bourbon France, also in view of the rearistocratization of cultural styles under Napoleon III (think Creed's move to Paris at the time ). I do think the role of Puritanism/Victorianism in British and American culture explains why these countries' perfume cultures were underdeveloped in comparison to France.

    I am waiting for my copy of Corbin's "The Foul and the Fragrant," but I gather he argues that the "deodorized bourgeoisie" (freshly floral) set itself against the foul smelling masses (as well as the civet and musk drenched nobility). Now where does the English Victorian Hammam Bouquet fit into this? Backdoor reintroduction of sexy smells by virtue of orientalism?!

    I think it's time for a volume of scholarly essays on perfume culture by perfume freaks actually knee-deep into Farina, Guerlain, Penhaligon's, Creed etc. What say you, Marcello?
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  19. #19

    Default Re: The recent shift in gender distinctions in fragrances

    Quote Originally Posted by the_good_life View Post
    Apart from EdC, which was ingested and diverse tonics and rubs, perfume was not applied to the body until the 20th century, but to gloves, fans, handerkchiefs etc.
    Wouldn't it mean that all the contacts between Europeans and Muslims had little to no influence on western perfuming habits? And when Napoleon Bonaparte sent a whole case of Farina Cologne to Josephine, and asked her in the accompanying letter to please not apply it at his return from war - could he possibly have been thinking of her fan and handkerchiefs?
    Last edited by narcus; 13th February 2008 at 09:41 AM.
    'Il mondo dei profumi è un universo senza limiti: una fraganza puo rievocare sensazioni, luoghi, persone o ancora condurre in uno spazio di nuove dimensioni emozionali' L. V.

  20. #20

    Default Re: The recent shift in gender distinctions in fragrances

    Blimey! Thanks for the nice comments everyone, I'll read them again tonight. Some very interesting thoughts to ponder on...

  21. #21

    Default Re: The recent shift in gender distinctions in fragrances

    Marcello - thanks so much for a brilliant post. Also Good_Life, Narcus and everyone else for the best discussion I have ever read on basenotes. Or anywhere else.

    Truly a book is required.

    I am in awe of the quality of writing, research and genuine love for the subject.

    I am in awe of the quality of basenoters.

    Pleased to hang onto your tails......
    Last edited by hirch_duckfinder; 12th February 2008 at 05:24 PM.
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  22. #22

    Default Re: The recent shift in gender distinctions in fragrances

    Quote Originally Posted by hirch_duckfinder View Post
    ...Pleased to hang onto your tails......
    You are way too modest hirch_duckfinder, don't make us (me) blush !
    Last edited by narcus; 13th February 2008 at 01:50 PM.
    'Il mondo dei profumi è un universo senza limiti: una fraganza puo rievocare sensazioni, luoghi, persone o ancora condurre in uno spazio di nuove dimensioni emozionali' L. V.

  23. #23

    Default Re: The recent shift in gender distinctions in fragrances

    Quick reactions to some comments - all this feedback is incredibly valuable, and much appreciated! (Sorry, didn't have the time to respond any earlier).

    Quote Originally Posted by narcus View Post
    It is amazing how little can be found about men’s habits and needs relating to fragrant materials. This made me suspect that the widespread opinion that both genders used essentially the same scents, may be based on assumptions more than on positive confirmation of facts from original records.
    Fortunately it's not all based on assumptions, but the historical evidence is scarse indeed. Like I wrote in my other post, some 18th and 19th century perfumers kept track of their clientele, and those records can give us an impression of who was wearing what.

    Quote Originally Posted by narcus View Post
    Some believe that Guerlains Jicky and Mouchoir de Monsieur might be representative for men's taste in the late 19th, early twentieth century. But the fact that these two existed does not make them representative yet. Mouchoir certainly didn't set a trend in the early twentieth century beyond France.
    I completely agree. The fact that a product has been on the market since a certain period, doesn't mean that people were using it from day one (let alone, that it was ever "popular"). I've been told by perfume historian Octavian Coifan that some statistics on sales figures from the late 19th century are still available; I'll look deeper into that.

    Quote Originally Posted by narcus View Post
    If we look at men's scenting habits between 1850 and 1950 we also have to consider men's hair and beard grooming habits, and the forerunners of colognes for men as mass products: scented shaving foams, after shaves and balms.
    I'd like to see some proper literature on male grooming habits from that period. It's a crucial factor in all this, but complex. Like I wrote previously, the barber's lavender played a key role in the first explicitly "masculine" compositions in perfumery.

    Quote Originally Posted by DeeOlive View Post
    I suppose that the shift must have started in the late 60's or early 70's with radical change in men's hair lengths, and the advent of unisex clothing, which seems to have finally been applied to fragrance as well.
    In most Western countries, the late '60s to early '70s marked a breakthrough for the male market in perfumery. I have attributed this to various reasons in my Dutch article – mostly sociological and economical.

    Quote Originally Posted by the_good_life View Post
    to add a few tidbits: it was that Napoelonic edict which forced manufacturers of Eau de Cologne to reposition their product in the market - because the law demanded that medicines must come with a concise declaration of ingredients. As the secret cologne formulas were the major capital of competing firms, they had to drop the references to EdC as actual pharmaceutica and focus on the refreshing, aesthetic etc. qualities instead.
    Very important point. I need to check my sources again, because this is in disagreement with the thing I wrote in my other post.

    Quote Originally Posted by the_good_life View Post
    It's correct that bourgeois values contained a rejection of aristocratic decadence, but at the same time, the aristocracy set a cultural standard which the bourgeosie tended to desperately imitate with the means at its disposal (if you couldn't afford to commission paintings, you hung Currier&Ives prints on the wall etc.).
    That persistence of old standards applies to the arts to a certain degree (btw, Domna Stanton's The Aristocrat as Art is an interesting read in that context), but in my opinion, new ideas on masculinity are a different ballgame. I doubt there was much interest among the male bourgeoisie to draw example from the dandy's toilette, as there was little cultural capital to be gained there. If there's any evidence to support the opposite, I'll need to rethink my hypothesis.

    Quote Originally Posted by the_good_life View Post
    I do think the role of Puritanism/Victorianism in British and American culture explains why these countries' perfume cultures were underdeveloped in comparison to France.
    I believe so too.

    Quote Originally Posted by the_good_life View Post
    I am waiting for my copy of Corbin's "The Foul and the Fragrant," but I gather he argues that the "deodorized bourgeoisie" (freshly floral) set itself against the foul smelling masses (as well as the civet and musk drenched nobility).
    That's right – and in France at least, that process started during the Restauration. Note that the "fresh florals" trend applies to women exclusively. Corbin argues that men had stopped wearing fragrance by that time; he adds that young women were not supposed to wear perfume either.

    Quote Originally Posted by the_good_life View Post
    Now where does the English Victorian Hammam Bouquet fit into this? Backdoor reintroduction of sexy smells by virtue of orientalism?!
    Ah! the unsolved mysteries of perfumery... but seriously, it would be nice to get some clarity on that. We should find out who actually wore Hammam Bouquet.

    Quote Originally Posted by the_good_life View Post
    I think it's time for a volume of scholarly essays on perfume culture by perfume freaks actually knee-deep into Farina, Guerlain, Penhaligon's, Creed etc. What say you, Marcello?
    sounds good!
    Last edited by Marcello; 14th February 2008 at 01:28 PM.

  24. #24

    Default Re: The recent shift in gender distinctions in fragrances

    I second hirch_duckfinder about the greatness of this thread. This community is a constant source of amazement--so many literate, knowledgeable people.
    The time would certainly seem ripe for a book on this topic. The few perfume histories I have read give very short shrift to male fragrances in general and fail completely to discuss the constantly changing notions of masculinity (or femininity for that matter). If they do come up, it's usually in the context of marketing, packaging and so forth.

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Loving perfume on the Internet since 2000