Cultural Differences in Perfume Tastes & the Revival of the Classics for Men

I had a long conversation tonight with a fellow perfume blogger, Scent Bound, on the cultural differences between American and France, and each countries’ accompanying fragrance preferences. The issue was initially triggered by the comments on indolic scents like tuberose discussed in my Guerlain Mahora/Mayotte post. As a random observation, I told him that I think French women are much less terrified of certain kinds of categories of perfumes or scents than, say, the Americans.

Scent Bound noted: “I recall Chandler Burr made similar observation to yours regardingLight Blue Men how North Americans and European see fragrance. North Americans wear a fragrance as if to say ‘don’t run away, I’m clean’ and Europeans wear a fragrance as if to say ‘come to me, I’m sexy’. It’s pretty hilarious but if you think about it, it’s sort of true.”

I think it’s both hilarious and true. I find it extremely interesting to note the differences in tastes as reflected by the list of top best-sellers for women in 2011 for the U.S. versus the best-seller list for France. Surrender to Chance has a sample pack of each country’s best-sellers with some amusing observations, but the main point are the perfumes on the list themselves:

In the US:

The list is in no particular order, Chanel Cocoimages (7) Mademoiselle came in Number 1.

    1. Chanel Coco Mademoiselle – citrus adds a lightness to this gorgeous oriental

    2. Dolce & Gabanna Light Blue WomenLight Blue – citrus, easy to wear, the quintessential “reach for it” perfume

    3. Chanel No. 5 – No. 1 in France, a fragrance that has been around for decades and topping the best selling list wordlwide, this is The Iconic Classic perfume

    4. Clinique Happy – fruity floral that complete reflects its name

    5. Donna Karan Cashmere Mist – musk, woods, floral

    6. Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb – an exuberant floral with a rich base

    7. Lancome Tresor – rose, violet, iris, peach, a perennial favorite

    8. Christian Dior J’Adore – a now iconic fresh green floral that is at the top of the best-seller list in many countries

    9. Ralph Lauren Romance – romantic floral with touches of musk and ginger

    10. Burberry Body – floral oriental, easy to wear

    11. Marc Jacobs Daisy – fun, easygoing, touch of caramel, and absolutely easy to wear

    12. Chanel Chance – citrus floral that borrows from Angel and Coco Mademoiselle

    13. Estee Lauder Sensuous – elegant woody floral

    14. Estee Lauder Pleasures – green floral that can be smelled everywhere

    15. Chanel Chance Eau Fraiche – a fresher version of Chance

    16. Clinique Aromatics Elixir – Crossing international lines to appear on both French and American best-seller lists

    17. Fendi Fan di Fendi – fruity floriental.  Why won’t Fendi just start making Theorema again and stop with the stuff that’s not anywhere near its class?

    18. Prada Candy – yeah, really, and there’s a reason for it. Addictive, classic and fun!

In contrast, the top best-sellers in France for the same year (2011) are:

  • Chanel No. 5 EDP – iconic decades-old perfume that has topped the best-seller list for most of those decades.

  • Dior J’Adore – now overtaking Chanel no. 5 J'Adoreworldwide, J’Adore is a fresh green floral that is wonderful to wear

  • Thierry Mugler Angel – Every street in Paris wafts this scent

  • Chanel Coco Mademoiselle – a rich oriental withCoco Mad. amazing sillage

  • Kenzo Flower – a soft floral oriental

  • Guerlain Shalimar EDP – vanilla oriental from a rich and storied house

  • Lolita Lempicka – one of Angel’s softer, gentler children, a woody gourmand

  • Christian Dior Miss Dior Cherie – sophisticated, but slight gourmand leaning with popcorn and strawberry (in the older versions, not the newest version – this one is the older formulation)

  • Nina Ricci Nina – (the old one, the original, the best, not that new thing)

  • Yves Saint Laurent Paris – violet, rose, romantic

  • Yves Saint Laurent Opium – a spicy oriental that defines that classification

  • JPG

    JPG Classique

    images (8)Jean Paul Gaultier Classique – could be the bottle?  Naw, this is a scent you don’t forget

  • Lancome Tresor EDP – peach, rose, iris and violet, a perennial favorite

  • Thierry Mugler Alien – Not loved so much in the U.S., but this odd Mugler fragrance is a big hit in France.

  • Nina Ricci L’air du Temps – a spicy floral that has endured a long test of time

  • Clinique Aromatics Elixir – a classic chypre that never goes out of style.

  • Lancome Cuir de Lancome – classic citrus and orange blossom fragrance with an amber base.

When I was growing up in France, the predominant trend was for chypres, then perhaps for orientals. Now, it seems that orientals have, for the most part, supplanted the classic. Scent Bound noted that, upon a trip to Paris last year, the majority of men seemed to be wearing sweeter, woody-oriental fragrances. I thought that was a definite change from the beloved classiques they used to wear and which were predominantly in the fougère or citrus aromatic categories. He noted that, in his country, the predominant perfume group is acquatics. (Remind me not to visit!)

Which turned the conversation around to what would be on the MEN’S list of best-sellers for 2011 or 2012? What do you think they would be and how would they differ from country to country? Scent Bound had these choices for his Top 3 in the US and in France:

North America Top Fragrance List:

1. Armani Acqua di Gio
2. Chanel Bleu de Chanel
3. D&G Light Blue Homme

France Top Fragrance List:

1. Dior Homme Intense
2. YSL Le Male
3. Terre D’Hermes

I completely agree with his list for the top North American best-sellers. However, I’m not so sure about his French list. For one thing, I think that Terre d’Hermès would be higher. Also, would the top YSL entry really be Le Male, as opposed to its L’Homme or La Nuit de L’Homme? More to the point, the list doesn’t include that infernal bête noire of mine, Acqua di Gio. That revolting thing is too much of a global best-seller not to be a serious contender for one of the top spots. (Even my best friend in Denmark wore it, much to my horror, until my pleas for a change finally took effect.)

Since Google is my friend, I decided to see if I could find the list — for 2011 or even this year to date — of most popular men’s fragrances in any country. Almost immediately, I came upon a fascinating New York Times article on the revival of the 20SKIN1-articleLargeclassics for men. (And, its main photo featured, in part, the Monsieur de Givenchy that I wrote about just the other day!)

Entitled “That Man Smells Familiar,” the article noted that “[i]n Europe, the classics still sell as if it’s 1969; last year Eau Sauvage was the third best-selling men’s fragrance in France, according to the NDP Group, a market research company that tracks sales in department stores.”

Is it the Mad Men effect, or are the fragrances simply benchmarks? The blogging world seems obsessed with the latest niche fragrances, and I sometimes get the impression that there is snobbish disdain for those who express interest in or write about the classics. It’s not hip, it’s not avant-garde or trendy, and it reeks of the old-fashioned (and possibly, in their mind, the insufficiently educated?). Whatever the reason, the experts don’t agree with that modern dismissal of the classic legends. Whether it’s Luca Turin or the founder of Basenotes, Grant Osborne, they both share a reverence for the old-timers. As the New York Times article put it:

Their names evoke two-button Botany 500 suits and martinis sipped in a 707’s front cabin: Eau Sauvage, Habit Rouge, Pour Monsieur. And although sales are a fraction of the overall market for fine men’s fragrances in the United States, experts in the field acknowledge their lasting relevance. “They’re like benchmarks — anything that comes after is almost always a direct descendant,” said Grant Osborne, founder and editor of Basenotes, a Web site for perfume enthusiasts.

Chanel Pour Monsieur, introduced in 1955, “should by all rights be sitting under a triple-glass bell jar next to the meter and kilogram at the Pavillon de Breteuil as the reference masculine fragrance,” wrote Luca Turin, the biophysicist and olfactory scholar and an author of“Perfumes: The Guide” (Viking, 2008). Christian Dior’s Eau Sauvage, introduced in 1966, revolutionized the men’s category as the first perfume to make heavy use ofhedione, a synthetic analog of jasmine; Guerlain Vetiver, based on the aromatic grass and introduced in 1961 after similar scents by Givenchy (1959) and Carven (1957), continues to beget modern iterations like Grey Vetiver, by Tom Ford. These classic men’s fragrances “left very long-lasting impacts on how people develop perfumes,” said Eddie Roschi, a founder of Le Labo artisanal perfumery in New York.

While Old Spice and Brut are still enormous (enormous!) sellers, the young aren’t buying the “Old is Good” line. Not one bit. “[F]or a generation raised on CK Be and body sprays like Axe, retro scents aren’t necessarily an easy sell.” (See, NYT article.) In fact, one Beverly Hills retailer of vintage fragrances flat out admitted that Chanel’s Pour Homme would not sell well among the young today: “If you introduced this today and it did not have the Chanel brand recognition, I don’t think it would do well.” Why? “You smell it and just know: this is an old fragrance.” (Id.)

The NY Times answered my question as to what was bound to be the top male fragrance in France. As I guessed when talking to Scent Bound, it is indeed that blasted, infernal pestilence known as Acqua di Gio. The article discussed the scent, but also provided some other very interesting tidbits about perfume trends, popular fragrance categories, and why the top sellers remain so constant year after year:

Epitomizing the new is Acqua di Gio, introduced by Giorgio Armani in 1996 and the No. 1-selling fine men’s Acqua di Giofragrance for the past 10 years, according to the NDP Group. Acqua di Gio popularized the light, quiescent “aquatic” accord that dominates men’s fragrances today and has inspired countless imitators — “a slew of apologetic, bloodless, gray, whippetlike, shivering little things that are probably impossible, and certainly pointless, to tell apart,” Mr. Turin said.

Compared to the breezy aquatics, certainly, the classic ’60s scents — with their base notes of musk, oak moss, sandalwood and leather — can seem leaden, especially to younger noses. Nevertheless, sweet, unisex aquatics are ceding market share to scents redolent of woods and spices. Of the top four men’s fragrances introduced in 2010, “two were woods, one was a woody oriental and only one was a water,” said Karen Grant, a beauty industry analyst with the NDP Group.

The introduction last year of Bleu de Chanel, which Bleudespite its sport-aquatic-sounding name is considered a woody aromatic, was a sign that the pendulum is swinging toward earthier accords; it became the No. 3 best-selling men’s scent in the United States.

Men are far more brand-loyal than women when it comes to fragrance, Ms. Grant said, “which is why when something becomes a top scent it continues to be a top scent — it’s hard to break into that ranking.”

I’m not an expert in men’s fragrances, despite wearing them frequently, so I’m curious to know your thoughts. What do you think are the Top 10 or Top 5 lists for men, in your country, in US/North American, in France or elsewhere? What about for women?

I would love to learn about the best-sellers in all countries and for BOTH genders,  so please don’t hesitate to chime in regardless of where you live.

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20 thoughts on “Cultural Differences in Perfume Tastes & the Revival of the Classics for Men

  1. I have to imagine Armani Code would probably be up there as well, at least in the States. Maybe Obsession? I know it’s had its day, but I think it might still be sort of popular. It seems pretty popular. Here in DC, I really don’t notice a large amount of scent-wearing so it’s hard for me to say what I think would make the list. I’ve never smelled Bleu, but it’s not surprising it’s on the list because it’s very widely available – more so than other Chanels. I can easily find it at discounted retailers online and in department stores, which is not the case for Antaeus or Egoiste.

    I found this to be interesting “Men are far more brand-loyal than women when it comes to fragrance.” Granted, I’m not a marketing expert, but I think by and large men are *less* brand loyal than women. Fragrance may be the exception, but I also think a lot of men are gifted fragrance by women, rather than buying it on their own (although obviously many men, myself included, buy their own stuff). So they tend to buy 1) what they know he will wear or 2) what they like to smell on him. Again, that’s totally unscientific, but I think it’s more complex than men simply having brand loyalty.

    • I’ll have to ask one of my old Brown friends who is a marketing guru about the “men are more brand loyal” comment because that statement caught my eye too. (He’s away in Burma now, so you’ll have to remind me.) I suspect that you’re right about the situation being far more complicated when it comes to a product like perfume.

      Re. Popularity: I have to think Burberry must be somewhere on the Top 10 List, esp. for men. And I have to wonder about either Spicebomb from Viktor & Rolf or D&G’s The One for Men. Obsession has definitely had its time in the sun, so it would be interesting to know how much of a hold it still has on the market. As the article’s comments about things like Brut and Old Spice demonstrate, “old” doesn’t necessarily equal “no sales,” particularly when places like Walmart or CVS carry it. What does Armani Code smell like?

      • LOL. I couldn’t tell you what it smells like, but I see ads for it all the time and it’s sold just about everywhere! I also think I often see it on sites as one of the top sellers. Actually, that may be a good way to see what’s popular – going to main perfume retailers (Macys, Perfumania, Amazon, FragranceNet, Nordstrom, etc., and then filtering by category and sorting by bestsellers!). Of course, you’ll only know what’s popular by retailer, but I have to imagine there would be a lot of overlap. I didn’t know Spicebomb was popular (I’ve never smelled that either), but the packaging is certainly memorable! Anyway, I’m off to do some searches on popularity of scents. Heh.

        • I like Spicebomb. It reminds me a lot of D&G’s The One for Men. My brief testing of it showed a definite overlap but that the Spicebomb had greater longevity. It’s a very nice unisex male cologne, I think, as commercial scents go. In contrast, my dislike of his women’s Flowerbomb knows no limits….. *shudder*

  2. P.S. This may also give some insight. It’s “the Oscars for fragrance” – http://fragrance.org/fifi-awards-winners.php?year=2012. You can look at what won in different categories each year, as well as the “Hall of Fame,” which seems to be scents that have made their mark, popularity wise. You know, maybe you’re right that Obsession had it’s moment, but I think other CK scents like One and Eternity may be quite popular. Eternity especially. But I might confuse popularity for what I see advertised most. 🙂

    • I’ve always been highly skeptical about the FiFi awards. I don’t know how exactly they reach their conclusions and I don’t trust the opinions of celebrities, one of the groups that they mention assist in compiling the nominations. Plus, ANY list that has a Justin Beiber perfume under the “Luxe for Women” category has to be taken as ludicrous.

      You raise an interesting point about popularity and advertising. I don’t think you’re confusing the two at all. I have no doubt that they are one and the same for the average Joe/Mary. They see ads with Kiera Knightley or Charlize Theron on the television and think, those have to be the great, “in” thing. Since those two perfumes are precisely the ones most advertised for and are precisely the highest ones on the best-seller list, there has to be some sort of correlation! But can we really blame the average consumer? How can they know otherwise? It’s their main way of information (since most aren’t going to do research or read blogs) and it’s also the most available stuff out there.

      I forgot about Eternity. Yes, I’m sure that is a huge power-seller too.

      • I definitely think they are dubious as to how they are chosen, but popularity seems to be a huge driver, so I think it might give good insight on what the general public is consuming. Maybe. I also don’t know how many people have fragrance as a hobby. I guess (although maybe I’m wrong, since this is being pulled out of thin air) that a lot of people have one or maybe two fragrances they use and buy them over and over after they decide its “their” scent. Although maybe having many is more common than I think? Besides you, I’m the only person I know who has this many scents to choose from. What I really want to see are sales figures and charts of all of the different scents out there and trends over time. I’m sure that’s not readily available to the public, but it would be interesting to do some analysis of that nature, don’t you think?

        P.S. Yes, Flowerbomb sounds awful, given the reviews I’ve read. Or maybe not awful, but definitely not like something I’d like. Spicebomb definitely intrigued me and sounded good, I’m glad to hear you liked it. I was worried it would be sickeningly sweet like Flowerbomb seems to be, but it appears that’s not a problem! It’s not high on my priority list now, but I wouldn’t mind giving it a whirl.

        • No, you’re absolutely right: they do give insight into what the general public prefers! As for the number of fragrances, I think — though I have zero proof of this — that quantity depends on age. I’ve noticed that much older women seem to stick to one or two fragrances, while younger people do not. They not only are more likely to be aware of perfume decant sites, but they also use things like that Black Alchemy Phoenix Lab brand (or BPoL which was often discussed on CPMCofG and my mind always translates into Bhopal, the site of the nuclear meltdown…..). The prices and vast number of affordable BPOL scents/oils makes it more likely that people are going to try a variety or range of things. And that starts the slippery slope into perfume addiction…. 😉

          I’d love to sales charts for diff. brands/scents and how they may have changed over time. I think that would be fascinating, esp. from a sociological point of view. If I wasn’t about to write a review for Serge Lutens Serge Noire right now, I’d do it this instant. Perhaps later, because it definitely would be quite revealing.

          • I get the feeling a lot of places are probably quite secretive about their sales figures! The data analysis dork in me wants to look at scent trends, notes, and reformulation dates and see how any of those factors impact sales. LOL, maybe we should be in marketing!

          • They do seem to be secretive about the breakdown. This is one thing I found about general, overall sales numbers from the big NPD group also referred to in the NY Times article: http://www.statisticbrain.com/perfume-industry-statistics/

            Perfume Industry Statistics Data
            Annual global perfume industry sales revenue $27.5 billion
            Annual US perfume industry sales revenue $5.2 billion
            Percent of American women who don’t use perfume 17 %
            Number of perfume brands carried by US department stores in 2002 756
            Number of perfume brands carried by US department stores in 2010 1,160
            Percent of fragrance market held by Coty Inc 13 %
            Percent of designer perfume brands priced at over $75 46 %
            Percent of celebrity perfume brands priced at over $75 1 %

            Another NY Times article that actually focuses just on NPD itself: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/20/business/20perfume.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 It has interesting overall numbers for perfume sales and their drop in certain years. A small part of that article:

            NPD receives its data free from retailers, which, in turn, benefit by getting back, again free, the compiled data from all of NPD’s retailer sources. The retailers, including Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Sephora, Dillard’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, are able to see how they compare with the overall market and their competitors.

            NPD covers 97 percent of the prestige fragrance market, and it sells that data to perfume brands and scent producers.

            Moreover, NPD essentially has no competitors. The Kline Report and Nielsen offer figures, but they are less detailed. Euromonitor International gives broad trend analyses, with data once a year.

            NPD’s basic product is known in the industry as “the list,” the best sellers listed from No. 1 to 100. The company breaks the list down into components, each with different prices, so clients can pick how much detail they want and at what cost.

          • Found another interesting article from 2010 talking about the impact of the recession on both sales and the types of things being manufactured. It also lists global sales figures by market/country:
            http://www.cosmeticsbusiness.com/technical/article_page/Fragrance_-_safety_in_numbers/57497

            For many big fragrance brands however, the risks associated with being daring have been just too great and those that have launched new scents have stuck to a fail-safe marketing tool – the flanker.

            “Launch activity has mostly been about flankers,” explains Vivienne Rudd, senior European beauty analyst, Mintel. “Brands are looking for safe returns and this route maximises your investment with relatively low risk. Standalone activity has been restricted to the higher end of the market which has not been so affected by the recession.”

            Flankers are less expensive and risky than launching a totally new fragrance, agrees Bru but the return on investment is shorter: “All brands need it. It is a way to take more space on the retailers’ shelves. Of course they know the best investment is to launch a big fragrance but you need to do both.”

            Hill believes the investment in big fragrances needed to complement flanker launches will not materialise in quite the same way in future. “The days of the blockbuster scent are gone so what we are seeing instead are smaller, more frequent launches, especially in the mid market which has experienced some difficulties due to the recession.”

            Table 1: Fragrance market sizes by region, 2009 (US$m)
            2009 ±%
            World 36629.5 3.8
            Asia Pacific 2468.9 3.8
            Australasia 486.3 1.9
            Eastern Europe 3536.8 3.3
            Latin America 8531.2 15.8
            Middle East & Africa 2652.3 13.8
            North America 5866.4 -5.9
            Western Europe 13087.5 -0.1
            Source: Euromonitor International

            Table 2: Fragrance market sizes by country, 2009 (US$m)
            2009 ±%
            Russia 1790.9 4.9
            Brazil 4812.5 16.7
            China 511.3 9.2
            India 117.5 16.5
            US 5294.7 -6.5
            France 2504.7 -1.4
            Germany 2531.7 0.8
            Italy 1406.9 -1.2
            Spain 1780.8 -3.5
            UK 1492.6 3.2
            Source: Euromonitor International

            The focus for many brands has been their pillar lines, putting a new twist on an old favourite. “Over the past year many brands have gone back and revisited their pillar lines creating new versions,” Fredrik Johansson, fragrance training manager, Kenneth Green Associates tells SPC. “When times are tough in the economy people buy names they know and associate with quality hence many brands refocusing on pillar lines with new interpretations,”

            Taking its lead from the catwalks, the latest batch of flanker launches has been heavily influenced by the 1970s and 80s. YSL Beauté reworked its classic Opium fragrance to create Belle D’Opium, described as a ‘new generation Opium’, rather than a flanker. The ambery signature of the original has been played down by perfumers Honorine Blanc and Alberto Morillas and instead combines notes of Casablanca lily, sandalwood, gardenia, white pepper, jasmine and a narguile accord, which adds a smoky element.

            Similarly, Guerlain’s in-house nose Thierry Wasser has turned his attention to the brand’s classic Shalimar scent, creating the limited edition Ode à la Vanille. The fragrance blends two vanilla accords – one from Mayotte, which adds a light transparency to the scent, and the heavier, more powerful Madagascar absolute, which creates a heady base. The bottle has been reworked by English designer Jade Jagger and features a fan stopper chiselled to resemble a precious stone.

            And Lancôme debuted Trésor In Love, billed as a fresher and younger interpretation of the iconic Trésor fragrance. Notes of bergamot, peach, nectarine, pear, rose, jasmine, violet, woods and cedar help create the younger feel.

            The retro trend has also influenced some of the few standalone fragrances that have launched over the past year.

            Chloé’s much-anticipated Love is a deliberate nod to vintage and its powdery scent is a blend of heliotrope and iris, said to reproduce the smell of vintage rice powder. The bottle too has a strong vintage feel, with a gold cap and chain, while the advertising features model Raquel Zimmermann adorned in Chloé’s signature silk trouser suit in this season’s it colour, and 70s staple, camel.

            “There has been a retro feel in the choice of notes, the packaging and the overall imagery,” says Rudd.

          • Fascinating! I’m equally perplexed by advertising in perfume. For example, did Chanel No. 5 really need a 3-minute long, $40 million dollar commercial where Nicole Kidman got paid $12 million? I mean, don’t get me wrong – I’d take the money too! But it seems like a waste of Chanel’s money to pump that much money into a fragrance which, among ALL fragrances, have enough name recognition to go on to last it several lifetimes. I guess I would just find it surprising if they derived $42,000,000.01 worth of profit stemming from that commercial. But I guess it must be worth it, or else surely they wouldn’t spend that kind of money. I’m rambling, but I find it confusing.

          • Wait, WHAT???!?!?! $40 million?!!! *faints* And the $12 million was part of that or on top of that?? I’m….. stunned. I think I need to process these numbers. As you say, of all things, Chanel No. 5 does not need the name recognition, nor the market boost — no matter how much Acqua di Gio, Angel, Flowerbomb and J’Adore may have cut a bit into its stranglehold on sales to women.

            $40 million…. wow. God only knows how much the 2 (3?) new Chanel No. 5 ads featuring Brad Pitt cost. I don’t think I want to even look it up! The cost — with inflation — must be even more.

          • It was part of that, but still. Most full-length, feature films don’t even have that kind of budget. Hell, $12 million would be a lot for a 3 minute film alone! I wonder how much Brad Pitt’s cost. I don’t think it had a huge director (or at least I don’t remember it being in the news as much as the fact that Pitt was selling No. 5), but Nicole Kidman’s had Baz Luhrmann, so it was both tacky and overpriced to boot. 🙂 That said, I’m sure Pitt commanded a huge price for his appearance in the commercial. Damn, must be nice! I’ll see whatever they want for a fraction of that price – I’m not proud! 🙂

  3. Excellent post and discussion. When we chatted about fragrance preferences in North America and France, we reached the general conclusion that the preference in North America is for cleaner and lighter fragrances. What I wonder is what drives this preference? I did some research and found a research paper saying that in general North Americans are obsessed with cleanliness. Generally, smelling bad or unclean is a bad thing. This perception is apparently rooted in the Protestant values of the first generations on immigrants to North America. They believed that hard work, modesty and cleanliness are virtues that bring you closer to God. Therefore, if you smell clean, then you must be a virtuous person.

    This is just one opinion, however, the more I think about it, the more I find it to be true. I mean the part about the smelling clean obsession, not the virtues of the Protestants :). We generally associate strong unclean smells with something bad – rotting food, filth, dirt, etc. This is the reason why so many people don’t like blue cheese – they say it stinks (I don’t mind the smell but I do find it extremely salty).

    What are you observations? Would you agree that North Americans are obsessed with smelling clean?

    • You raise a fascinating point which I had not previously considered. Protestantism. Good on you, Scent Bound! (BTW, I hope it was okay to reference all your comments. I did so only because they were already public in this reply thread. But I made sure to link to your blog and, btw, I’ve linked to your post on Chanel No. 5 elsewhere on a super-huge, well-respected beauty blog that occasionally talks about perfume. Your post was so well-written and analysed that I want it to get the eyeballs that it deserves.)

      Going back to the cultural issues, I have no doubt the Protestant ethos underpinning some of this country’s early culture and mindset are a factor. So, yes, perhaps it is partially religious-based for the US, even though it’s in a more-ingrained form underlying things. That said, it doesn’t seem to apply so much to today’s world. Think about the modern culture of being so…. well, brash and brazen. The whole celebrity culture thing. The internet, the impact of the reality television world, Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton. They are the very furthest thing possible from the old Manifest Destiny, WASP world. So, how to explain that whole clean thing when so many of those influencing today’s culture are all about flaunting their personality in every way from clothing, to makeup, to comments to, undoubtedly, perfume. I mean, have you SMELLED Lady Gaga’s new perfume?!! (I have. I would never buy it.)

      Another but separate point, if you take Japan, for example, it’s got to be culture — pure and simple. A woman I know pointed out something that is frequently referred to with regard to Japan. It’s considered offensive and rude to leave a trail of scent behind you. Perfume should be quiet, subtle, light and demure. I’ve heard that often in the past and I think it’s true. It is definitely reflective of the more polite, reserved, understated Japanese culture as a whole.

  4. Thank you for sharing my comments, linking and reposting. It definitely helps raise awareness around the issues, so I don’t mind at all. That’s why it’s a public blog – to be read and shared by all, so I appreciate you sharing with more people.

    I wish I could claim credit for the protestant idea, haha. You are right, it may be becoming quickly dated as our culture has significantly changed over the centuries. Despite the cultural changes and currents though I still think that as a society we continue to hold the same core beliefs of hard work, honesty and cleanliness.

    Maybe another way to think of fragrances in the context of our society is by dividing them in two general categories: fragrances for everyday and fragrances for mating. I think the average person prefers light clean-smelling fragrances for everyday wear and something sweeter and heavier for night wear. You lay off the Acqua di Gio when you go to the club and put on Le Male. This gets you noticed and smelled from afar.

    I might be totally off on the last paragraph. I’m going with it off the cuff. It’s an interesting topic, nonetheless.

  5. I would argue that, for women, tastes in perfumes change as fashion changes. In the 80s, fashion was more glitz and flash- remember all those fabulous Nolan Miller outfits on Dynasty? The scents of the time suited that- Obsession, Poison and such. Now, that seems really overdone.Today great fashion isn’t necessarily knock-you-out glamour- it’s more focused on an easy look and people pick perfumes that complement that.

    Not to mention, scents like Obsession and Poison lingered- and not in a good way! I remember my 8th grade history teacher loved Poison, and she wore a lot of it. You could smell it coming down the hall to her room. In retrospect, I now realize why I was uncomfortable in her classroom- there was no escape from the scent!

    • Sweetpea! So lovely to see you. You know, I think you have raised a very good point. Dynasty, Nolan Miller and the accompanying scents of the ages. (Let’s not forget Giorgio in your list of powerhouse scents!) But if today’s fashion is a much easier, lower key and less POW look, shouldn’t the scents merely be less forceful as opposed to things as extreme as Clean Lather, Cotton T Shirt (replicating clothes out of a dryer a.k.a Bounce fabric sheets), or the sugar bombs and fruity patchoulis now dominating the sales charts? No, you definitely have a point, but I’m not sure I can figure out how it applies to ALL the American populars or why it wouldn’t apply at all to the French who are subject to the same fashions. It’s an interesting issue, how cultural differences shape one country as compared to another.

      You know Guerlain has a newish exclusive line that is all about 5 different cities with a perfume devoted to each one’s character. It’s instructive to compare the notes for Tokyo, let’s say, as compared to Shanghai versus London or New York. Moscow, too. One brief summary review of a few of them boiled it down as follows: Moscow was brisk air, Tokyo tender greens, and New York warm Christmas. So what does London smell like? Guerlain chose the flavour of English boiled sweets, acidulous and fruity, mixed with rhubarb and a grassy note of lawns, the latter inspired by London’s famous parks and tennis courts. You have to think that they were also aiming to appeal to the buyers in each market to some extent. It’s an extension, if you will, of what so many say about selling perfume to the Japanese. It can’t be overdone, loud, concentrated or extreme. So, again, what is the cultural thing driving these differences from country to country. It can’t all be fashion which is pretty uniform across the globe from decade to decade.

      Re. Poison, I HATED that scent when it first came out and still shy away due to my memories of it. Then, about 2 years ago, I smelled a friend’s Pure Poison ina white bottle and adored it. I usually don’t believe the “flankers” can improve on the original version but, in this case, the little sister was definitely better. And, yet, a guy told me just last month that the one scent that always seduced him (and still does) is Poison and that it was enough to make any woman who wore it alluring to him. I didn’t dare say a thing! LOL.

  6. Pingback: Perfume News: 2013 Fragrance Sales Figures, Revenue & Fragrance Markets | Kafkaesque

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