Man up in the perfume department girls – why masculine fragrances are for the fairer sex too. Plus the newest nude make-up in our look list.
Boyfriend dressing is having a moment: you know this from the oversized blazers, brogues and mannish tailoring cluttering up the shop rails. And boyfriend beauty is just as seductive a look – think smudgy lower lids, balmed lips and soft, sliced hair. But where you can really get in on the trend is with fragrance; sweet florals and opulent glamour bombs are giving way to grown-up colognes.
“Women are looking for more individual smells and aren’t scared by an ad campaign that shows a man,” says Mark Tranter, a fragrance buyer at Selfridges’ Oxford Street branch in London. “When Chanel used Brad Pitt to advertise No. 5, it opened the floodgates for consumers’ perception of who wears what.”
Victoria Beckham recently tweeted her love of Byredo 1996 Inez & Vinoodh, a new, gutsy, masculine scent of juniper berries and leather. Sting’s wife Trudie Styler apparently favours Pour Un Homme de Caron, a vanilla and lavender fragrance. The recently relaunched Atkinsons cologne brand says its British Bouquet for men (think saddle leather and amber) has had a rise in female customers, while Chanel’s Égoïste is back on counters across the UK, having been secretly stashed for years.
Men too have crossed these blurred lines: industry legend has it that Billy Idol wears Diptyque’s blackcurrant leaf and rose scent L’Ombre dans L’Eau, while Philippe Starck has said he favours the jasmine and gardenia headiness of Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps.
So why do some women want to smell more masculine these days? “There’s a lot of unspoken communication going on when we wear fragrance,” says Becki Houlston, a life coach. “With women’s increasing lifestyle demands and stress levels, it’s important that our scent – our primal communication outlet – is bold, controlled and confident.”
Geraldine Howard, the president and co-founder of Aromatherapy Associates, agrees. “The workplace can be a difficult environment for women to be judged as equals,” she says. “Wearing a more masculine scent can empower them and help the way they are perceived. Some
of the more traditionally male notes, such as bay, black pepper, frankincense and cedarwood, don’t just smell wonderful, they work psychologically on the emotions, providing strength, warmth, comfort and focus.”
Mark has an additional theory. “It may be to evoke memories of certain men,” he says. “We have one regular customer who originally bought Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb for her husband, but now regularly purchases it for herself as it reminds her of him.”
I recently found myself doused in a man’s scent for a mash-up of the above reasons. During a stressful few weeks of health problems, I stood deflated and teary in the bathroom, looking for something safe and calming to ground my tipping-point anxiety, and sprayed my husband’s Terre d’Hermès fragrance.
It worked. It was like he was right there, telling me everything would be all right, an olfactory holding hand. Compared with the fussy florals I was used to, it felt like swapping stilettos for a slick pair of Saint Laurent riding boots.
“There’s something very honest about a male fragrance,” says Alveena Butt, department manager in Selfridges’ fragrance hall and a longtime wearer of Creed Aventus for men. “What you smell in the bottle is what you wear all day. It doesn’t develop and change like a female fragrance, it sticks to its guns.”
Just like those balmed lips and undone hair, the point here is that masculine fragrances
‘MASCULINE SCENTS DON’T JUST SMELL WONDERFUL, THEY WORK ON THE EMOTIONS, PROVIDING STRENGTH’
aren’t butch: they’re quietly beautiful. So when you’re next searching for that elusive signature perfume, in this season of pretty powder-pink coats, lace trims, embellishment and full skirts, consider going with a seesaw scent. It’s time to man up.
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