SWEE T SMELL OF SUMMER
It’s all change as the success of unisex perfumes is modernising male fragrances
Take a look at some old photos and it soon becomes clear that although women’s fashions have changed with the passage of time, men’s clothes have largely remained the same. Give or take the odd collar or sleeve adjustment, guys have worn some form of basic shirt and trousers for decades. The same could be said of masculine fragrances: since the middle of the 20th century, they have rarely ventured away from the territory of classic woods and citruses. But there’s a whiff of change in the air as perfumers begin to reach for more conventionally feminine ingredients to include in their masculine compositions.
Veteran scent-maker Antoine Maisondieu, who has just composed Legend Night for Mont Blanc, states that as recently as the 1990s, a sweeter material such as vanilla would have been viewed as exclusively feminine. But now, “little by little, it’s moving towards men.” That’s why he’s given it pride of place in his Mont Blanc release. It also pops up in the new Colonia Vaniglia from Acqua Di Parma. And other ingredients that are creeping into the boys’ end of the olfactory spectrum include floral notes such as rose, jasmine and lilac, as well as the sweeter, more sensuous varieties of modern musks.
Grant Osborne, editor of the influential perfume website Basenotes, believes this shift has occurred because of the success of “exclusive” unisex collections from highend brands. “The rise in the popularity of non-gendered fragrances, particularly the Tom Ford Private Blends and Armani Privé, has given men ‘permission’ to wear scents with more ‘feminine’ notes,” he says.
Michael Donovan, founder of the new St Giles brand, agrees. “I think that men have become a lot more confident about wearing fragrance,” he explains, “and with this confidence comes experimentation. Combine this with the breakdown in gender stereotypes and the result is that modern masculinity refuses to be pigeonholed, and guys feel free to try something new – in this case ingredients traditionally favoured by women.”
This development can also be seen in the output of brands such as Bentley, Jaguar and Dunhill, which tend to use stereotypically masculine imagery in their advertising. “Perfume has been used by brands for ‘entry point’ marketing for around 100 years,” Donovan says. “These modern brands are doing the same – you might not be able to afford a Bentley car, but the fragrance is part of the brand identity and thus a part of the dream that is more accessible.”