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.”

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