dimanche 9 mai 2010

Masculine/ Feminine: The Gender of Scents, according to you



How does the “gender” of scent impact on gender identification? Dr. Avery Gilbert’s interview of Theresa White, author of the study “Perfume Masculinity/Femininity Affects Face Gender Judgments”, set me on a train of thought about masculine and feminine notes, just as I was myself writing a piece about my first experiment in olfactory gender-bending with Van Cleef and Arpels pour Homme.

Like most perfume lovers, I can fairly easily cross over to the other side of the aisle. Being a woman, I probably do it more readily, in the same way as women have been raiding male closets ever since the 20s: masculine/feminine codes are still easier to mix when you’re a woman, and it would really takes a lot more for to veer into socially challenging drag-king territory that it would for most men to break the codes, especially if they work/live in a fairly conservative environment.

However, there are certain notes that read as slightly too masculine on my own olfactory spectrum for me to wear them comfortably: most recently, I experienced this with L’Artisan’s Al Oudh, which I love but feel has an overly masculine drydown, and Guerlain’s Cologne du Parfumeur, with its aromatic facets. I’ll gladly wear Bandit which would be read as too butch by most mainstream consumers and a lot of hard-core perfume lovers, but I’m not sure I could pull off its descendent Aramis; I’m perfectly happy with Chanel’s Cuir de Russie, but I draw the line at Hermès’ Bel Ami, and so forth.

So now, my question is: how about you? Which notes do you perceive as too masculine to wear if you’re a woman, too feminine if you’re a man, outside of any social considerations? Where do you draw the line? What’s the ultimate gender-bender you can pull off?




To thank you for your answers, I’ll draw for 2 two-ml samples of Thierry Mugler’s Womanity, which you’ll be able to discover before anyone else!



Illustration: Andy Warhol's Self-portrait in drag (1981)


106 commentaires:

  1. I'm still too much the neophyte to discern which specific notes are too "masculine" for me, though certain compositions have struck me that way: Balsamo della Mecca or Vetiver Dance. Perhaps I just don't like too "dry" a scent?

    Your post makes me smile, though, as I remember several lesbian friends who back in the 80's resolutely picked all their scents from the men's counter. Even the "lipstick" lesbians didn't want to be caught wearing a "woman's" perfume-- not even something as powerful and non-froufrou as, say, Niki de St.Phalle. Most have lightened up since then, however!
    -- Gretchen

    PS: I hope Jicky will pick my name out of the hat.

    RépondreSupprimer
  2. Hello, D. As you know, I think about this a lot, as I am (I think) relatively fearless about reaching across the aisle. But then, I have to be, because most of what is available on the masculine side of the aisle is dead boring.

    Tuberose has been on my mind lately, as it is often a note that reads as very feminine to me. And I'm just not woman enough to pull off Fracas. Or Amarige. Or Ysatis. On the other hand, when the stranger facets of tuberose are brought out, I can get away with it, viz. Tubéreuse Criminelle, Carnal Flower, and (I'm happy to report) Nuit de Tubéreuse.

    Fragrances that come across as very "powdery" can be tricky too. Mimosa can often go in this direction, so that can be a difficult note for me to wear. On the other hand, when it comes to something like Une Fleur de Cassie, I just don't care. It's too fabulous not to wear.

    Jasmine and rose, though often thought of as very "feminine" from a Western perspective, feel more available to be because of more Eastern fragrance traditions, so I feel very comfortable with them.

    On the other hand, there are some masculine fragrances that just feel to stereotypically masculine for me. Many fougères feel very staid to me, and while I appreciate spicy aromatic leathers, Bel Ami feels too "big daddy" masculine for me. Even Derby, which I adore, is on the edge.

    RépondreSupprimer
  3. This is something I've thought a lot about recently, especially since I think gender distinctions in perfumery are actively harmful. They're just a marketing tool, and unfortunately a successful one at that. Personally, most of my favorite fragrances would be considered "feminine" (I'm male): Carnal Flower, Iris Poudre, Fleur de Cassie, Fleurs d'Oranger, No. 22, Rose Ikebana, A La Nuit.

    If you want to feel terrible about humanity, just spend 10 minutes reading the Basenotes reviews and forums, where dudes come out of the wordwork to proclaim that various fragrances are completely inappropriate for men (!!). That sort of macho garbage is a rot in the heart of perfumery.

    RépondreSupprimer
  4. Ce commentaire a été supprimé par l'auteur.

    RépondreSupprimer
  5. This conversation is one that's occurred on many occasions in my home; every new fragrance I bring in, regardless of the notes therein, is tested by myself and my husband (he's a good sport).
    We've found that we both prefer scents on what we would consider the masculine side of the spectrum--for us, this translates to fragrances that are dryer, earthier, darker, or greener. Of course, anyone here could probably list 100 distinctly feminine scents that fit the above description. However, as we're both somewhat new to "perfumistadom," these characterizations are made by sniffing classics (new or old) compared to modern department store fare.
    I guess I might draw the line, instead of at gender, at modern/popular perfumery, and classic/niche perfumery. I say this because, while Shalimar is exquisitely feminine, it smells fantastic on my husband--as do other feminines in our collection.
    (I had to remove my previous entry because of a spelling error--I just hate those!)

    RépondreSupprimer
  6. Oh, D, we are mucking about in the same water today...I read this interview, and decided to spend the day mulling it over before responding. Here are a few notes I know I'll be tackling:

    * This study was done with MALE subjects only. The author did not want to introduce the "noisy data set" women and their variable responses (due to hormonal cycles). Hmmm. There's dis-ambiguiating, and then there's paring to the point of "so now what?"

    * It would have been nice to make clear just what it was about each control scent that made it "feminine" or "masculine."

    * Cultural influences were discussed, but not fully spelled out. (I take it these were all Western males, perhaps all U.S. born/raised?) The comment about white florals not being seen as "masculine" in any culture? I have no data for that...but one doesn't have to go but next door to the rose to find a floral that morphs "gender" based on culture.

    Certainly a good launch for discussion, though.

    Comments about butch/femme lesbians are interesting--oh, I remember Aramis as a certain "marker"--but return the whole conversation to the realm of the ambiguous factor, no?

    The whole concept of trying to remain objective, stick to the data, isolate perceptions, etc., is one that remains fascinating to me. And is, I think, subject to a host of inclinations that deserve to be held up for discussion to see what might be revealed as "bias" in even the most focused, least "noisy" of investigations.

    RépondreSupprimer
  7. Ce commentaire a été supprimé par l'auteur.

    RépondreSupprimer
  8. Being a trans-female whose social circles consist of genetic women, trans-women, masculine and effeminate gay men, closeted bisexual men, heterosexual men, I'm experienced and educated with gender questions.
    When it comes to gender identity, nothing's black or white; there are lesbian women who are extremely feminine and married straight women who walk like men and never wear makeup, there are very masculine men who are totally submissive sexually and the other way round.

    I personally don't feel comfortable wearing androgyneous or masculine scents, I love anything that exudes femininity, elegance and character although I have been told by men that I have more personality than the average woman, so maybe I need to tone it down with girly fruity florals like Idylle instead of wearing Amouage Gold and Tubereuse Criminelle LOL.

    RépondreSupprimer
  9. I can't think of a note that I would consider too masculine off the top of my head so it's probably more about the composition/treatment for me too.

    I too love Bandit (wearing today) and a couple of days ago I wore Habit Rouge which felt great and perfectly comfortable. I've also worn things like Eau Sauvage, Chanel pour Monsieur, Terre d'Hermes and Guerlain Vetiver quite happily. Probably nothing particularly adventurous, I just don't let the labels dictate what I can/can't wear.

    I like it that many companies these days don't specify the intended gender on the bottle and let the perfumistas pick what they like.

    RépondreSupprimer
  10. I think, only a few of notes are definitely masculine or feminine. Quite feminine - candies, most sweet 'fruitchuli'.
    Quite masculine - strong carnation, camphor...

    RépondreSupprimer
  11. I love many men's cologne's, but don't wear them often - for some reason they start to grate on me after a while and I think to myself I smell much too masculine. I'm not sure which note bothers me, but some work and some don't! Please enter me in the draw.

    RépondreSupprimer
  12. Great discussion topic...

    It bothers me that I'm really very 'conventional' when it comes to categorising notes as too masculine - I find fougeres, traditional herbal cologne, and any of the typical 'sport' notes that are used for men's functional perfumery completely unwearable.

    It's very much an associative thing - notes and fragrances I regularly smell on men flag the man box in my head, and it feels weird to wear such scents, like having a strange guy hovering unpleasantly close. A similar logic applies to scents I associate with specific female friends; I rule them out because it feels like I'm being haunted by someone else.

    Luckily, though, there's a generous middle ground of notes I don't associate too strongly with any gender for them to put me off; for instance I'm happy to wear Dior Homme, Antaeus and Hammam Bouquet.

    RépondreSupprimer
  13. I love to experiment with some masculine classics- have nothing against wearing Eau Sauvage which was also mentioned above, Fleur du Male with very charming neroli note, or masculine version of Jungle, so gentle comparing to offensive, spicy counterpart.
    I do also adore leather, amber, often with hint of incense.

    However, I think that some notes are traditionally reserved for women as their (I know, bit cliche) "weapons of seduction"- heady jasmine, white flowers, mainly tuberose. Can not imagine man wearing some rose fragrances (except "masculine" roses, like Lyric, or Dark Rose).
    My husband wearing Paris, or Tresor? No, it would be way too much, even despite his confidence.
    But please enter me in the draw, so we could both play with Womanity. Enjoy your week and thank you for your posts!

    RépondreSupprimer
  14. Gretchen, I think the 80s were a period of strong gender divergence in fragrance, with the huge florals on the one hand and the start of fougères on steroids on the other hand. But there were still, as you say, a lot of distinctly non-frilly feminines at hand so that I guess your friends' choices were more dictated by ideology than actual olfactory qualities...

    RépondreSupprimer
  15. Jarvis, I think you put your finger on it -- it's all a matter of stereotypes. I've got issues with the stereotypical feminines AND masculines (and lately Derby *is* a little too masculine for me too). The quirky, idiosyncratic ones are the ones I fall for -- so glad you love Nuit de Tubéreuse. I find it straddles the divide quite well.

    RépondreSupprimer
  16. Lavender. For some reason it just seems to masculine, ina shaving cream kind of way, for me to wear. I do however have a bottle of L'Artisan Parfumeur L'Eau de Navigateur, which makes me think of pirates when I wear it.

    RépondreSupprimer
  17. Chuck, they're a marketing tool, and an efficient one: if your first experience of the mating dance is Axe on boys, Pink Sugar on girls (quickly read signs of masculinity/femininity for an ADD age), that's the imprint you're going to get.
    I'd love to smell your choices on you! When I lived with my ex, he'd let me experiment a lot on his skin and the results were always quite different than on mine, though I don't know if gender was the issue, or just the fact he was a redhead.

    RépondreSupprimer
  18. I try to experience each fragrance with an open mind-- notes that repeatedly smell "masculine" on me are patchouli and musk. Conversely, tuberose turns to rot every time, no matter the rest of the composition. I think it is less a case of masculine and feminine than skin chemistry. It is interesting to read how scents have been presented as masculine, feminine, and unisex throughout history.

    RépondreSupprimer
  19. Dee, you're entirely right about the classic/contemporary divide. Looking back at a chronology of launches up to 1990, I was once again stunned to see how many green, aromatic, or leather chypres were offered to women, for instance. The gender divide seems to have started in the 80s.
    If your husband smells stunning in Shalimar, you should both try Habit Rouge, its consort.

    RépondreSupprimer
  20. ScentScelf, not knowing Ms White's actual amount of culture in the realm of perfume, I also wondered about all those points you raised: the all-male panel, the characteristics that led to the choice of fragrances. Ok, so one had a male name and the other a female name (and a pink box), but what of the notes? And, of course, the statement about "light florals" not reading as male in "any culture" (hello? India? Well, perhaps not "light").
    I do wonder at the significance of the experiment, and hope that others of a similar type can be carried out taking into account more elements of the culture of scents.

    RépondreSupprimer
  21. Uella, that's why I spoke of a spectrum, and of my own individual spectrum, rather than of an actual gender divide. Our perception of the scents we feel we can inhabit is a function of where we place ourselves on that spectrum. I remember that when I was a teenager, I looked to perfumes to grant me some magical access to femininity. Wearing something that was for the boys was tremendously liberating. That's when I learned that femininity was an effect rather than an essence!

    RépondreSupprimer
  22. Abyss, all the scents you name have been happily filched by women ever since they came out: in fact, Eau Sauvage, despite being marketed to men, was THE big "unisex" success of the 60s. And of course, Habit Rouge is but Shalimar in riding pinks.
    I also prefer niche companies that don't gear their scents towards a given gender.

    RépondreSupprimer
  23. Tatyana, your remark about carnation makes me think of Floris Malmaison, which is in their masculine line. I was always surprised to think that such a powdery scent would be offered to men, but clearly, that wasn't the line of thought in the 19th century...

    RépondreSupprimer
  24. Chris, as Jarvis remarks above, I think it's the stereotypes that are grating. I personally detest to smell a classic fougère or an Axe-amber-woody on a guy: it's a form of redundance.

    RépondreSupprimer
  25. Parfymerad, this makes me think of the time I gave Ambroxan to smell to my group of 20-something female students at the London college of fashion. When I said: "doesn't that smell like about 75 guys you know?" they all rolled their eyes! Box definitely ticked.

    RépondreSupprimer
  26. Ela, funny you should mention Paris and Trésor: Sophia Grojsman, who composed both, is on the record as saying what characterized her scents is that they had "butt" and "cleavage"!
    I think it's really in the manner the notes are handled. For instance, the jasmine in The Different Company's Jasmin de Nuit is sufficiently spicy not to come off as a female weapon of mass seduction...

    RépondreSupprimer
  27. Krista, I kind of feel that way about lavender too, but then, I do wear Jicky, and Patou Moment Suprême, and Vero Profumo Kiki, so I guess it really depends on what it's set in. As I said, the cursor is set at different places for everyone.

    RépondreSupprimer
  28. Skrzypce, in fact, throughout most of history most notes were *not* ascribed a gender as far as I know. The divide started being drawn up when perfume became an industry: scents had to be marketed to men *or* women from the time they had specific names, bottles and a place on the counter.

    RépondreSupprimer
  29. The category that I most like to borrow from is the (green) chypre, but then that's probably cheating as those skew more masculine anyway, say Corps et Ames, Jean-Louis Scherrer and, lately, Cristalle Eau Verte and a scent by IM. Strangely, the two femme fumes that I do own are Prada (the original patchamber) and Eau des Merveilles, but that one is rather unisex. Oh and does Jasmine et Cigarette count as femme?

    I adore rose and leather. I'd happily wear Rossy de Palma Eau de Protection if I had some, and would give Bandit some serious wear should a bottle land from the sky. I would probably never feel quite comfortable in heavy-duty white florals, although I have worn Tubereuse Criminelle and felt no less a man for it, and the thing is, white florals aren't my thang anyway.

    RépondreSupprimer
  30. Dusan, you're right, the green chypres can't possibly count as very femme, which makes me think, as I said above somewhere, that up to the 80s the gender divide wasn't as sharply drawn as it's become in today's mainstream. It's interesting that the new Hermès Voyage is marketed without gender. In fact, very few JCEs are particularly butch or femme.
    And God know Middle-Eastern men have been rocking those roses for several centuries...

    RépondreSupprimer
  31. Great topic! I am a woman but do not feel comfortable in very sweet or girly scents. Hence, I am VERY grateful for the current abundance of basically unisex scents, and also enjoy some classic masculines. I'm very happy in Guerlain Vetiver (vintage or current), Caron Royal Bain de Champagne, AG Vetiver, many of the Frederic Malle scents, including Geranium pour Monsieur, and Etro scents that are basically unisex. I ADORE Balsamo della Mecca. Nonetheless, I think it is the mostly lighter masculines that I like. I wanted very much to wear Yohji Homme and PdN New York, but they are just a bit too solid, and truly qualify as handsome rather than beautiful, to my nose. And there are certainly some accords I find just too masculine - certain ways that lavender and heavy citrus are combined with some other things - I'm not sure what. ~~nozknoz

    RépondreSupprimer
  32. Aah, a favorite idea to ponder for me, since re-entering perfume mania...After poring over the blogs, and sending for countless samples (Australia!), one of the first issues I had was "huh", this is so...masculine. All the Tauers, all the ambers, even orange blossom, the new musks, lavender..whatever set my scent associations over the years put me firmly in the girly-girl camp!
    Yet as a teenager I loved Dana Ambush because I thought it the feminine Brut, and I bought a bottle of Fahrenheit when it first came out for myself a couple of decades ago (but I think I retired it to a guy not long after).
    I am still finding it fascinating that some perfumers seem to put a masculine spin on their compositions, apart form Tauer, I find all the Perfume de Empires masculine for instance.
    Than there is incense and oud. More masculine notes to me! I have come around (a bit) to amber however (will probably get Ambre Sultan this winter!). But anything green I find very feminine, apparently "Let Me Play the Lion" was pitched as a masculine but for a long time I found it the most feminine of the dusty woodys - now I see it has a green note.
    Tuberose is the beginning, middle, and end of feminine to me! I would say vanilla, too, although the Le Labo Vanilla I got a couple of days ago is definitely on the masculine side...they are another firm who tend to put a masculine edge to things to my nose!
    But I am getting a lot less gender biased as I smell more and more.

    RépondreSupprimer
  33. I think that I could wear almost every masculine fragrance out there, as long as they are woody and spicy. In fact, I feel that mainstream and comercial scents aimed at men are generally better than femenine ones.

    However, I don't feel comfortable wearing acquatic masculine fragrances like Azzaro Chrome or some fougères like the classic Paco Rabanne (green bottle). I couldn't say which are the notes I feel too much masculine, but all these scents usually have a smell I call "roasted bread and alcohol", don't ask me why. I find that smell in many acquatic-fougère-aromatic fragrances in comercial lines.

    On the other hand, I like to wear citrus-aromatics like Eau Sauvage, woody musks like Dior Homme, oriental spicies like Burberry London...

    PD: Thank you for the draw!

    RépondreSupprimer
  34. I love gender-bending! I love and wear Le 3ieme Homme, Pour Un Homme (true love that one!), Hanae Mori HM, Eau Sauvage, I even sometimes wear Yatagan.

    But then I adore Bandit and consider it a comfort scent, to me it isn't difficult in the least. :)

    RépondreSupprimer
  35. Oh and I almost forgot! Ack! I adore Equipage by Hermes. I strongly recommend this to women who like leather notes but don't think they can do a full-on masculine. It's leather and honey on my skin, with some aromatic spices. Yummy!

    RépondreSupprimer
  36. Lavender for me, too. It's that fougere thing, and I just don't like it and I smell wrong to myself when I wear it. Vetiver is tricky, too, but strong lavender's a deal-breaker for me. I went to college in the 80's. I smelled a LOT of bad fougeres.

    I love Bulgari Black, although I have to be in just the right mood to wear it. I wear Derby sometimes, that's probably the outside limit of my frag drag, and I don't do it very often. I agree with Norma on Equipage although I've never worn it. I'd like to try, though.

    As for too feminine? I think we know that as far as I'm concerned there's no such thing. Bring on the 40-foot tuberoses and jasmines!!!

    RépondreSupprimer
  37. Hmm, I guess I have to confess: I don't think I own any masculines. I own maybe a few unisex perfumes (Iris Silver Mist count? :o )but during the summer, I frequently apply classic Guerlains (Shalimar to the beach? I think yes.). When my mother discovered a treasure trove of her old Nahema PdT (1986) I snapped it up eagerly.

    I think the only real note that I've had trouble with is tuberose. Given, I haven't experienced every one of note, only Fracas and TC. I'm not sure if it's the note or the fragrances I've tried, though. Fracas smells too much like buttered popcorn jelly beans but TC is brilliant until all the menthol disappears and it just falls off a cliff.

    On the other side, I do think I avoid most masculines because of the stereotypes. Though, on some level, I find even great masculines personally unwearable. I wonder why that is. :P

    RépondreSupprimer
  38. I slide happily all over the spectrum, sometimes completely unaware of others' perceptions, sometimes enjoying the access to different modes and attitudes, but I have trouble at the extremes of both ends. I have grown to adore big florals, though they scared me at first, but still can't do what Marina on PST calls "pin-up roses"--those powdery rose-violet scents. But then, I never did like pastels.

    On the other side, there is a note, and I'm sure it's a particular chemical, like Ambroxan (but I don't think it's that) that just says "boy, boy, boy, boy" over and over again, in a boring monotone. I don't mind a bit of that in the beginning, but I need a change after the first fifteen minutes or he's out! I seem to recall getting it in Acqua di Parma, after the first hit of citrus...

    RépondreSupprimer
  39. To me the key to a possible answer lies in the dawn of modern perfumery: as you are aware of Guerlain Jicky was first pitched to men and later became a hit when women identified with the scent. So with this in mind I am quite liberal: Fracas or L'Heure Bleue (parfum no less) are actually pretty regular choices for one reason or another--in fact wearing L'Heure Bleue is the best cure to my imsonia (no offense to the venerable house). When I'm obliged to behave a certain fashion however it becomes a little tricky: my father grew up in a generation which all fragrances, with the possiblity of exception of Old Spice, is for women--Allure Homme would be the furthest he could nudge. So even Dior Homme or Eau Sauvage are not safe options: and I've been called upon to defend my scent choices when I am with my parents. With this being said my body chemistry plays a huge role...take the Chanel scents, for instance: I cannot pull off Cuir de Russie or Bois des Iles but No. 19 (parfum), the original Cristalle and No. 5 Eau Premiere work like a charm. (With the recent Les Exclusifs however they are still by and large undecided for me: today I retried 28 La Pausa and No. 18 on my skin and both work very well with excellent longevity, for instance.) And because it's so case by case I have really tossed out labels long ago and simply call the majority of fragrances as 'versatiles'...

    RépondreSupprimer
  40. After the first year or so in appreciating this hobby, all gender-barriers vanished for me. I tend to wear fragrances lightly, and once I noticed that practically no-one noticed I was wearing fragrance at all, it became moot point. That being said, even if everyone smelled it on me, I have no problems wearing brash florals like Fracas, Carnal Flower, or Tuberuse Criminelle ( all favorites, particularly the latter ).

    I've found people outside of the online fragrance community ( where it's a sordid and heated topic of frequent debate, albeit mostly among guys ) to be either oblivious or apathetic to gender in fragrances.

    On a personal note - I'm a guy, but far and away my favorite category are florals, so I own many more women's frags than men's. It's not intentional, it's just how it's worked out given my preferences. I don't care what it's called, just that it smells good to me!

    RépondreSupprimer
  41. Nozknoz, interestingly, lavender (and hence fougères) is shaping up to be at the far end of the masculine olfactory spectrum for many women, a clear-cut cultural perception, perhaps because fougères are more commonly worn by "mainstream" men than, say, vetiver.

    RépondreSupprimer
  42. Winn, I see exactly what you mean about the Tauers and Parfums d'Empire. For Andy I think it's that amber base he uses a lot: I don't perceive as masculine but I just can't appropriate it. For Marc-Antoine Corticchiato there's a kind of heroic scale in intensity -- even his Trois Fleurs comes off like the Three Tenors for me.
    And I see that clearly, tuberose is coming out at the far end of the feminine spectrum, judging from most responses.

    RépondreSupprimer
  43. Isa, I'm with you on fougères and aquatics: they just "read" masculine out of sheer conditioned reflex, I think!

    RépondreSupprimer
  44. Norma, as I said above, Eau Sauvage was, I believe, the first great "unisex" success of modern perfumery, but I would imagine that with all that vanilla, Pour un Homme has probably been filched by women since the 30s...

    RépondreSupprimer
  45. StyleSpy, I'm probably on the same spectrum as you are, apart from the fact that I do lavender in Jicky, Moment Suprême and Vero Kern's Kiki. Fougères: wouldn't go near them (or the guy would have to be very attractive indeed). Giant florals: bring'em on.

    RépondreSupprimer
  46. Eric, as I said above, tuberose in general, and Fracas in particular, is shaping up to be perceived as so feminine but most people here it's practically wearing girl drag. That said, L'Artisan's new Nuit de Tubéreuse is a version I think a lot of people will consider less outrageously feminine, have you had a chance to smell it?

    RépondreSupprimer
  47. Alyssa, I'm not big on the rose-violets either though I own Lipstick Rose (it gets worn a few times a year with a specific fuchsia cashmere sweater). I wonder what that material is that you read as "male"? Probably something that's been overdone in mainstream masculines. I'll have a sniff at the AdP...

    RépondreSupprimer
  48. Albert, the social (and in this case: parental/paternal) perception of what is appropriate for a man certainly limits male olfactory experiments. I've only personally heard of one case on the female side: a young woman I know has been asked to stop wearing Fahrenheit by her fiancé, who finds it disturbing that she's wearing a masculine.
    And lucky you for 28 La Pausa, on me it disappears within the hour...

    RépondreSupprimer
  49. Galamb borong, I think you're right that most people don't even actually perceive fragrance if worn lightly, especially if it doesn't actually "read" as stereotypical fragrance. I only ever get comments on the big florals, because they're very diffusive and they are perceived as "smelling pretty" and thus as perfume.

    As for the online debate, well, I think fear of appearing effeminate is much stronger in men (even gay men) than fear of appearing too masculine amongst women, for historical/sociological/psychological reasons that would be too long to develop here. Glad to see men breaking out of that: there can never be too many pleasures in the world, no reason to limit olfactory enjoyment!

    RépondreSupprimer
  50. Like Abyss, I can't think of any one note that is solely masculine to me, but think it's rather a matter of the composition as a whole that deems a fragrance more masculine than feminine. The only types of scents that are across the board too masculine for me are (as Ina mentioned) the acquatic men's scents, aka "sporty." But I'm not sure whether that's because they really are too manly, or I just hate those sporty scents and therefore think they're too manly. I like quite a lot of men's and masculine unisex frags- Hermes Equipage and Terre d'Hermes, Annick Goutal Duel, Ormonde Man, Tauer L'Air du Desert Morocain, Dior Eau Sauvage, Ineke Field Notes From Paris, and Monsieur Balmain, just to name a few- and I think that's because lots of the notes I enjoy most like amber, incense, leather, and citrus, are typically thought of as masculine. My latest purchase was actually the unisex Mugler Cologne, so I would love to try Womanity and see how it compares!

    RépondreSupprimer
  51. This is an interesting subject. Realising I could "cross the aisle" was my first step into the world of perfumes beyond designer fragrances. I found that I was drawn to stereotypically masculine notes like leather, tar, herbs etc. and I didn't think I'd ever find a fragrance that I wouldn't wear because of it's "gender".

    Bel Ami was the first one to prove me wrong. It's beautiful but I could never wear it, I feel like I'm wearing a trenchcoat 3 sizes too large and (leather) clown shoes. Olivier Durbano Black Tourmaline and Tauer Lonestar Memories I have yet to give second tries, but they both fell in the same category the first time. Vie de Chateau by Parfums de Nicolaï surprised me by being very masculine to my nose, but on the right day I can pull it off, and I love it a lot those days.

    RépondreSupprimer
  52. Hi Denyse! I also do not know the "notes" that are determined as "masculine" but I can identify them on myself when they're heading in that direction.

    Just tried L'Eau Mixte from Parfums de Nicolai (won in the previous draw - thanks, D!), and it swings masculine to me. But what is the note that does it? I have no idea! L'Artisan's The Pour Un Ete had a similar effect, as did TM's Cologne, and Cartier's Eau.

    I love Eau de Rochas, Sinfonia di Note's Saveur d'Artichaut, and Jicky, which all may read a bit masculine/unisex to some. Most of my bottles read feminine, however. I would not place myself in the unisex camp...and never wear expressly "masculine" fragrances.

    RépondreSupprimer
  53. As a woman, I have difficulties with most masculines (except Eau Sauvage) and quite a few fragrances that are either labeled "unisex" or not labeled at all. The killer accord seems to be "shaving cream" for me - anything that smells even vaguely fougerelike is definitively off my list. Lavender and orange blossom, as well as traditional colognes, can be problematic for me as well, though I can wear leather, amber, and woods well. I'm sure this is cultural, since I came of age in the 80's, when my dad was wearing Old Spice, my boyfriend was wearing Stetson, and every other guy I knew was wearing Drakkar Noir or Brut. I feel odd wearing something that screams, "GUY!!" - it's a bit like wearing men's underwear when your body shape doesn't agree.

    It's rare for me to find a fragrance that reads too femme for me. (I frequently find mainstream things too young or too ditzy for my personal taste, but not too feminine.) Girlish roses? Powdery scents, aldehydes, green florals? Come to mama. Big sultry white florals? Bring 'em on.

    But I also love scents that seem to sit in the middle: Alahine, Tabac Aurea, Bulgari Black, Gres Cabaret. And it seems that I enjoy smelling florals on men. I'm happy for men to borrow from the women's aisle, and vice versa. I'm just not all that comfortable doing it myself.

    RépondreSupprimer
  54. I'm still a neophyte in the gender-bender 'fume world, but I can think of two traditionally "masculine" scents right off the top of my head that I'd gladly wear any day, any time - Eau Sauvage and Guerlain's (vintage) Vetiver. I've always gravitated toward the green end of the spectrum in my own feminine choices - No. 19, Ivoire, and virtually anything containing galbanum. I'm a sucker for galbanum.

    These days, I'm getting more courageous. A bottle of Mecca Balsam is on its way, and never mind what anyone thinks, it's gorgeous - and Dior Homme, which to my sick and perverted mind is practically flawless, if not nearly edible. I also, somewhat to my own surprise, have developed a taste for Fleur du Male.

    As for that other continental divide - I've known men who have loved to wear no. 5 and no. 19 in parfum, and one old friend who swears by Jicky, the first true perfume I ever owned. On him, it's glorious and very much a lavender-bergamot beast, whereas on me it veers towards naughty and subversive.

    Which is precisely how I feel wearing - Dior Homme. Watch out, world!

    RépondreSupprimer
  55. I have a hard time with cedar , but there are exceptions...Andy Tauer for instance .
    I absolutely cannot wear vetiver , it makes my stomach turn .
    Otherwise , if I like it I wear it , gender be damned !!

    RépondreSupprimer
  56. Surely at a certain point, we all divide our fragrances into two categories: the ones we like the smell of and the ones we don't?

    A sub-set (Venn diagrams are spinning around in my head) of fragrances I like but wouldn't wear exists for sure, but this is an entirely ungendered decision.

    Powdery and green fragrances, I like to smell from a distance but not wear too close to me.

    I love a big floral in the office, just not so frequently that anyone else will comment!

    RépondreSupprimer
  57. I still enjoy wearing Helmut Langs' Eau de Parfum, Le Feu d'Issey, YSL Nu, all of which are unfortunately discontinued, and al of which never fail to get me compliments. The key, I think, for a man to wear what has been designated as a feminine, is to spray extremely lightly. Women's scents seem to be stronger and more concentrated for some reason. More people remark when I am wearing a 'marketed feminine' scent. It could be the unusual juxtaposition of the smell on a 6' 4" guy with a thick beard!

    RépondreSupprimer
  58. Such an interesting discussion:) As a half-neophyte perfumista (what, it's been almost a year!), I've given this topic some thought. I must admit I'm not exactly what you would call "a girly girl" - most of my clothes are fairly androginous, some are even grungy. However, when it comes to perfume, I'm rather conservative - I tend not to double-dip, and most masculine perfumes are, well, too masculine for my taste. The only exception is vetiver - I absolutely adore it in all variations, and one of my recent purchases has been Serge Lutens' Vetiver Oriental, which I find absolutely mesmerizing. I'm also planning to get L'Occitane's Vetiver pour Homme, which I used to wear a couple of years earlier.

    I've seen many women who happily wear "monsters" such as Aramis, Bel Ami and even Van Cleef and Arpels' Tsar. Then again, I know lesbian and bisexual women who are very feminine and would never consider the possibility of drenching themselves in male cologne. I think it depends on personal taste more than on the wish to demonstrate one's masculine or feminine side. However, I'm sometimes baffled at what other people perceive as masculine and feminine. My friend asked me to show her the new bottle of Amouage Epic Woman that I received as a gift. When she sniffed it, she exclaimed "My god, this is a man's perfume!" Epic, of all things. Go figure. :)

    RépondreSupprimer
  59. Its hard to describe. I tend to find aquatic-spicy-musk notes too masculine. anything that is reminiscent of cool waters or old spice, is a no. I tend to gravitate towards notes that are not typically feminine myself; spicy carnation, wood, oud, leather, incense resinous notes.

    I think overall, the key is in the dry down. Often I will try a fragrance, but the dry down is make or break for me as far as skewing too masculine. I had that experience with Guerlain Spirituse Double Vanille. Too much indolic wet bark-ness to my nose.

    RépondreSupprimer
  60. I can only offer the female perspective: growing up with a mother who picked up a few scents from the man's counter, I never felt shy or prejudiced to try out boy's fragrances.

    Notes that don't work: leather-y chypres are hard for me to pull off (Cabochard, even though designated for ladies, is something I can't wear)

    Notes that work: I'll happily wear some vetivers (Prada's Infusion is very easy to wear by a woman). Same for the incense and oudh-y notes. I have a sample from Amouage's Jubilation XXV and I really like wearing it.

    RépondreSupprimer
  61. Katherine, those sporty fragrances convey a clichéd idea of masculinity... While templates like Cool Water were innovative, the myriad copies just spell lack of imagination for any gender.

    RépondreSupprimer
  62. Helle, I guess it all comes down to the treatment of the notes -- I typically can't do very rough leathers either. I think there *are* certain materials that are so overused in masculine perfumery that they can't help but read as male drag.

    RépondreSupprimer
  63. Karin, I can't see what would read as masculine in L'Eau Mixte -- it seems fairly gender-neutral to me. Again, everyone has their own setting.

    RépondreSupprimer
  64. Mals86: ok, so definitely fougères... I'm thinking there's also a divide between women who feel they can swing practically the whole olfactory register (except for the stereotypical masculines), up to the ultra-feminines, and those who stay clear of the latter category.

    RépondreSupprimer
  65. Tarleisio, what's not to love about Dior Homme? I'd say that was a truly gender-bending fragrance that comes, for once, from the masculine side of the aisle...

    RépondreSupprimer
  66. Carol, gender be damned indeed. Pity about vetiver: it's one of the most beautiful raw mats of perfumery.

    RépondreSupprimer
  67. Alexander, yes, but *why* do we not like to wear certain things? Surely at some point, in the "me" or "not me", the matter of gender identity can come into play.
    Hope to smell you in a floral some day!

    RépondreSupprimer
  68. Water Tiger, the contrast must be striking! I think you've got a point about application: white florals especially tend to be enormously diffusive. They tend to be noticed on me too, more than any other scents in my collection (but being a woman, I'm a generous spritzer).

    RépondreSupprimer
  69. Fashionistaag, choices can be driven by personal taste but taste *also* has to do with how one perceives oneself... Interestingly, a woman who juxtaposes androgynous style with a very "feminine" scent may be balancing out the codes, perhaps subconsciously.

    RépondreSupprimer
  70. Amina, you're right, some scents tend to reveal themselves in the drydown, which was my personal experience with Al Oudh. I'd need to give a wear to Spiritueuse Double Vanille (it's been ages: I'm not a vanilla fiend) but I can't say I remember a lot of indoles from it.

    RépondreSupprimer
  71. Mila, it seems your own far end of the spectrum may be isobutyl-quinolin, the note that creates part of the leather effect in Cabochard. I'd be curious to know if you feel the same way about Bandit, its big sister?

    RépondreSupprimer
  72. Like others above, lavender fougeres are difficult for me. I bought a bottle of Third Man to share with my boyfriend but I vastly prefer it on him, though I sometimes wear it as a comfort scent when he's not around. :)

    I'm always trying to get him to wear my scents more often, but he's reluctant. I thought Pure White Linen was very nice on him. Floral but peppery.

    RépondreSupprimer
  73. Elisa, beware: once he starts sampling your stash you might find it a little annoying. I was certainly miffed when the level of my Bornéo and Chypre Rouge bottles started going down...

    RépondreSupprimer
  74. D. - I'll have to track down a sample from Bandit (I thought I had one but it turned out to be Baghari). I'll report later this week

    RépondreSupprimer
  75. My tastes have changed so dramatically as I've aged -- I used to wear such girly scents (Diorissimo, Joy, Paris, Jo Malone Orange Blossom), and now I wear so many that would be classified as masculine (SOTD is Black Tourmaline, and it smells fantastic on me!). I look quite sweet and innocent (although I'm not!), and I love the juxtaposition of the feminine and the ultra-macho.

    But fougeres? Uh-uh. That's the one masculine category I just can't do.

    RépondreSupprimer
  76. I checked today and NdT is not in at my L'Artisan hook-up. I'm excited to try it, though. You make it sound so nice.

    RépondreSupprimer
  77. Natalie, fougères are definitely cropping up as the final frontier... Playing on scent/style dissonance is so fascinating, isn't it?

    RépondreSupprimer
  78. Eric, nice doesn't beging to cover it. Compelling, fascinating, narcotic, weird... Can you tell I'm hooked? It seems a lot of L'Artisan counters have received testers, but you've got to ask to smell them.

    RépondreSupprimer
  79. I recently compiled an inventory of the fragrances I own. I'd avoided it, I think, so that I wouldn't have to assess the damage, evaluate my "problem", etc. I suspected there would be a heavy dip on the feminine side, and the ladies did outweigh the gents, but the imbalance wasn't as marked as I imagined it would be. I learned a lot about my tastes. I realize: I love fragrance. Period.

    Like Scentself, I'm innately distrustful of polls, surveys, and scientific studies. What is the science, ultimately? What are the controls? I think that personality is far more complex than we can ever account for. It can't be inventoried. And for the most part I enjoy all the middle areas, which far outnumber the polar points.

    I wear everything. I love tuberose and feel no particular need to butch it up in some way before entering polite society. Love older, more masculine feminines and more contemporary girly types. I have a special weakness for the big boned super troopers of the 80s, masculine and feminine alike. Poison, Paris, Polo, Jules.

    Last night, I saw a movie with a straight couple, friends of mine. I sat next to she, a seat down from he. After, we were outside. They were smoking. We talked about how wretched the film had been. She said, "And some woman behind me. She had on old lady perfume!"

    I guess this would embarrass most guys. I loved it and laughed my ass off. I felt like some wonderful cross-circuiting subterfuge had taken place, and no one was harmed. It was like throwing my voice.

    RépondreSupprimer
  80. @Brian -- "like throwing my voice" -- oh I love this!

    RépondreSupprimer
  81. Brian, that's just the stuff I'm writing about right now, the cross-circuiting -- in my case, with a big-boned late 70s masculine which eerily resembles Bandit, Van Cleef and Arpels pour Homme. I remember my get-ups were so elaborate at the time I got mistaken for a cross-dresser... The scent just added to the confusion.
    Keep up the old lady perfumes! What was it, by the way?

    RépondreSupprimer
  82. Fascinating topic, D, and impressively open-minded and erudite responses.

    Myself? I would dearly love to love everything, and as a woman am perfectly comfortable with the concept of wearing what might be classified or marketed as a masculine. I wish my nose were more "open-minded." It refuses to cooperate sometimes, unfortunately. I've wanted to wear all sorts of samples I've received, but even sniffed "blind" without knowing whether they're generally geared toward the masculine or feminine or if they're considered unisex, some I find I just can't feel comfortable in.

    It really frustrates me. I'm not sure what the note or notes are some of the time (I don't know if I could pick out Ambroxan, for example), although I think the culprits might include fougere, certain green-spice combinations, the leathers that have a great deal of birch tar to them (Creed Cuir Russie), and many aquatics. I'm sure there is some threshold or other, where a little bit is appealing, but past some point a note becomes too much.

    Case in point: the new Prada Infusion de Vetiver. I bought a whole bottle immediately it showed up on the shelves here in Vancouver, and sprayed some on my wrist from the tester bottle at the store while I was waiting at the cash desk. By the time I walked home, sniffing my wrist en route, I knew I'd be returned the unopened bottle for a refund (actually, I traded it for the Ambree). I kept WILLING myself to get over a certain note in it I didn't like -- a note that I suppose I'd have to call traditionally masculine, although the masculinity per se is never the objection.

    It was torture! I kept telling myself, "Robin, you love this, you love that note, whatever the heck it is, it DOESN'T rub you the wrong way, this is the best summery vetiver in the world, you'll be wearing it every day and adoring every moment and you won't regret buying it," trying to talk my nose into changing its mind. No go.

    I still don't know what the note is. It's not vetiver on its own because I love many vetivers, including Tauer Perfumes Vetiver Dance and Les Nez Turtle Vetiver, which are quite assertive (and possibly might even be considered on the masculine side of unisex?!) scents.

    I just know I am still resenting this nose of mine very much!

    Hope it's not too late to be part of the draw. . .

    RépondreSupprimer
  83. Aw, c'mon, Robin, why self-flagellate? There's stuff we can live with, and stuff that's a no go. As Alexander says above, in the end, it's all down to what we love and what we don't love, isn't it? I suspect what we read as uncomfortably masculine (whether we're women or men) are accords or materials that encroach too much on stereotypes. Hence the fact that many women here have said they can do wood, incense, vetiver, amber, as long as it's in a non-stereotyped composition.
    Make sense?

    RépondreSupprimer
  84. Makes perfect sense, Denyse. And thanks for your comments. P.S. Just tried Fat Electrician and believe it or not, I find that one totally wearable. Talk about being immune to gender stereotypes (unless, of course, that is a WOMAN'S derriere cleavage on the label). ;-D

    RépondreSupprimer
  85. Oh, and in case anyone was wondering about the connection, Fat Electrician is a vetiver.

    RépondreSupprimer
  86. That was me, by the way, posting as Anonymous by mistake!

    RépondreSupprimer
  87. Anything with dihydromercanol. IMHO it's the mainstream "for men only" note, and it's in everything from men's deodorant to shaving cream to-- for example the Gilette line. It's that limey/"fresh"l thing and to me it says "stay away!"

    RépondreSupprimer
  88. Having read the commentaries, I find that I'm like most of the females here; I like and use perfumes from the whole field, except (most of) the heavy white florals (Fracas would be impossible for me to wear in public!) on the feminine pole and the aromatic fougèrs & the aquatics (I really detest them on everyone) on the masculine pole. Lavender and some herbal aromatics I could never have used, I don't even like lavender in soaps or detergents.
    I tend to prefer dry, woody & spicy scents, and avoid too much sweetness and fruityness, and doesn't actually think much about gender in connection with scents.
    My husband I would say have gender bending tendencies in his choice of scents (like in other fields), and actually I like to smell roses on him. Then the combination of roses& spices, (like in Washington Tremlett's Black Tie, that I love to wear myself). I like vetiver and green scents to a much larger degree than him. he is the flower & lover, but then flowers soaked in an ambery base.
    Chanel's Pour Monsieur is one I like to borrow from him, that I again, don't find gendered in a "difficult" way.
    Must add that I am a neophyte when comes to perfumes, and there are a lot of scents mentioned above that I have never even tried..

    RépondreSupprimer
  89. my second post on this topic but i had to after what happened to me earlier today. i went on a lunch date and i asked my companion if he had on cologne, because all of a sudden i got a whiff of something masculine. he said no. turns out it was me! I had on Donna Karan Chaos, and it unexpectedly morphed into something quite manly.

    RépondreSupprimer
  90. Olfacta, tell me about it! Can't stand the stuff myself, whether on me or on any man in my vicinity.

    RépondreSupprimer
  91. Stella, thank you for your comment: clearly, your tastes tend to veer outside the extremes of the gendered olfactory spectrum, as do your husband's.

    RépondreSupprimer
  92. Amina, that happens to me all the time. I interrogate the person I happen to be with before discovering the waft comes from something I'm not used to wearing!

    RépondreSupprimer
  93. For me it would be fougeres, strong lavender, that modern, "tonic sport" type of cologne (D & G for Men), along with the more classic, to my nose overly "granular" style of citrus scents (eg Habit Rouge EDT), not forgetting the ozonic style personifed by Boss Elements. And too much oudh, spice, tobacco or camphor would also scare me right off, as would coumarin and carnation done in a particular way!

    RépondreSupprimer
  94. Flittersniffer, carnation done in a particular way sounds a bit daunting... God, I used to wear Caron Poivre: that's carnation with rabies!

    RépondreSupprimer
  95. This is such an interesting topic to me, partly because of my experiences with introducing fragrance to teenagers. My son doesn't care about gender distinctions in fragrance, nor do many of his friends. He is drawn to fragrances that most would consider to be modern and unisex, such as incense scents. But he also likes Dior Homme, a masculine that women like and Tom Ford White Patchouli, a so-called feminine.

    Even more fascinating was one 18 year old relative's kid-in-a-candy-shop reaction to my collection. After covering himself with about 10 (feminine) fragrances, he fell resolutely in love with Le Galion Snob edt. Somewhat similar to Joy, it's loaded with rose and indolic jasmine and it opens with a great aldehydic sparkle. So, with no previous biases to cloud his sniffing (and thinking) this very masculine kid (now a Marine) left my house with a decant of a rather feminine scent. And smelling like a group of perfumistas shopping and sniffing together!

    RépondreSupprimer
  96. Brilliant post!
    My experience with gender and fragrance has taught me that the main divide applies to a sense of being lifted away from one's persona or being bluntly pushed into the prescribed boundaries. Wearing a perfume can be thought to be the summoning of some "Other" into our aura or presence. In some cases, the Other (the fragrance) and one's body odour at a particular time function so seamlessly. It is a mystery. Bandit is great on me, but it doesn't "look" as if stemming from me. So is Tabac Blond. But then, when a great floral comes around, I feel tempted into a gender fantasy. I desire to be "there", to belong in that magic - I spray Carnal Flower or dab on Caron's Tubereuse and there's a certain hesitation about who is wearing who. A man in a rose can be masculine, as traditional English and Arab perfumery could show, and a woman in whatever it is that suffuses Amytis, for instance, can be deemed a fair princess. No?

    RépondreSupprimer
  97. Melissa, what gratifying experiences! I'm a firm believer in pedagogy, and what better way to learn than to have a knowledgeable and passionate teacher! Lucky boys...

    RépondreSupprimer
  98. Eleven European Mystics, you define my attraction to perfume exactly: that blending of the Other and of one's own persona, which makes us the *performers* of perfume, even beyond the matter of gender.

    RépondreSupprimer
  99. :-) It is so, isn't it? I love the way you usually describe what you wear or would wear for a given fragrance. And why are we so vulnerable to a fragrance's name? I'm a woman who would find it hard to wear "Lys Mediterranee" if it had been baptized as Cotes de lys.

    RépondreSupprimer
  100. Names speak to the imagination, especially when they are given to an almost immaterial object. I don't focus much on bottles or packaging, but as I work with words, I'm sensitive to their poetry.

    RépondreSupprimer
  101. The Thierry Mugler Womanity sample draw is now closed.

    RépondreSupprimer
  102. I think my thesis is perhaps more poltical than that- just as sexuality does not determine who individuals vote for (despite a stereotype that might imply that homosexual men vote more liberally), thus with fragrance- a link between gender and fragrance is merely a cultural construct/stereotype.

    That said, perhaps there is a biological rationale behind gender in fragrance as well...

    That said, I will sniff my own powdery words the next time I comment.

    I live in hope for a wisteria fragrance....

    RépondreSupprimer
  103. Alexander, I'd understood you the first time round. I was just adding that despite the gendering of scent being a cultural construct, it does affect us all because none of us are immune to cultural constructs however much we work to free ourselves from them.
    Haven't heard of any wisteria being developed currently, alas. Apparently it's really hard to pull off. Would you settle for an iris/hyacinth by Lutens?

    RépondreSupprimer
  104. Ce commentaire a été supprimé par un administrateur du blog.

    RépondreSupprimer
  105. I found your website the other day and after reading a handful of posts, thought I would say thank you for all the great content. Keep it coming! I will try to stop by here more often.

    RépondreSupprimer