“Odours have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions or will. The persuasive power of an odour cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.”
― Patrick Süskind
I’m just gonna lay this one out on the table right now: when it comes to fragrance, there is nothing sexier than a woman in men’s perfume. There’s just nothing quite like it. Be it dressed up in your best Le Smoking with a dab of Terre Hermès behind your ear, or keeping it relaxed on a lazy afternoon and accessorising with a dab of Polo Blue. Women’s skin is slightly more acidic than men’s skin[†], so it tends to elevate otherwise staid dude scents into something much more enticing.
On the flipside men’s skin, particularly guys who are more oily, is perfectly tailored to wearing heavy florals, vanillas and orientals. A friend of mine wears Thierry Mugler’s Angel. A perfume that I otherwise immediately associate with nightclub bathrooms and scrag fights is turned into something magical on his skin. On me, no. On him, oh my.
C’mon, my dad wears Comme Des Garcons 2. Although it’s technically unisex, it’s also a somewhat fruity aldehydic floral. Floral! My dad is 6′ something and deemed ‘scary’ by most of my exes. If he’s going to wear a floral, ain’t no gender stereotypes gonna hold him back from smelling like a big burly flower.
I am a lifelong fan of wearing perfumes for gentlemen. I am a cheerleader for unisex fragrances. I am a firm believer that gender is just a social construct and you should wear whatever you want, and not get shooed away from spritzing pour homme on your dainty ladylike wrists (or delicate florals on your beefy dude arms).
In that spirit, here are three of my current favourite unisex/dude scents to wear. Trust me. They’re great.
Un Jardin Après La Mousson EDT by Hermès is as close to a sweet perfume as I’ll ever get. I’m really, really, really not into candy sweet fragrances, so I was dubious about trying this fragrance after reading that its opening note of this perfume was a big whack o’ melon. Eventually a friend insisted I try it and, well, colour me surprised. It opens on a note that smells like crisp and cool freshly sliced honeydew melon; a scent that’s a touch watery, a touch sweet, and balanced by the slightly alkaline scent of melon rind. Not long after that it turns into a spicy mix of cardamom, coriander and ginger flower, then finishes with a subtle wash of ginger and vetiver and something vaguely mineral that I can’t put my finger on.
Like the rest of the unisex Jardin series, Mousson is more of a scent-scape than a traditional perfume with a top-middle-base structure. To me it smells like my childhood in Queensland. It’s the scent of a warm evening as a storm builds in the sky. It’s the scent of leaves after a day in the hot sun, standing on the back veranda and breathing in a mix of warm chlorophyll and the mineral scent of the jacaranda flowers that have wilted and fallen in the heat. It’s the scent of humidity and storms and heat.
Despite evoking such an intense scent memory, the fragrance itself is quite fresh and light despite being probably the sweetest of all the Jardin family. All I really want from a fragrance is something that smells good to/on me, and something that my friends and family can catch a subtle whiff of when they give me a hug or a kiss. If you want something a little different without being too overbearing or intense, you really can’t go past the Jardin series from Hermès.
Bleu de Chanel EDP from Chanel starts as a fresh citrus with a metallic tang and fades down to a finish that’s features a touch of suede and a clean, almost soapy note. It’s somewhat similar to Dior’s Homme Sport but without that fragrance’s musky dry down, and owes more than a nod to Hugo Boss’s line of clean, commercially safe fragrances.
This perfume caused quite a ruckus when it was first released, with many noses both professional and amateur decrying it as being boring and workshopped into mass appeal by Chanel’s marketing department. One blog even said it was like Chanel made a perfume out of Lynx body spray – ouch. Compared to some of Chanel’s early perfumes and the daring advances they made in blending and bottling, then yes, Bleu de Chanel isn’t very inspiring. I’d put it to those critics though that tastes have changed dramatically and wearability is now king – it’s not enough to rely on a bank of heavy orientals, musks and chypres in a bank of fragrances that are capital p Perfumes of the old school kind. The days of perfume being a grand statement are over, and the market now dictates that wearable, light fragrances that enhance rather than overpower are in. Even Chanel needs to bank some cashola from us perfume-buying proles.
Then again, maybe I just have an uncultured nose. Bleu de Chanel has more or less been my signature perfume for the best part of the last year, simply because it suits my skin chemistry beautifully and people adore the scent on me. Maybe we all have uncultured noses?
Acqua di Giò pour Homme EDT by Giorgio Armani is the 90s bottled. I could probably just end the review there and a whole bunch of you will know exactly what I mean, but for those of you who weren’t teenagers and adults through the 90s, let me explain that a little further. The mid 90s were absolutely dominated by unisex perfumes that were all variations on aqua/citrus/woody blends. If you’ve never smelt CK One before, go take a sniff – it’s 1994 in perfume form. Acqua di Giò and Acqua di Giò pour Homme came along a little later (1995 and 1996 respectively) and while the original ladies Acqua di Giò is a miss for me due to the watermelon and freesia notes, I remember being quite taken by Acqua di Giò pour Homme when I was an ugly 13 year-old with a bad haircut.
Acqua di Giò pour Homme is another version of 90s.jpg, this time with an opening citrus blast over a big and bassy marine middle note that’s balanced with a touch of persimmon. That rich, salty ocean scent is my favourite part of this perfume, as I find the drydown into a cedar, patchouli and rock rose finish kind of uninspiring. It’s not bad – it’s actually rather clean smelling for patchouli – but it doesn’t grab my attention. That being said I have been enjoying wearing this as both a retro throwback to a time when I was thirty kilos lighter and had a set of bitchin’ metal orthodontics, and as a light Spring splash now that the weather has warmed up.
The reason I’ve included this fragrance in this list is because I think it’s interesting to hold it against Chanel’s Bleu de Chanel. Bleu is almost universally panned by fragrance bloggers and professional noses for being uninspired and flat, when I’d wager that it’s a great deal more nuanced than Acqua di Giò. Have our expectations of fragrance complexity and originality really been changed that much in the past fifteen or so years? Are we more educated and demanding now, or have we been blessed/cursed by the insanely fast perfume release schedule these days? It would be interesting to theorise an alternate universe where something like Acqua di Giò or CK One were released now – what do you think the response would be?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, or even what perfume you’re enjoying these days. Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook!