May 13, 2021

Beauty: is there really such a thing as a ‘masculine’ scent? | Sali Hughes

Surely there are just pleasing smells and displeasing smells, and this varies from person to person, regardless of gender

A recent survey in which 66,000 participants were asked to rate hundreds of perfumes showed that 70% of those favoured by women were “masculine-smelling”. I’m not even sure what this means, but suspect that, by “masculine”, the report meant things that smelled spicy, sharp, smoky or earthy, and not like candied rose petals and cupcake frosting. It seems a terribly reductive way to categorise something as personal as scent. Surely, there are just pleasing smells, displeasing smells and meh smells, and this varies from person to person, regardless of gender. The rest is either social conditioning or marketing.

Anyway, the report’s findings caused me to examine my own collection and wonder which could, by these standards, be classed as masculine. At least half, it turns out. I have a preference for slightly piquant smells over the big, rounded, blowsy types (there are exceptions, naturally) and an aversion to sweetness, so Guerlain’s Jicky (£91.80 – I know, but that is for a 100ml bottle, twice the size of most) has always appealed. Ostensibly a women’s fragrance, it has something of the soft, strong man about it (Hollywood legend Gary Cooper wore Jicky, so I’m possibly projecting). Those repelled by rose smells shouldn’t be deterred: it’s as citrussy as it is sweet, so the overall balance is elegant and refined. It has a whiff of lavender, which I normally can’t stand, but it works here.

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