Telegraph Article: Why are there no great men’s fragrances any more?

Interesting article alert! The Telegraph has just published a piece lamenting the lack of great men’s fragrances today. You can find it by clicking here.

Notable quotes that stood out to me include:

“So dull are today’s creations that the fragrance du jour may as well be called Ubiquity Pour Homme – a concoction that is everywhere, smells like everything else and is characterised by a top note of predictability, a heart note of safety and a base note of utter blandness. Oh, and pink pepper and something sweet and vanillary for good measure. Wear it and you’ll smell like every other man in the street.”

“What’s also making today’s fragrances so dull is the ubiquitous Dihydromyrcenol – a synthetic ingredient described (depending on your point of view) as being lavender-like, hyper-fresh or slightly bitter and metallic. It’s primarily used in men’s fragrance for its ferocity and staying power, is often prevalent in sport variants, and is the ingredient responsible for that slightly acrid zing common to pungent men’s fragrances. And it’s is everywhere. The reason for this, a perfumer friend told me recently, is that creative briefs for men’s fragrances often require that they “last all day” because men, unlike women, tend to apply once and don’t bother to top up later in the day. The easiest way to deliver that longevity is to throw some Dihydromyrcenol into the mix.”

Well, this writer could be my twin for all I know! Especially the bit about “Ubiquity Pour Homme” and “a top note of predictability, a heart note of safety and a base note of utter blandness”.

Although I agree with him about the dire state of much of “men’s” mainstream perfumery today, I believe the situation has changed considerably with the increasing proliferation of niche offerings, with many pushing the boundaries of creativity (Well, sometimes. Other times they just pass off drivel at exorbitant prices.). Their offerings are often ‘unisex’ or ‘sexless’, depending on your preference, thus eschewing stereotypes and labels about what men should or should not wear. Honestly, though, I believe the solution is just to be confident about who you are and wear what you like, and skip past the bland men’s offerings if they aren’t your thing. At the end of the day, though, people have the right to wear “Ubiquity Pour Homme” if they so choose.

What I find troubling, though, is the writer’s listing of Bleu de Chanel and Paco Rabanne 1 Million as ‘distinctive’ offerings. If it were up to me, I would consign them to the fiery depths of the underworld, where they can provide fuel to keep the fire burning (alcohol burns nicely). Perhaps I ought to write to him introducing him to the online perfume community – I’m sure he’ll learn a thing or two, and if he ends up falling down the rabbit hole, all the better!

A chicken and egg problem?

I’m not sure if the problem the writer mentions is the result of demand or supply. On the one hand, the industry can be said to be rather consumer-driven, with focus groups determining what is produced. If that were the case, responsibility would have to lie with the masses, and those of us who deviate from the mainstream don’t really have much of a choice. On the other hand, however, we have to confront questions of which came first: consumers’ tastes and preferences, or the social and cultural trends that shape them? Case in point: was the recent spike in oud fragrances the result of demand or the result of decisions made by industry insiders that it would be the new ‘It’ ingredient? I suspect it’s a confluence of both factors feeding off of one another.

And then we have independent perfumers, whose output stems from their creative vision and hard work, and who presumably don’t have to please any focus groups. But even these independent perfumers need to make money to survive, and I believe many are facing pressures such as increasing costs in the face of greater competition, and as such might end up going out of business. After all, everyone today wants to launch their own perfume brand. Heck, given the opportunity, the time and the capital, I would love to do so myself. Thankfully, unlike in the music and film industries, perfume can’t be ‘pirated’ in the same way (yet – who knows, maybe one day technology finds some way of doing so?), and remains very much a rival and excludable good. As such, we can still vote using our dollars for what we find attractive. All of this, really, is a long and convoluted way of saying that we can try to make a difference by choosing how we spend our money.

So, the questions I have, and that I pose to you, my dear reader is this: Is there hope for the perfume industry? Who is responsible for the current state of perfumery, the consumer or the producer? Feel free to leave your comments below.

~ The Smelly Vagabond

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2 thoughts on “Telegraph Article: Why are there no great men’s fragrances any more?

  1. I think you are correct in saying it’s both, the consumer and producer being largely influenced by marketing which it seems has no idea what’s it doing most of the time (if you ask me). 🙂

    • Dear Ines,
      I just wonder sometimes why such a large majority of men like a certain style of fragrance. Surely if nature were left to do her own business, the distribution of scent preference would be more even? Yet we find a confluence towards a certain ‘sameness’, that perhaps skews the argument in favour of the producer being the determinant of tastes and preferences. But then it’s back to the chicken and egg question, because consumers could reject what they don’t like. I wish somehow well-versed in perfume history could enlighten me!

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