Guerlain vs The Body Shop: Our great-smelling man about town…
Who says you have to be limited to the women’s side of the fragrance counter?
Remember the saying: Anything boys can do girls can do better? It was first introduced to me in the ’70s, scrolled in glittery letters across a pink T-shirt that was gifted to me for my 9th birthday by my feminist aunt. I loved the shirt and felt emboldened when I wore it on the school playground, the words empowering me to move faster, hand over hand as I swung across the monkey bars.
Later, with it indelibly imprinted on my mind I repurposed the statement into a rubber stamp during Grade 7 shop class. For months I proudly inked those eight mighty words onto the backs of letters to my pen pal, across the dresses I carefully designed and cut out for my paper dolls, and next to my name on school notebooks.
The stamp and the T-shirt are gone now, but the feeling of invincibility has not disappeared. I experience it every time I spritz on a favourite men’s scent.
Like my T-shirt and stamp, there’s something chic and unexpected about making a bold statement with fragrance. I enjoy rotating my beloved girly spritzes with powerful, men’s scents absent of the stereotypically aligned flowers and powders favoured in women’s perfume. Ironically, most masculine toilettes contain these feminine notes and more. Their point of view, however, is skewed towards a stronger, sharper and more straightforward brew of leather, moss, wood, tobacco, herbs and/or spice.
I long to wear each one.
With their gravitational pull of a daytime eau, classics like Acqua di Parma Colonia, L’Eau d’Issey by Issey Miyake and Pour Monsieur by Chanel are natural choices. Their tart and refreshing citrus blends slowly ease into a warmer base comprised of flowers, spice and wood that is light, bright and comfortable, the equivalent of wearing my boyfriend jeans with a crisp white blouse and oxford loafers.
In the evening I lean more towards the sensual and animalic scents of Christian Dior Fahrenheit, Guerlain Vetiver and Ermenegildo Zegna Uomo. Rich in wood, flowers and musk, these fragrances suggest an intimate, yet confident aura that is as easily matched with peep-toe Louboutins and a black dress, as with my silk pajamas.
Women wearing men’s colognes is not behaviour unique to me. American actress Kate Walsh created and wore Boyfriend, a heady, dark, masculine eau de parfum specifically for women like herself who preferred the bold strength and sensuality of a man’s scent. Punk music star Bif Naked and actress Marilu Henner have both been known to wear The 7 Virtues’ unisex cologne Middle East Peace. Style influencer and the Hudson’s Bay’s senior vice-president and fashion director Suzanne Timmins has also been rumoured to favour spritzing from men’s bottles, while renowned Parisian perfumer Frederic Malle, creator of his eponymous fragrance line has been noted to say that “the same woman who wears a men’s watch or shirt likes men’s fragrances, as it creates a nice contrast and a way to enhance their femininity.” I agree.
With so many coveted eaus to choose from, it’s simply a matter of when and what to dab on, rather than to answer the pedestrian why.
Here are a few of this season’s must-try options:
Paco Rabanne One Million Privé, for it’s intoxicating, spicy and sultry character. $105 (100 ml), www.sephora.com
Ermenegildo Zegna Essenze Collection Mediterranean Neroli, for its sun-drenched, warm and woody appeal. $245 (125 ml), www.holtrenfrew.com
Bottega Veneta Parco Palladiano V, for its subtle and fresh herbal essence. $330 (100 ml) exclusively at www.holtrenfrew.com