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Perfumery Guide #3 - Gender in Perfumery

Parfum masculin ou féminin ?

gender in perfumery

"It's a beautiful perfume that you wear Madame... or Monsieur, it doesn't matter"

What a social construction we have here! Let it be said once and for all: No, perfume has no gender, just labels. But before crying out heresy, let's go back together to the genesis of the codification of perfumery.

We are at the beginning of the seventies, a blessed period of marketing and mass consumption. Then was born in the brilliant spirit of the American communicators and advertisers of the time, a solution in order to sell more perfume: Differentiate once and for all the genre of the latter. Previously the distinction was blurred, see secondary. We adopted an effluvium because it had a hedonic value for the person who smelled it. This is how a perfume like Jicky, originally imagined for men, was adopted mostly by women, without any worries either for its creative house or for consumers.

Very quickly, in France, a large distribution brand adopted this guideline and dealt the coup de grace to gender diversity in perfumery in the early 80s. The brand spatially divided the perfumes and placed them on two opposite walls. On the right it will be the Women and on the left, the Men. Time will pass on this concept, initially purely marketing, and here we are forty years later with the intimate conviction that there are perfumes reserved for one or the other and the terrible feeling that it is normal to hear "the Gourmands are for the girls and woody ones for the boys".

But you will tell me that some perfumes are more masculine than feminine and vice versa. You will be right. But why ? Do you think that in its natural state a flower gives off its scent to attract male or female homo sapiens sapiens? All our appreciations are purely social, cultural, traditional, habitual, in short, only human concepts. Tell a man from the countries of the Arabian Peninsula that the rose is a feminine scent and he will be right to contradict your position just as you will be right to disagree with his. Because the society in which we live has asked us, from our earliest childhood, to make olfactory choices, mnemonic and sensory associations. Papa and Grandpa smelled like aqua velva when you kissed them on the cheek? The smell of fern will forever be associated with the father figure. Mom left in her wake a faint smell of powdered violet? So florals will now have a feminine connotation. Perfumery has imposed itself, all by itself as a great, codes. To the point where she even sometimes got caught up in her own game.

Let's take the example of N°5, an emblematic and iconic perfume in the perfume industry. It was adopted mainly by women and when the haute couture house wanted to promote the fragrance with the face of Brad Pitt, the latter had to manage a major controversy because consumers did not understand the choice of a man to represent a "women's perfume". This example is revealing of the attachment that we can have to gender in smells. And some have been able to pull out of the game by taking the opposite view of normality.

In 1994, the first perfume called "Mixte" was released. With an explosive and well-crafted communication, Ck one was a worldwide success. It was then considered innovative, which was commonplace thirty years earlier. It is on this niche that the so-called niche perfumery has intervened, due at least to that on the fringes of the diktats of the selective. The latter has been able to reinvent itself and breathe new life into olfactory marketing. Broadly, she decided to offer unisex fragrances, without gender, which would be categorized solely through the consumer's appreciation.

Ultimately, olfactory marketing does not rely on any biological reality when it creates “masculine” and “feminine” notes. The only gender in a perfume is the associations we make. Wear what you like because in the end you define the perfume as much as it defines you. What symbiosis!

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