If you were a perfumer working for a large fragrance house, you would know exactly what a men's fragrance should smell like. It should smell like something that women -- and men -- expect it to smell like. It should have a familiar smell that says, "men's cologne," to both women and men. How do we know what smell says "men's cologne" to both women and men? We simply look, for reference, to the hundreds of men's colognes that have already -- over the past 200 years -- been put on the market. Today they define what a men's cologne -- and all men's fragrances -- should smell like.
It wasn't always that simple. There was a time when a perfumer could create what he thought was a men's fragrance only to discover that it sold very poorly to men but was fast becoming a favorite with women. I'm thinking of Aime Guerlain's Jicky (1889).
On the other hand, Coty's Chypre (1917) was a woman's fragrance. Yet from it arose a modern, highly popular style, of colognes for men.
Today it is unlikely that any new, mass market intended fragrance for men will take us in a radical direction. Yet where is it written in stone that men must smell of citrus (bergamot), lavender, or oakmoss? It's simply what we have come to accept; what we are used to.
But suppo9se a perfumer tries something different and creates a Blackberry or a Toxic? How would Michael Edwards categorize these? will it take men 40 years to adjust their smell prejudices before these become a new, accepted, men's fragrance styles?
A Tale of Two Women
As I was slapping some Toxic on the other morning, my wife "admitted" that originally she had not cared much for Toxic but her feelings toward it were changing. "It grows on you," was her comment. I've long felt the same way. The more I encounter it, the more I enjoy it. As I've said before, it's like a work of modern art that starts out as a scandal but, with time, become mainstream, perhaps even classic.
Yesterday I learned that my wife wasn't the only women who has found that both Toxic and Blackberry can grow on you. I received an email from a customer I had recently met face-to-face at our 2010 5-Day Perfumery Workshop with Steve Dowthwaite. This customer had used both Toxic and Blackberry and, when we met face to face, made some funny passing mention of them. But then, in our email conversation after the workshop, he told me that he did use them and that his wife was finding that "they grew on her."
Two women don't make up a mass movement. I'm not holding my breath waiting for Coty, Estee Lauder, or Elizabeth Arden to come begging me to let them market my men's fragrances. But I do believe there is a future for men's fragrances that lies outside the parameters of what is currently accepted.
After all, shouldn't a men's fragrance be interesting? Shouldn't it stimulate the imagination? Shouldn't we strive for more than just "meat and potatoes" fragrances, even for men?
What if, in striving and creating, our creations for men are a little out of sync with our times? So we make a little less money. It's vanity perhaps but I like to think of Toxic and Blackberry as being ahead of out times ... but not so far ahead that some bold men will not take the trouble to enjoy them.