Thursday, 23 November 2017

Perfume's "Them and Us"

When you spray on your favourite fragrance in the morning or even reapply in the evening you are choosing to wear a scent that makes you feel happy, contented, confident, protected, the list is endless. Our perfume choices are very personal and that is exactly why there are so many to choose from. What I find appealing in a scent might fill you with horror, and vice versa, but both of our opinions are just as valid as each other’s. You don’t need to be trained in fragrance to know if you like the smell of something so why are the words “general public” applied to the majority of the world's perfume purchasers?

The term “general public” is often used by fragrance reviewers or commentators to explain away the success of what they may perceive to be an unworthy scent. Words such as “dumbed down”, “simple” and “generic” have all been used to describe some of the most popular fragrances launched in recent years and I think it’s about time that this practise stopped. The majority of the time it is merely a distinction between the hardcore fragrance fans, known as Perfumistas, and the person who just wants to wear something which smells nice, but what are you actually saying when you use the words “general public”?

The Oxford Dictionary first credits the phrase as appearing in the mid nineteenth century but the differences in definitions do vary between companies. The Collins Dictionary is very measured and says, “you can refer to the people in a society as the general public, especially when you are contrasting people in general with a small group.” However, the Macmillan Dictionary is a little harsher in their choice of words when they describe it as, “ordinary people in society, rather than people who are considered to be important or who belong to a particular group.”

It does feel as though there is a “them and us” attitude to fragrance at the moment in the same way as there is a constant effort to separate perfumes into “mainstream and niche”. Yes, it would be wonderful if companies were in a position to educate their customers a little in fragrance composition, ingredients, extraction methods, but would this increase their sales? Probably not. Perfumistas hunt out this knowledge and use it to help them decide on their next purchase but it can also form preconceived ideas before you even smell the scent.

So, what’s the answer? In a nutshell, there isn’t one. If you want to delve deeper into the world of fragrance then I would absolutely encourage you because it is a fascinating industry but don’t feel that you need to. Buy what you like, for whatever reason that is, and enjoy wearing it. Guerlain’s Mon Guerlain is just as valid a choice as Caron’s N’Aimez que Moi, in the same way as Giorgio Armani’s Acqua di Gio can sit happily next to Papillon’s Tobacco Rose. By the way, all four of those are in my collection and I'm proud of them all.

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