The Gendered Fragrance Myth

Gender association with fragrance is often rooted in our upbringings, and our memory. Scents and memories go hand in hand as our sense of smell is the most powerful of the senses when it comes to memory recollection.We remember the fragrance our parents wore. We remember the fragrance our first love wore. This plays a part in whether we associate a fragrance with masculinity or femininity. 

Did you know that perfumer’s do not create perfumes to be masculine or feminine? Fragrance was originally a genderless craft. The perfumers created scents for the purpose of constructing a scent. Not to specifically make a “Womens” or “Mens” scent.

 In the Middle Ages natural perfumes were worn all throughout the upper class, not divided by “gendered” scent families at all.The idea of masculine and feminine fragrances originally developed as a marketing technique around the late 19th century. This occurred during the start of the Gilded Age. This was a time of quick economic growth, leading to a sudden availability of a multitude of products that previously weren’t available to the masses. This meant that the luxury of fragrance was suddenly available to the middle and lower classes of society. During this period of large economic growth, there was a simultaneous shift in an emphasis on what we now know as traditional gender roles in the average home. Because of this, the start of mass fragrance marketing had a concentrated focus on distinctive gendering of these fragrances. The women's fragrances were often packaged with floral motifs and even sometimes were dyed so that the fragrance itself was a delicate pink, while men's colognes were often packaged in sleeker and darker bottles. Down to the packaging of the products, these marketing strategies placed strict emphasis on designated gendered fragrances. 

This played into the social archetypes we still see associated with fragrance.The modern fine fragrance industry still follows those past conventional labels where fruity, floral,and sweet scents are for women and musky, spicy scents are for men. This creates a divided and confining mindset, one that we here at Olfactory NYC are hoping to break down.

Did you notice that in many other categories of fragrance, we don’t see this same marketing tactic? For example, laundry, candles, and hand soaps don’t get assigned as masculine or feminine. Men have floral or fruity scented products on their shelves without shame, and many women own products that would fit in the traditionally masculine fragrance group. Is there any difference between our bathroom or home products scent families and that of our perfumes? Definitely not! Fragrance can be loved by anyone! Fragrance is key to personal expression, and those expressions should not be confined by archaic gender association.

A complex and well rounded fragrance will consist of many different notes for an overall beautiful character, just like a painter uses many different colors to complete a beautiful painting. Certain hues are associated with boys and girls. However, when creating a painting, that does not matter. Many different colors are needed to work together and complete the overall effect. This is the same for fragrance. Traditionally defined notes work together for the desired effect. 

At Olfactory NYC, we do not use gender-specific based marketing for our fragrances. We will always say our fragrances are unisex when asked, because they are! In the end, a great fragrance is a great fragrance and anyone should be able to wear it!