The Nerdy Perfume Blog

“You Don’t Want to Smell Like a Cowboy.”

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This month’s Allure has an article with quotes from all of our perfume friends (Victoria Frolova, Mandy Aftel, Alyssa Harad, and Barbara Herman), so of course I had to pick it up. This issue also has another perfume-themed article, “Uncommon Scents”, that talks about gender-bending perfumes. It starts off promisingly enough: “Fragrance- complex, faceted, enigmatic fragrance- isn’t simply masculine or feminine… So why get all caught up in this his-or-hers business?” But not a paragraph later, the “Rules for Women” section offers the following advice: “You don’t want to smell like a cowboy. Avoid aggressive, muscular notes, such as leather and tobacco, and hightail it away from any scent that combines both. ‘These are what I call animalic scents, and they’re much too rugged for women’, says perfumer Jean-Claude Deville.” For once, men receive equally gendered advice: “Skip dessert. Gourmand notes (vanilla, chocolate) and fruits (apple, berry) have a sugary side so undeniably feminine that few men would feel comfortable wearing them.”

It’s odd and a bit disappointing to see this sort of limited thinking from Allure, whose fragrance coverage is usually miles ahead of other magazines (Frederic Malle has had an Allure column since 2007). I don’t know about y’all, but I think I’ll stick with my Tauer Perfumes Lonestar Memories over Monsieur Deville’s less “rugged” feminine fragrances, which include Baby Phat Goddess and Paris Hilton Can-Can. In general, I’m pretty over people telling women what they should or should not smell like. I’ve been re-reading Perfumes: The Guide recently for work, and I found myself getting annoyed with Luca Turin’s constant insistence that “women should not smell like flowers.” I do what I want, Luca! It’s sort of like when dudes say “Women shouldn’t wear makeup. Stop covering up your natural beauty.” Even if it’s a different message than the ones that women usually receive, you’re still telling me what to do.

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Let’s finish with a poll based on the Allure article: ladies, what are your favorite “rugged” perfumes? Gentlemen, what are your favorite gourmands?

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45 Responses to ““You Don’t Want to Smell Like a Cowboy.””

  1. anatu13

    How bizarre! The tobacco and booze in SL Un Voix Noire and the smoky rum and leather of vintage Lubin Idole EDT are rather sultry on me. And I also like to smell like flowers–FM Lys Mediterranee always gets me compliments, among other florals. I’ll stick with these over Baby Phat and Paris Hilton scents any day! :D

    Reply
    • Ari

      Is there a difference between vintage Idole EDT and current, anatu13?? (I’m very happy with the current version, so maybe it’s better not to ask!)

      Reply
      • anatu13

        Honestly, I have no idea. The person I swapped samples with made a point of saying it was vintage, but I don’t recall hearing anything about any significant change, not that I’m really in the loop on that sort of thing. I’m SO glad you said you like the current version–I love my sample and have been hoping it’s not much different from what’s available now!

        Reply
  2. australianperfumejunkies

    GRR! That stuff is dumb. I don’t think the fragrances EVER complained of who was wearing them.
    I love to cut a man swathe in Shalimar, currently wearing Dries Van Notten which is an ambery sweet thing.
    As a lady I rock anything from Tabac original to Le Male and your own Lonestar Memories.
    And GodDamnIt, I WANT to smell like flowers sometimes, boy or woman.
    I hope you’re loving the new job.
    Portia xx

    Reply
    • Ari

      Thank you so much, Portia! It truly is a dream job :)
      I would loooove to smell a man in Dries van Noten! In general, I think that gourmands are so charming on men precisely because they are unexpected.

      Reply
  3. Té de Violetas

    Great article, Ari!
    The rugged fragrances I can wear and love are Onda, Cuir de Russie, Bois d’Ombrie, Tabac Blond, Cabochard and Memoir Man. I steal my husband’s Knize Ten once in a while too!

    Cheers,

    Caro

    Reply
  4. TF

    While I am not as into leather scents myself, I agree with your argument and I do wear masculines sometimes. On a side note, I think gourmands are amazing for guys!

    Reply
  5. Emily Grosvenor

    I was so thrilled to see it I had to steal the issue from my gym. Well, actually, I asked them if I could take it home (to copy), but still. It is so exciting to see a national magazine devote so much space to the story of perfume. I think the more consumers wake up to the variety of scents on the market, the more they will ignore the rules. Even a reader who balks at rose will read that article and be exposed to the breadth of the perfume scene.

    Reply
    • Ari

      That is an awfully polite version of stealing, Emily! I agree that at this point, pretty much any fragrance coverage is good news, even if they don’t get it quite right at first. The rose perfumes article was really excellent- it was so great that they went into the history of which fragrances re-ignited the rose trend (Stella McCartney Stella, for anyone who hasn’t read it yet!)

      Reply
  6. Jennifer Counts

    So if a woman’s not supposed to wear leather, what exactly do they think of as gender-bending? I suppose I should read the article. And maybe I do want to smell like a cowboy, dammit! :P

    Anyway… I’m all about leather and tobacco in the fall, separate or together. I like Chergui, Cabochard, Cuir Mauresque, HdP 1740 (Marquis de Sade), L’Air de Rien, Bulgari Black, L’Air du Desert Marocain, Lubin Idole and Tobacco Vanille.

    Reply
    • Ari

      I love literally everything on your list that I’ve smelled, Jennifer. I’ve been wearing a lot of Phaedon Tabac Rouge, which is basically Tobacco Vanille for $100 less, now that it’s gotten so cold.

      Reply
      • Jennifer Counts

        Ooh I haven’t tried anything from Phaedon, but Tabac Rouge sounds nice. I’m all for a cheaper version of TV. I’ve only had samples because that stuff’s so expensive. I like L’Occitane’s Eau des Baux for basically the same reason. It’s basically a slightly lighter TV for like 1/4 of the price.

        Reply
  7. blackraspberry

    For a long time, I was afraid of “crossing the aisle” in fragrance, until I was out sampling and shopping with a friend who put it in perspective: “You’re going to smell good either way.”

    I mean, wouldn’t you rather be in the company of a woman wearing leather notes or a man with a trace of vanilla than anyone who smelled like B.O.? Just smell good, whatever your preferences.

    In most things, and certainly for fragrance, I think “masculine” and “feminine” are more about marketing than anything else. How could a scent have a gender? But that’s not to say all that marketing doesn’t put pressure on us and make us feel awkward about trying fragrances packaged and promoted for the other sex. So, thank you for the “Don’t tell me what to do” rallying cry; we all need it sometimes.

    My favorite gourmand is currently Candy by Prada. And my go-to fragrance is Fleur du Male by Jean Paul Gaultier, a male-marketed floral that suits my personality to a T.

    Reply
    • Ari

      Hey, some of us pay good money for that B.O. smell! :P Prada Candy is delicious, and I would love to smell it on either sex!

      Reply
  8. Lavanya

    Haha- loved your post!! And couldn’t agree more. I used to think I didn’t like ‘male’ perfumes but then I realized that I don’t really perceive many of the ‘masculine’ perfumes as ‘masculine’. I LOVE pure distance M which is often billed as a ‘masculine perfume’ though I don’t think there is anything ‘rugged’ about it. Also like Andy Warhol Silver Factory and Amouage Junilation XXV. Ambre Sultan?
    Recently my husband smelled Victoria Minya’s hedonist on me. He really liked it and I thought he would very sweetly say that I should wear it more often. Oh no. He said ” Can you get me my own sample so I can wear it” ..LOL..And this from a guy who doesn’t wear perfume.

    Reply
    • Ari

      I definitely wouldn’t call Puredistance M rugged, which is why the blanket “no leather for wimminz” rule is so silly. I mean, is Cuir de Lancôme rugged???

      I still haven’t tried Hedonist, and your sweet story has reignited my desire to seek it out!

      Reply
      • Jennifer Counts

        I was thinking that same thing. The “no leather for ladies” thing completely ignores the fact that there are feminine leather scents. Daim Blond and Bottega Veneta aren’t exactly rugged he-man scents, though they would be pretty great on a guy.

        I’m also imagining Hedonist on a guy too. Yum.

        Reply
        • Lynley

          Not to mention Bandit for goodness sakes! I feel like smacking him in the head with a big bottle of it ;-)

  9. Liz

    The “manliest” scent I wear is Jo Malone 154, and it’s glorious. It just smells timeless, earthy and fresh. I’d love to spritz my “girliest” perfumes on my husband to see if I like them as much on him as on myself, but I’d have to pin him down since he refuses to wear anything other than soap!

    Reply
  10. Mals86 (@musewoodenshoes)

    I am notoriously girly, and SHUT UP LUCA I DO SO WANT TO SMELL LIKE FLOWERS SO THERE NYAH NYAH… but I’ve been known to rock my sample of Tom Ford Tuscan Leather, as well as SSS Tabac Aurea. I really cannot feel comfortable in anything that smells like shaving cream, and I absolutely cannot do fougeres of any stripe (I blame growing up in the late 70s/early 80s!). But leather is beautiful. And I’d wear Old Spice if it hadn’t been my dad’s scent (sorry, no, just too weird).

    And men are FABULOUS in florals, if they wear them with confidence. I think Shalimar would be great on a guy, too.

    Reply
    • Jennifer Counts

      I feel the same way about fougeres. That’s really the one masculine category I have a really hard time wearing. I think it’s the Dad thing. He’s always worn Brut, so whenever I wear something that even vaguely reminds me of it, I feel like I just raided my dad’s medicine cabinet or something.

      Reply
  11. poodle

    Too rugged? No, perhaps the women who wear those scents are just too much woman for him to handle. I love those fragrance notes and if I want to smell like leather or tobacco I will. I’ll smell like a flower now and then too. I just don’t like smelling like fruit salad. I don’t even mind smelling like dessert. I don’t think scents are male/female and if you like it then wear it.

    Reply
  12. Patty

    What what what??? They’ll have to pry my leather and tobacco fragrances from my cold dead hands! Those are two of my favorite notes, and I love Habanita, Tabac Blond, Bal a Versailles, Bandit, Cuir de Russie… As for gourmands, you all are on your own. But I agree with the rule, “If you like it and it smells good on you, wear it!”

    Reply
  13. James Dennard

    Turin’s quote about not wanting women to smell like flowers seems odd. Does he think men smell better in floral fragrances. I do like some, but that quote is just weird. As for gourmand fragrances, Dries Van Noten, Obsession, and Shalimar are a few of my favourites.

    I remember reading in The Guide descriptions of Stetson for men as a good feminine. Goes to show you that we should all wear what we like. Enjoyed reading this, Ari :)

    Reply
  14. Julie F

    Is M7 considered rugged? I think Jennifer and I may be scent twins, her list reads like the contents of my fume fridge

    Reply
  15. Anna in Edinburgh

    Hi Ari :-)
    I think the “women should not smell like flowers” quotation originated with Coco Chanel, who wanted women to smell of her perfumes instead of distinctive soliflores like Rose or Violet or Lily of the Valley, so it isn’t surprising that you object to her idea!

    Anyway, as a vetivert fan I certainly don’t think anyone should worry about anyone assigning “gender values” to their scent choices. Spray away merrily everyone:-)

    Reply
  16. Dionne

    Women shouldn’t wear leather? Whaaaaaat? Do these people have no sense of history AT ALL? For crying out loud, we were rocking the leathers back in the 20’s as part of our emancipation, and here we are, almost 100 years later being told we shouldn’t? Grrrrrrrrrr.

    I consistently get compliments when I wear Cuir Ottoman and Bottega Veneta and Volutes and Eau des Baux.

    Reply
    • Ari

      I would definitely be one of the people giving you compliments on Volutes. So subtle-sexy!

      I hope that I’m wrong about this, but I’m not optimistic about the number of magazine beauty writers who are familiar with the connection between leather and smoke perfumes and women’s emancipation.

      Reply
  17. willread

    A bit of overreaction and unnecessary Luca-bashing. I interpret his point as a valid one. Women used to wear almost nothing but flowers, so good point from him there. And besides, Turin can say and think whatever HE wants as much as anyone else…plus he is funny and too many women still smell only like flowers…

    Reply
  18. Hannah

    I am such a terrible sucker for reverse psychology. Anybody have suggestions for good floral-leathers?

    Reply
      • Hannah

        Oooh, lovely! Cuir de Lancome is one of those should-have-bought-it-when-it-was-dirt-cheap regrets. Although it would have been a blind buy, I remember seeing a bottle less for than $40. Jolie Madame sounds gorgeous- I’ll add it to my list of perfumes to sample. Thanks!

        Reply
  19. Victoria

    Arghhh! How frustrating!
    And this is why I read blogs and stay away from the glossies….

    I think “Don’t tell me what to do” (my motto) sums it up!

    Reply

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