This past weekend How to Spend It magazine of the Financial Times included an article by Vicci Bentley on what to wear to the office. Called The Discreet Smell of Success, the piece was mildly edgy because it was the contention of the writer that success has a smell (the successful smell is a chypre, just in case you were wondering.) Since more and more offices, municipal buildings, schools and restaurants ban fragrance in the US and elsewhere, the idea more and more frequently seems to be no smell is the smell of success.
Now there’s a concept! Unfortunately, it’s got one small problem: it’s impossible.
When you live and work around a large genus of ape such as Homo Sapiens you run into the inevitable problem that they stink a little. (Okay, sometimes a lot.) Even clean people will not smell good all the time. They have halitosis, they generally sweat, and, given the usual panoply of bacteria on human skin, will subsequently stink. They pass gas from time to time, not as frequently as cows, perhaps, but there’s always another wait-for-it moment enjoyed by schoolboys, yoga class frequenters and long distance runners everywhere.
So sure, you can ban perfume in all forms, but what will be the alternative?
My mother-in-law remembers a time when to stink was extremely déclassé. She and her younger sister were in the habit of applying a product known as Odo-ro-no to their underarms at night.* The stuff was so caustic to cloth that it had to dry fully before you dressed so as to avoid damage to garments. My mother-in-law and her sibling would lie there at night waiting for Odo-ro-no to evaporate, and wonder- idly- if the deodorant would have eaten through their armpits by morning.
Did it work? Well, sort of, seems to be the verdict. I fear that all this similarly caustic legislation will have the same effect on the fibers of public good will, namely a deleterious one, and produce a similarly ineffective result. People it seems will not only stink, but smell, and whether the stink is underarm or Eau de Q Rating, at least it constitutes variety.