The Brave

Olivier Creed was quoted once as saying that a woman needed three perfumes: one to make her feel brave, one to make her feel comfortable, and one to make her feel beautiful.  Now, Creed is a firm that enjoys a chaotic reputation in the world of perfume (see Creedo). Probably the firm is more talked down than it deserves, and the mere repetition of the word “millesime” seems to infuriate certain perfume commentators, but still, I like this little saying of Mr. Creed’s and think it holds true.

More than this, I tend to operate on the basis of it. Usually I have three perfumes in rotation that make me feel brave or attractive or pleasant and guess this is a universal goal of people who wear perfume. (Currently they are Gardenia Petale, Mouchoir de Monsieur and JRWatkins Lemon Hand Cream, of which I have a good supply thanks to my lovely sister-in-law Janet.)  Perfume can be a crutch, alternatively perfume can be armor, and it can make you feel better even in situations that are far from ideal.

The Brave perfume for me is a masculine.  Well, at least I got that statement out whole.  To be honest I don’t really think perfume has a gender, and  if it does, I like to cross the gender bar so  that I’m feminine when I feel feminine and a dandy when I don’t.

I’m aware that other people smell lavender or leather and think: guy, but I like to harness the power of this reaction for my own use in business transactions. No tuberose then, no rose, no jasmine, but fougeres and leathers, dry and tough as they make them.  Then when I have to lean across a table to point out that I’m not going there with my money, the perfume tends to back me up.  You wanna a piece of us, it asks the interlocutor’s air space – and basically, no one ever does.

Now let’s admit that there are times when this sort of choice may land you in trouble, the office Holiday Party, for instance. Or if you are out on a date, you select depending on your own selection. If you are a lady looking for the opposite sex, then I wouldn’t recommend Caron’s blunderbuss of a leather Yatagan.

But when you have to deal with the recalcitrant broker who won’t listen, or the real estate agent who won’t either, or Lord help us, try to buy a car, refrigerator, oven, hire a contractor or take a difficult meeting of any kind, then consider the brave perfume, possibly even Yatagan.

If you really want to stay on the feminine side of things, then gravitate to a leather or a chypre, Lancome’s Cuir or Parfumerie Generale’s Patchouli Intrigant.  No fuzzy musky florals, no Lovely please, and do not try to sneak something like Chinatown past the chypre police, you will be busted. That is a gourmand and no one takes gourmand wearers seriously.  No.  I mean a real dress-that-line, suck-in-your-gut Chypre like Coty’s, or Sous le Vent, or Aromatics Elixir, or Mitsouko, or Enlevement au Serail, that kind of chypre.

Does all this sound harsh?  Not a bit of it.  If you are below a certain age then you grew up on gourmand scents and fun as they are, they melt at high temperatures.  When you hit one of those big girl speed-bumps, walk in on the boyfriend with another woman, or discover unauthorized charges to the tune of several thousand on your credit card, or lose that job, you need armor, you need something tough, you need Bandit, baby, because Babydoll has just wet her diapers.  When you have to cross that line of having to get oppositional to get your point across, use a chypre or a masculine.

Then, like the brave old Duke of York you can march your men right up to the top of the hill, and march them down again.

What’s your brave perfume?

(Coming up – Comfortable and Beautiful)


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13 Responses to The Brave

  1. Mals86 says:

    I hadn’t come across the quote before, but I like it.

    My “Brave” is what I call the Invisible Armor Perfume, and it is always and forever Chanel No. 19. In the vintage Eau de Toilette concentration, please, with its leather and vetiver backbone.

    If, God forbid, I run out of my stash of vinty 19 edt, I could go with the last stage of development of my vintage Arpege extrait, where it gets down to that lovely stern, deep woody base. (Before that point, I tend to suffer. The florals are just SO dirty and lush and rotting, and the jasmine in particular is SO, yeah, I’ll say it, pissy… whoa. Uncomfortable. The drydown’s to die for.)

    I have worn Cuir de Lancome every time I’ve had to take a kid to the ER: it can be a little Clint Eastwood from a distance, but within hugging distance, it’s all Nana’s Good Leather Purse, complete with No. 5- soaked hanky. (When they were babies, The CEO and I used to predict that it was Taz, our reckless youngest, that would land us in the ER. However, on each occasion it’s actually been gentle Gaze – suspected appendicitis, suspected concussion, or 2-inch gash in his hand from falling off his bike. Although, for full disclosure, he only fell off his bike onto the gravel driveway because Taz threw a football at him. Eep.)

    Coty Chypre is a genius pick. I’m thinking L’Arte di Gucci, which I LOVE but which is not exactly what I’d call a friendly cuddly smell, would work for me too. It tends to conjure up Joan Collins in her Dynasty shoulder pads, and Alexis was nobody to mess with.

    I really cannot wear fougeres. Just can’t do it. It feels to me like wearing Y-fronts, for which I have the wrong plumbing. And since the point of the Invisible Armor is to make the wearer feel comfortable, and everybody else intimidated, I’m not inclined to try.

  2. Blacknall Allen says:

    Those visits to the ER! My sister has had her share of those with her son (who is also a gentle soul) fortunately for me, my kid says, “Is this a rash? Should I see the dermatologist for that?”
    Chanel No19 was-interestingly- my first choice for the Brave, but I had read so much about its alleged aloofness that I wasn’t sure other people would agree with that choice. Well Mlle. wore it to compete in the catty Parisian world of couture when she was past seventy, so it must have worked for her!

  3. Meg says:

    Oh, god, I love Yatagan for a jolt of instant badass. Also old-school Jolie Madame and Pascal Morabito Or Black. All project pretty faithfully the sentiment, “Don’t tread on me.”

    • Meg says:

      Plus Hindu Kush by AbdesSalaam. Hungry like the wolf!

      • Blacknall Allen says:

        AbdesSalaam is a perfumer whose work I’d like to know. He’s interesting, a bit of a bridge between Middle Eastern and Western perfume styles? Or is he really in the Mid East tradition I wonder? Well, I’ll just have to smell and find out.

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      Sometimes I wish that I could do a miniature magic spell that turned our cat into a 800 lb tiger for a split second, just long enough to inquire of a guest, “Have you met Kitty?” and watch them quail, and then relax, as the cat dwindles to her usual 9lbs, and they start asking themselves if they really shouldn’t ditch the Xanax? Yatagan is like that. Have you met Kitty? Yikes!

  4. Undina says:

    I think I do not consider any perfume to be an armor and don’t remember ever using it as such. I think I look at different perfumes more from the point being [in]appropriate for a specific environment/occasion/situation. I probably might be in a mood/not in a mood for a specific perfume but I cannot see any correlation to a “job at hand.”

  5. Dionne says:

    For me, I feel brave when I feel smart, so my armor is the intellectual sort. And nothing says, “Trust me, you don’t want to mess with me” like iris when it’s cool and cerebral. Iris Silver Mist, Infusion d’Iris, Hiris, Dior Homme. 28 La Pausa veers into more gracious territory, but the steel is still there underneath.

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      Hi Dionne, Your point about feeling brave because you feel intelligent is pretty well taken. Perhaps I should have included the IQ reinforcing perfume? Everything you’ve chosen here is indeed cool and cerebral probably because of the super cool iris. In this super cool division Dior Homme is a really good selection, and I wish I’d thought of it!James dean with a PhD. Did you ever sample Iris Bleu Gris the Maitre Parfumier Gantier iris? It is brainy but also has sinews of steel, if you know what I mean.

      • Dionne says:

        Haven’t tried that one yet, as there are a few irises I still need to give a whirl: Bas de Soie, Iris de Nuit, L’Homme de Coeur, Naiviris, the new Impossible Iris, etc., There are some categories that once I’ve found my favorite I feel “done,” but iris falls into the “You can never have too many” group.

        • Blacknall Allen says:

          You have a back log of irises there alright. I’m behind on the Serge Lutens releases alone, and the only one I know in your list is Homme de Coeur, but that I liked. And yes once you find a category you love, man, it can be hard to stop at two or six.
          My problem is favorite houses, just one more Caron, is my rationale, and it won’t matter because I can stop Caroning anytime I want to. But I have yet to go cold turkey on that house particularly the vintage stuff.

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