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)