There used to be theories about coloration and skin chemistry. It sounds antediluvian, and probably does predate Noah and the Ark, but perfume houses used to recommend scents according to whether you were blonde, or red haired, or brunette of any ethnicity. I thought it was long gone as a strategy for selling fragrance until I went to a fragrance trunk show at Saks a few years ago and whammo! found myself in the brunette contingent.
“Madame will wear L’Heure Bleue particularly well,” said the very French company rep, transfixing me with a look as pointed as her stilettos and glaring at the bottle I had in my hand. (I’d picked up the tester of Oriental Brulant because I do not personally care for L’Heure Bleue.). “No, no, no, that perfume is not suited to madame at all.” she continued, firmly dabbing me with Cruel Gardenia, since I would not do any twilit blues. I was forced to leave the Brulant strictly alone, but could have the new Shalimar, or Apres L’Ondee, or Mayotte- but no Samsara. That was for the blondes, along with Tonka Imperiale.“It is generally claimed,” write Elizabeth Barille and Catherine Laroze in The Book of Perfume, “that red heads exhale a milky odor, brunettes a musky fragrance, and blondes that of almonds…”
Yes, they do go on to mention such things as skin PH, and hormone levels, dietary choices etc, but there you have it. This seemed a little arbitrary to me, but the belief goes back a long way in French perfumery.
Take the first three Jean Patou scents from 1925, Amour-Amour the floral bouquet similar to Joy, was for brunettes, Que Sais Je, the fruity chypre, was for Blondes, and redheads got Adieu Sagesse a mix of carnations and tuberose that smells a bit like Bellodgia and has a sweet tart thing going on. I would not have thought hair color made any difference particularly as so many of us change ours courtesy Clairol et al.
The idea persisted though. “Arthritis and red hair,“ Armand Petitjean the founder of Lancome once declared, “are the death of jasmine.” This statement maybe explains the notes of Adieu Sagesse the redhead-aimed release, which don’t contain any jasmine, the florals being of the neroli, tuberose and carnation sort. Redheads might also like Caline, Colony and Vacances among the old Jean Patous, for the same reason.
Blondes, by this set of criteria, would appear to be shunted off into the side tracks of chypres, with the occasional almond scented gourmand on their route. This seems unfair to me. I married into a family of blondes, have a daughter who is a blonde every summer, and a mother-in-law and sisters-in-law who are all blondes. The lot of them are sharp as tacks, belying their blonditude. Nary a blonde moment do they have, and they like to wear any number of scents, everything from Prada Candy to Diorissimo. Not a blonde amongst them wears chypre, nor ever has, to the best of my knowledge. They are all floral wearers except for my daughter, who seems to relish orientals.
So, is there anything to this old theory? I don’t know. I was born a red head, having picked up some genes from my auburn haired grandmother, but have worn jasmine heavy perfumes most of my life without any problems, since my hair darkened to brown. Perhaps the ban is only for certain shades of red, and not residual redness? If you’re a natural red head does natural jasmine smell bad on you? This seems hard to believe.
Still, and for what it’s worth, the break down seems to be: Brunettes (who have hit the scent jackpot if they are also dark skinned with active sebaceous glands- because they will retain fragrance longer than the rest of us) are recommended florals, floral orientals, orientals and green chypres. Blondes shine with light florals, fruity florals, light orientals , woody scents and fruity or woody chypres.
And for the red haired (who have the hardest roe to hoe perfumically because they often also have dry skin) tart florals, (jasmine excepted) carnation and tuberose scents, also citrus fragrances and citrus chypres, green florals, and green chypres.
Would this work? I haven’t the foggiest notion. It’s just hair color to me.