The end of the twentieth century was very concerned with clear atmospheres. This was probably because of crowding in public spaces which I suppose also meant crowded air. Perfume and cigarettes, those two great offenders, were sometimes banned, although the evidence that perfume harmed anyone was extremely spotty. Still what it meant for me was caution. Now I do not wear perfume anywhere that contains a large number of people e.g. airplanes, offices, restaurants, theaters. What’s left?
Here’s the odd part. I used to like shared atmosphere as a child. I enjoyed going to church and huffing whatever the lady in the fur wrap was wearing. My mom’s Tabu I avoided but when she changed to Fidji, that was quite another matter. Women on subway trains trailed something cheap and cheerful like Friendship Garden (essentially a knock off of No 5) or later there was Coty’s Sweet Earth series and patchouli made the nearness of hippie chicks bearable.
After 1990 or so things began to change. Cigarettes had to go smoke outside and perfume, after the after the massive assaults of Poison and Giorgio on the public’s nasal cavities, began to dissipate into a harmless mist of vanilla. Then even these vanilla perfumes (Tocade for example) began to disappear. It was so marked a change that when I was in France this last summer I was surprised by the perfume floating
around the air at Versailles. And yes, the smells were lovely.
So now I wonder how far is right in public? Sometimes when I miss perfume ( or to be precise good perfume, I don’t count the synthetic horrors too many people wear now) and so dab on a micro dose of Apres L’Ondee or Strange Invisible Perfumes’ Dimanche. I feel just a little bit guilty. But what am I guilty of exactly?
Besides all this caution of mine may be a waste of time anyway since I still smell a torrent of chemication passing me on the street. Only now it’s Febreeze, or Downy, or Tide avec odeur, or heaven preserve us, AXE. The mix is far more offensive than a little perfume.
This all feeds into the question I once asked about individuals smelling rich or poor? If rich, the answer is carefully curated vintage or artisanal, probably stored in climate controlled wine cellars. You smell different than everybody else if you wear the good
stuff. Like fabulous peanut butter, as my daughter once said of a Guerlain LE I was wearing (Oriental Brulant I think from the Elixir Charnels). Or else like real flowers, or else like incense from a church censor. You don’t smell of cheap chemicals.
This is unfortunate to my mind. The twentieth century did have one thing right and that was affordable, democratic luxury. L’Aimant wasn’t expensive, but it was good, now the
dividing line is between approved but not very good molecules and rarely encountered high end ones.
Which atmospheres should be shared? Should etiquette demand that we don’t wear perfume in public? Even if we enthusiasts don’t, aren’t we still going to get cheap industrial perfumery? Which is air pollution and which is perfume? What do you think?