Monday, August 17, 2015

The Perils of Youth or the Requisites of Glamour?

The question of mutton dressed as lamb is, sadly, present even in perfumeland. People actually ask whether a spritz of Clinique Happy, Escada's Pacific Paradise or a Rihanna fragrance might seem too juvenile for them, as if there is an age police around checking under their armpits and behind their ears for compliance to respective age bracket. Obviously that's faulty thinking: wear what you like, perfume is an equal opportunity employer.

But what happens when the question is put in reverse? To paraphrase an infamous quote, can you ever be too young for your perfume? This is the question I put into the test. Like with porn, if you have to ask about it, it probably means you are. But let's get serious.

the caustic Margo Channing courtesy of

Youth, especially these days when the desire for wisdom is culturally shunned, doesn't look up to maturity. Long ago little boys and little girls were dressed like little gentlemen and little ladies. Nowadays people in their 70s wear velour tracksuits and bows in their hair and that's considered tasteful (permissible it undoubtedly is, perish the thought of fascist taste police).
And yet the retrospective desire "for the good old days" (which were anything but good, really, come to think about it) around the millennium, has sparked a resurgence for vintage and retro items, from floppy felt hats in glamorous design to opera gloves and strings and strings of long necklaces, all the way to boho chic. Perfumes and beauty items couldn't fall far behind, so they followed.

Therefore we have this paradox. An extremely youth-oriented culture is viewing retro as totally glamorous, yet at the same time questions itself on its being a good fit for that sort of gilded beauty.
Have no fear. Perfume can and should be embraced by the young even in its classic form, that is in compositions which seem old-fashioned or even antiquated sometimes. By exploring one's options, one's horizons and ultimately one's limits, we get a better grasp of who we are. And as fashion designer Ciara Boni once said, "Style is knowing exactly who you are and having the guts to declare it at the top of your lungs".

So without further ado, please visit the link to my latest article: Am I Too Young for my Perfume? And please indulge in the conversation, here and/or on Facebook. 


  1. Very interesting points as usual.

    The same applies to us men, of course. Younger kids now proudly sport beards last seen in Edwardian times. Indeed, a beard now almost always signals firm membership in the Millennial generation. Sharp sporty and marine stuff seems out of place. You'd feel the generation is ready for a resurgence of the defunct Fougere royale. Or at least you'd think Guerlain could put Jicky on Sephora's shelves (same owner, after all).

    1. Thanks M!

      I do think they're raiding their grandfather's closets even in a grooming products sense. It's certain that this retro resurgence is not without echo (and possibly source) in the hipster community; so many other things are (apiculture, rare books, knitting, etc.)
      The choice of Guerlain-Jicky_Sephora makes perfect sense of course! Good on you.

  2. Anonymous12:59

    I often seek out vintage chypres for my mum, who's in her early 70s. I do like the smell of them, but they also smell undeniably old fashioned and I'd probably only wear one if I was with perfumista sort of friends!
    You can't get away from perfume and association, it makes sense to me that much younger women wear vintages or retro perfumes these days, since they're far enough removed from the associations to experience something different.

    I remember reading that Tyra Banks wore L'Heure Bleue. I thought that was an interesting choice for someone so concious of cutting edge fashion, which just goes to prove your point that these are seen as cool these days

    I think you have to be removed far enough from the decade in question for the perfume to not feel 'old'. I'd sooner wear a perfume like Miss Balmain in vintage, than Coco Chanel, because I wore Coco when it was cutting edge, and the 80s were my teenage years. For a 20 year old though, the 80s are like the 60s are for me - kind of cool and retro!

    1. Excellent point about the necessary distance. Very accurate!
      I think the scent in question needs to be distanced also from what one considers their "prime time" in order for something to appear new and desirable as such. One tends to associate a certain period of their lives as their prime (usually when they were very successful either in love or in work, it usually is either the 20s or 30s, though it can also be early 40s) and they tend to always hold a soft spot for the perfume they associate with that period in their loves. They can never be too distanced from that, but they can never see it as obsolete either.

      I think Tyra Banks and L'Heure Bleue is indeed a safe distance in which to revere the scent in a "art object" sort of way.

      Funny, I more associate women in their 70s with aldehydic florals in the likes of Arpege and Caleche and generally light and soapy-sweet scents than with heavier chypres. I associate women in their 50s and early 60s with those. Might also be a geographical thing, though.

      Thanks for the insightful comment, as always.

  3. While snooping around the perfume counters I still see the "young" wanting "Fresh" perfumes but .... maybe we are late to the trend?
    Mind you .... I think this sort of "trend" is happening here .... teenage girls of Asian extraction are carrying stuffed toys with them while going to school or shopping .... its very strange and I wonder if they have puffed on a perfume "oldie" like Mitsouko ! That would make it stranger LOL

    1. M,

      that's very interesting (and strange) indeed! I remember the kawaii trend which was driving people bonkers with the juvenile images, but this is equally odd. Who knows? Hahahaha.

      On another note, I think "fresh" is a perennial compliment in regards to perfume, associated to light in the sense of weightlessness, not antithesis of darkness. Therefore "fresh" takes on many forms, actually, it doesn't have to be citrus or marine/ozonic only. I associate powdery smells with fresh, for instance, because South Med is big on powdery, it's considered "groomed", the opposite of unkempt glistening from perspiration. I also associate fresh with green chypres, probably because my memories revolve around groomed people opting for them, but also because they read as sharp, dry, tenacious and mentally opposite to a slouch or a tramp (who would be dirty, or so the syllogism goes). Soapy is also fresh (needs no explanation) and fruity can also interpreted as fresh, due to the pummeling of our collective heads with this equation in recent years.

      No one advertises their perfume as "stale". ;-)

  4. Miss Heliotrope08:12

    There are so many options for stress in getting out of bed that I am always impressed I manage it - there is, and I suspect always will be, a big mainstream fashion for youth, whether real or pretend, as there are an awful lot of people out there who dress in certain ways or listen to music that many people need scare quotes for before accepting it as music at all. There is also a significant interest (my music analogy holds up here) in retro/vintage, which relies on the age of the person (my rule is never wear clothing that you can remember wearing last time around - as with the coco, above). At the same time, there is a a sizable grouping that have decided to just dive in to whatever takes their fancy. They may not get as many articles in the mainstream newspapers, but they seem to have less worries about whether or not they are whatever the current word for cool is...

    I find that youth in scent seems to be linked to smelling like fairy/candy floss (at least it's not damp nappies), which is not something that I particularly enjoy, and so I dont bother. We have discussed previously an overall trend towards sugar, and I hope one day it moves on. we give these associations to things, so whether or not they bother us is personal, reliant upon our own taste in such matters. My taste may be more towards what some perceive as old lady, but then if I worried about that, I would still be in bed (although is that such a bad idea?)

    1. It's always a bad idea to stay in bed indeterminately/indefinitely. It might give you ideas that do not suit your active mind. Therefore hurray for each and every day that you get out of bed; and into this blog, we thank you for that too.

      The point about youth and sweet, to further your reasoning, is that (today's) youth has been conditioned to expect sweet. And fruity. It's like with visible extra-unrealistic ads on men. Young women are told repeatedly this is what they should like. And in the end they internalize it and they end up liking it. One might argue that it's a similar thing with fake big boobs (or enhanced butts) and men, but this is not really the case, because there were always appreciated on some level and in various cultures; external proclamations of fertile femininity (or so the stereotype went)

      These kind of unreal defined abs on men (and women, for Chris's sake!) on the other hand are a total product, they're totally manufactured, you need a gym, a very lean body with a very low fat ratio to muscle, a personal trainer and you probably need some supplements/drugs too to get them as well. So this trend (and this conditioning to embrace the trend) gives work to many different varieties of jobs.

      I expect the preponderance of sweet & fruity is an analogous phenomenon to those manufactured abs; they should give work to many jobs, triggering cravings and aiding our consuming and obese society.


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