Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Great White Shark in Plain Sight

The sleek contours of Clinique's Aromatics in White had just been the stepping stone; the trigger that pushed the thought bullet into motion spinning through my brain. White shone everywhere. White shone blindingly.
I was sitting on something that was staring me -unlike the big white shark- straight in the eye.


White code is now a specific meaning in contemporary perfumes of the last couple of years or so. Without breaking with the "white floral" world of feminine and pretty fragrances it touches on a smooth unisex abstractedness at once eerily close to polishedness and to blandness.

My article which came out of this train of thought aided by observation appears on Fragrantica as "The Great White Code". You can reach it on the link for more info touching on white tobacco and cuir blanc (white leather) as well as white musk and the impossibility of opaqueness in white perfumery.
You're welcome to comment here or there of course!

Acne "Rita" motorcycle jacket in white leather

You might also want to check out my previous Perfume Shrine article The Truth about Patchouli Chypres or Floral Patchoulis which discusses some of the perfumes which appear in the "white code".


  1. Miss Heliotrope05:46

    On the other hand, sharks attack men more than women (http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2014/09/04/4080645.htm), so maybe less unisex & deffinately not bland...

    PS - I hate unisex as a word, and the other options, which escape me at the moment, arent great either.

    1. Miss Heliotrope05:47

      & I can spell, really. Definately.

    2. Miss Heliotrope06:04

      & continuing to rabbiting on having read the article, it seems that the use of white is plugging in, as we have discussed previously, to a new fear of perceptions of filth. Instead of leather, which is a bit - naughty or dirty or both - we have white leather, which is fine bc it's white, and so on, the use of white assuring us that we wont face anything too outrageous or suggestive in a world when grown ups now smell of fake sugar & chemical flowers.

    3. I kinda don't like unisex myself (recalls a eunuch to me for some reason), but shared isn't perfect either. Possibly because it doesn't self-defined shared between whom exactly. Maybe I need to devise a term. Hmmm.
      And I know you can spell, that's for sure. Typos happen to the best families. ;-)

    4. White is somewhat precarious, to me personally, because as the person doing the home chores I'm always scared it will stain irrevocably. So white is a bit "noli me tocare" to me which -come to think of it- is probably behind the new modern feeling about our self in the contemporary society; we're afraid of touch and intimacy and we each retain an outer shell that is meant not to be soiled by foreign hands. A good analogue for the perfumes modern consumers choose too, right?

  2. i can't help but suspect that the white trend is just another facet of the current push for "harmless" or even infantilized scent...perfumes have (in)famously become sweet---sometimes tooth-achingly so; and if not sweet, many have become bland, as if people are afraid to wear noticeable perfume. white is perceived as harmless, clean, minimal, unoffensive...it's patchouli with its teeth drawn. musk with no discernible animalic undertone. it comes with associations of little girls in white tea frocks, (virginal) brides, empty minimalist rooms with no stamp of personality or passion, unsullied sheets, blank paper...it has little to do with real, grown-up, complex women (we use red or sometimes black, for that association); little to do with a colorful, heavily fragrant garden, let alone a wild place where blooms riot and creatures prowl...too often, white seems to be a retreat or flight from something, an absence of something, and even a choice of the artificial over the real at times. i don't find this reassuring.

    1. I like your explanation of it and the way you put it! Thanks A!

      As I tried to explain above to Miss Heliotrope, I also think that the white trend is a reflection of the fear factor of "soiling" that white produces to us. It tends to keep hands away, lest they soil the impeccable whiteness. Like Belle Epoque white linen suits worn by everyone in period films they give a sense of "don't touch" ; they're a sign of high class "distance" (workers don't dress in all white) and they go hand in hand with the intricacies of sentiment and social interaction that period films and literature of those times (OK, not all, just some) portray.
      In many ways modern "white" is a color of solitude and of detachment. Purity of the anchorite.

      What do you think?

    2. that's interesting---i hadn't thought of it from the class-linked standpoint...indeed, white attire is not associated with workers, for all those obvious reasons! and the pale linen ensembles of the belle epoque certainly pointed up the remote and heavily "assisted" lifestyle of the ladies and gentlemen who wore them. i'm not certain that white in our modern culture has as much of those associations; it retains mostly its sense of cleanliness, of minimalism. white is seen as crisp, clean, cool, unsullied; but also as the absence of clutter or "too-muchness", so yes, in that way, definitely the purity of the anchorite as you said. in perfume, however, i feel it is used to evoke something that has an ambiguous appeal, a sort of dichotomous sense of "come hither---keep your distance"...what i mean is that perfume advertising and sensibility seems to use white to connote a sexuality that is not mature, robust, or passionate---but which has the potential to be. the nymph. the maiden. the bride. it's a "clean" sexuality. it is the perfume of the virgin locked in the tower...

      of course all this may reflect more of my own readings of contemporary media presentations of women and female sexuality and the lingering traces of patriarchal controls and expectations that exist in many people, both male and female...in reality, we each have many sides and may want a variety of scents to showcase whichever aspect is strongest at any moment. i just tend to recoil from certain presentations of whiteness...but remember, i'm in america, where the media is particularly poisonous to women (the "virgin---whore" dichotomy is alive and well), and where there is a history of opposition between "whiteness" and "blackness" that haunts us even today in any context. sigh...it would be so much simpler if it could just be about white flowers and a minimalist sensibility...

  3. flowergirlbee!03:40

    nofixedstars i was wondering which perfumes you think evoke 'a wild place where blooms riot and creatures prowl' ...that sounds very cool : )

    1. Not Nofixedstars here, but I would definitely suggest Manoumalia by Les Nez for that. Onda by Vero Profumo too!

    2. hmmm....i hadn't any particular ones in mind, but perhaps perfumes with a rich, unabashedly complex composition; maybe with a notable animalic component? and also layers of spice and/or flowers? many of the classics come to mind: "shalimar", the old formula of "bal a versailles", "fracas"...but also modern ones like "black orchid", "carnal flower", some of the amouage line like "epic woman", maybe "sahara noir" or "musc kublai khan", mona di orio's "nuit noire". the old "magie noire". "byzance", "opium". i've not had an opportunity yet to smell "manoumalia" but it sounds enticing, and "onda" is lovely. perhaps the long defunct "djedi" might be a good referent for whatever rich, mysterious, sensual perfume type i was thinking of?


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