Thursday, September 27, 2007

Perfume in public places?

Perfume Shrine receives lots of mail by fans, lots of it with questions to pose.
One of them recently rehashed that perennial subject of what personal fragrance is suitable for public occassions in closed spaces.

Dear Helg,

I have been reading your wonderful blog for a long time and want to congratulate you on your excellent work.
I have taken the initiative to delurk and mail you with a question pertaining to something that happened to me at the movies the other day.
I went to see Zodiac with my boyfriend and as we were sitting there in the dark, munching on our popcron, the smell of something at once earthy and flowery was coming my way. You know how terrible it is when someone who wears a completely wrong scent goes at the movies and stinks up the whole place. Well, this wasn't the case. Quite the opposite!
At first I thought it was a woman and tried to locate the wearer, but soon I realised it was the man sitting on the front row at my far left who was an "arts and crafts type", probably in his 30s, accompanying a similar type of girl. I couldn't discern more in the dark.
The scent was delicious, not in the sense that you wanted to go and nibble on the person wearing it, but in that it embraced his personality. It had some element of dirt to it, although I am terrible at describing these things.
I didn't have the nerve to ask him...but it has haunted me ever since. I tried to find out what it was to no avail.

Do you have any ideas what it might have been?
I'd be ever so grateful...


To answer this type of question would leave a lot to the imagination, as the clues I have to go on are not that many. However, I could hazard the guess that we are talking about a vetiver or patchouli infused floral, from the looks of it. Even a little musk could have been involved.
Therefore I would nominate Voleur des Roses by L'artisan Parfumeur, patchouli under a rose effluvium or maybe Rose d'homme by Rosine, a rich, round rose with earth still attached on the stems.
Since he is a young man I might also mention Black XS by Paco Rabanne, although it features a sweet fruity note in there as well. This has a good chance of being the culprit though as it is more commercially available. Diesel Green might also be the one.
Another more obscure probability might be Gregory by Fresh scents by Terry that combines patchouli with ylang ylang and leather. I hope the reader does find the answer after sampling those, although I am sorry I can't be of any more assistance.
If you, dear readers, have any more ideas, please let us know in the comments.

However this issue has a flip-side as well. How utterly disgusting it is to enter a cinema theater and be bombasted by the smelly fumes of someone who has overdosed on something inappropriate...something with a monstruous sillage or something too invasive in its volume. Like -say- Angel or Giorgio (remember that one?).
Why would anyone stink up such a confined place? Or a restaurant or an elevator or any of those public places that demand a degree of restraint and noblesse. I am sure you all have horror stories of being cooped up in a car with someone who did this...

It seems to me that people who are guilty as charged do not always realise the power of their olfactory fingerprint. They aim here and there regardless of the consequences, simply repeating an atavistic process of habitual spritzing of something that has taken their aura for granted. Something that might have been quite good in moderation, something that might have even elicited compliments, had they been more discerning in application or suitability to the circumstances. The familiarity that breeds itself upon years or months of continued use might be the cause of that. In that regard there is a strong case to be made out of switching perfumes now and then, to make your nose more sensitive to nuances and volume of the notes.

Other times it is just the issue of something being too weird for public use in the first place. I can personally cite my own case with Etro's Messe de Minuit. It is a slice of apocrypha, a little sage-ladden incensy thing that trasnports me, but would I venture out with it on my person? No, I wouldn't. I wouldn't want to get people into thinking that the old manuscripts I may handle in the library have found a way into my pockets! I am not the nipping kind. And why would I want to project such an image?
On the other hand, this borders on a limitation of the defensive shoulder-pads that a personal scent might warrant to the wearer. Acting as the personal space around one that needs to be breached by those special ones that the wearer allows to.

On another occassion, many years ago, I was myself seating at the theatre, waiting to watch a play by Racine when the toxic fumes of something quite sharp, intensely medicinal and simultaneously sweet in the background reached my nostrils which quivered with apprehension. It was so potent, so pervasive that it etched itself to my memory making me hating the almondy trip of Hypnotic Poison for the longest time. It took me several samplings to discern the differences between the eau de toilette and the eau de parfum. It dawned on me that I had smelled the one, while I could like the other, after all. Hypnotic Poison was re-instated in its gourmand pantheon that merits its numerous fans. I even contemplated getting a bottle at some point; an idea that never came into fruition, although I am not rejecting the possibility in the future.

And sitting down at a restaurant about to have escargots in wine and tomato sauce, I was fumigated by Angel's wake, worn by a young woman dressed to over-kill with big hoop earrings in silver, really heavy black khol and jeans down to there. Maybe there is too much attached in the visual when judging something on its olfactory attribues; maybe the two are not easy to separate and it's an anthropological thing. I don't know, it has taken me years of observation and I still haven't come with a conclusive answer.

What I do know is that when you go in a restaurant or at the movies, please be kind and consider wearing something that won't make other people wish they never ever ventured there. Maybe go for Voleur de Roses or Black XS. Used in polite moderation. And leave people having a longing to smell you again and again...

I would be interested in your comments as to what would and wouldn't be appropriate for use in confined public spaces.

Pic sent to me by mail unaccredited.


  1. helg, it is hard for me to get worked up about being asphyxiated by Angels when the stench of men is so pervasive. Even several feet away on the train I am often overcome with rank body odor, so strong it burns the nose. Mixed with nicotine and the swill of alcohol I am truly pining for Saint Giorgio to take me away from it all. This is an almost daily occurrence, not an anecdotal exception; it seems that deodorant and hygiene are unknown to many males.

  2. Good God, dear J! This sounds terrible indeed. I wonder why it is so...
    Trains of course can be the worst case scenario, as you're really trapped for the duration. You do have my sumpathies...

  3. Anonymous22:04

    Perhaps the man in the movie theater was wearing Jardin du Nil by MaƮtre Parfumeur et Gantier (flowers and the smell of dirty skin..) or perhaps Midnight Violet by Ava Luxe (violets and dirt)??

    Same thing happened last night to me - I overapplied Intrigant Patchouli by Parfumerie Generale and found myself in a small meeting room...and I could just tell that everyone was surrounded by the smell of my fragrance. So embarassing. :(

  4. Thank you Mike for your suggestions.
    I haven't tried JdN, I hope Aline is watching this space. MV is a great suggestion!

    Sorry for feeling embarassed. But I think we've all been there at one point :-)

  5. Anonymous17:06

    Having been annoyed by someone at work, I went into the office in a layering of Bandit and Shocking... and was drowned out by a workmate's Hypnose.

    Some people just seem to have skin that makes sillage. Mine is the reverse - the perfume's there, but right on the skin. It doesn't waft. I'd have to wear a third of a bottle to have the sillage my workmate has, and I'm sure she doesn't pile it on.

    I think I'm lucky, though - I can wear what I like, and the only person who smells it is me, the person I choose it for in the first place.

  6. LOL, Bandit and Shocking would father a thunderstorm!
    Hypnose is deceptively potent, I think; it's no subtle affair.

    Interesting thought about certain skins accounting for mega-sillage (instead of overapplication). This could be another reason why, good catch!


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