blog | 15.05.2014
In the second in our series of discussions with premier fragrance blogger Clayton Ilolahia of What Men Should Smell Like we asked what a man should consider when selecting a fragrance and the pros and cons of having a signature scent.
What are the different categories of fragrance and what do they represent?
When I discuss perfume with people who do not have a background in fragrance, understandably their vocabulary about scent tends to be limited. They generally put a fragrance they smell into one of four categories- citrusy, floral, sweet, musky and women often use the adjective ‘masculine’ to describe woody odours. Within the perfume industry there are numerous systems used to categorize a perfume based on its key ingredients. On my blog I prefer to use a system that was designed by perfume expert Michael Edwards. His Fragrance Wheel is easy to use without being overly simple and his work is highly regarded all over the world. Michael Edwards and his team work closely with almost every fragrance manufacturer so that his database is current and it lists almost every fragrance known to man. It’s a great way to help people who are new to fragrance, understand what family their favourite scent falls under, and to explore similar fragrances on the market.
What should a man consider when selecting his personal scent?
Maybe the easiest way to start an exploration for a new scent is to ask, “what I do currently wear and do I want to find something similar or do I want to try something different?” Answering that question potentially halves the playing field. But also, if you answered that you want something similar and your bathroom is filled with different variations of Acqua di Gio, I recommend you to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. I often say to guys, wouldn’t it be strange if everyday of your life you wore a white shirt, either the same white shirt or variations of it? Along the same train of thought, I don’t know anyone that only eats vanilla ice cream so why would a man want to wear the same fragrance every day? Variety is the spice of life. Not everyone will want a bathroom cabinet filled with bottles of fragrance, but at the least, it is good to have something for the office, something for evenings and something more relaxed for weekends.
What advantages does having one scent have over experimenting with a range of different perfumes?
Perhaps I am biased because I enjoy collecting perfumes but I do not see any advantage in only wearing one fragrance, except perhaps that it frees up more space on bathroom shelves and bedroom wardrobes. I think experimentation is important. Not just from a fashion point of view but also from a human point of view. As people, we enjoy loading our senses with different types of music, we enjoy tasting different cuisines and we enjoy watching TV, cinema, the Internet or going to art galleries. To deny the sense of smell cuts us off from a significant part of the human experience and there are so many amazing perfumes out there that offer interesting olfactory experiences. If I had the time and money I would travel 365 days of the year. With perfume, one inhale and I can transport myself to Rajasthan, India or Soho, New York or I can time-travel to the French Court of King Louis XIV in Versailles. I think perfume is just as powerful as music or film.
What is the process of picking a fragrance?
I think it is important to have fun with perfume. Trust your heart – 9 times out of 10 if you love a fragrance the first time you smell it, you will always love it. If you don’t like a fragrance to begin with, chances are you never will. But in saying that, tastes do change. There are fragrances I now enjoy wearing that I would not have worn 10 years ago. The key is to keep an open mind. Don’t be afraid to wander over and see what is on offer in the other gender’s department. Some of my favourite perfumes were found in the women’s section. You will be surprised by how irrelevant gender is, when you strip away the marketing and packaging that goes with fragrance.
What does luxury smell like?
I once heard a definition of luxury being ‘that moment when emotion overtakes reason.’ For me, all great perfumes have an ability to make me feel something very profound. They transcend the act of wearing a perfume just because you want to smell nice. I would also say that perfume is like cooking. You can always tell when a perfume is created with love. Perfumes that are made with quality raw materials, that are created in an artisanal way with a lot of thought and attention to detail are always luxurious.