digging (into) vintage: Estée Lauder White Linen, 1978

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(Mick rocking white linen. Hyde Park London, 1969.)

White Linen is cheapness done well. Conceptually, it’s so downmarket—pretty much soap. Yet so brash. 1 part aldehyde, 1 part laundry detergent musk, 1 part soapy floral. This is the olfactory equivalent of holding a large tuning fork to your skull for hours. I can imagine for many women this might just seem simple, oldish in style and unsubtle, but on a man, it’s a great alternative to the current market of ‘fresh’ fragrances. The camp of wearing a squeaky clean girly fragrance is added enticement.

I have one specific use for White Linen. I’m an RN and work in a hospital. Search the blogs and you’ll find plenty of discussions about inflicting fragrance on those around you, the hospital being the ultimate battleground for this argument. I have a few scents that I wear to work, each with a different strategy as to why it works. White Linen is easily my favorite, since it’s akin to being in drag in scrubs. On a man White Linen simply reads as so-clean-you-still-have-soap-on-you clean. White Linen is enormously potent and I imagine a woman wearing it might be accused of wearing too much or too strong a fragrance. But as a man, the only comments I’ve gotten from my patient are, literally, “You smell so clean!”

It’s fun screwing with gender assumptions in general. With perfume, it’s particularly delightful.


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