Functional Perfume Genres, part 2

Posted on

(image Betty Bacall, source unknown)

4) Look, Don’t Touch

I very rarely wear perfume ‘for effect.’  I don’t wear perfume for other people or in order to communicate a state or mood to others.  When I’m in public, I’m generally anonymous.  I don’t attend parties, gatherings, ceremonies often.  I lived in New York for years and never had a problem being in public.  That’s the wonder of the urban experience:  you’re surrounded by people you don’t know.  If you’re an introvert, mutual anonymity is the ideal means of encountering another person if you must.  Push-me-pull-you perfumes are the ones that say notice me, but don’t engage me.

These perfumes have very specific attributes.  They must read over a specify timeframe (the moment) and at a specific distance (in passing or at the distance of a handshake.)  In fact the perfume must be a handshake.  It must adhere to form, yet convey presence and state.  Don’t underestimate the handshake, and, by the same token, don’t wear the wrong perfume for this effect.  Wear the perfume that will be read as an expression or an idea, but won’t be read as you trying to ‘express yourself’ in your perfume.  It’s a business card, not an autobiography.

The word aloof has a negative connotation in that it implies that the desired state is one of cordial interaction.  (As a far-end-of-the-spectrum introvert, small-talk, chit-chat, pleasantries… are code words for purgatory.) Seen from the right angle aloofness is in fact consideration, non-intrusiveness and acknowledgment from a distance.  This is the tone of the Look, Don’t Touch perfume.

Chanel 19 (obvious)

Parfum de Nicolai Odalisque

Parfumerie Generale Cuir d’Iris

Etat Libre d’Orange Rien

Clinique Aromatics Elixir

Dior Dune

Lancome Sagamore

Indult Reve en Cuir



(Image by © Liam Norris/cultura/Corbis)

5)  The test of poise isn’t standing around posing.  It’s tripping, stumbling, falling.  Poise is in the recovery.  Holding potential in one hand and expectation in the other.  The crossroads of arriving and traveling.  The fragrance here simply conveys composure and self-possession.

Heeley Cuir Pleine Fleur

Parfums MDCI Invasion Barbare

Vero Profumo Rozy

Lancome Sagamore

Robert Piguet Futur

Keiko Mecheri Mulholland

Montale Black Musk

Jean Patou 1000

l’Artisan Passage d’Enfer

Nasomatto Hindu Grass




(image source Kill Bill)

6)  Ordered to Care 

(from the book by the same name by Susan Reverby)

I’m an RN and I work in a hospital.  Bedside nursing, direct patient care.  I love what I do and it’s a satisfying job to do well.  I’m also very aware of the contradictions nurse live daily and what it means to be paid to care.  Nurses, hookers and nuns. We’re all in the same boat.  Interesting histories of gendered professions, by the way.

I’ve seen a lot of discussion of perfume in hospitals and my comment is just to tell you what I wear.  These fragrances aren’t at all similar, but they all work for the fact that people will tie them in some fashion or another to hygiene.  They might read as clean, or as smelling of thing used to keep clean.  They connote freshness or an attempt to make oneself presentable.

Estée Lauder White Linen

Guerlain Vetiver

Thierry Mugler Cologne

Calvin Klein Truth

Annick Goutal Musc Nomade

Jacomo Silences (don’t ask.  it just works.)

Diorellish (the current, lobotomized Diorella)

Givenchy M. de Givenchy


see also:

Functional Perfume Genres, part 1

Functional Perfume Genres, part 3


  • Share