Pour Homme, Pour Femme
It’s hard to imagine, but there was a time, way before some marketing whiz-kid came up with the word aftershave and before fragrances were labelled ‘pour homme’ and ‘pour femme’, where scents were essentially genderless.
Certainly, in Victorian times men wouldn’t have had a problem with wearing overtly floral fragrances and the old-fashioned products still sold in some traditional barbers, scented as they are with rose and lavender, are evidence of a time when men were led by their noses rather than by marketing spiel.
Think of it this way: if you restrict yourself to only wearing fragrances earmarked as being for men then you’re limiting the field and closing the door on some very interesting fragrances indeed. Sure, it takes guts to carry off some of the scents listed below but if you’re a confident character who likes to think for himself and is comfortable in his own skin, you’ll have no problem at all.
So why not give one or two of them a whirl?
Burberry For Women Eau de Parfum
“Yes it sounds like a woman’s perfume from the name but this sleeper hit could easily be mistaken for a man’s eau de parfum,” says Liam Moore, founder and editor of ODOU, a magazine dedicated to fragrance.
“The intense fizzy, fruity jasmine can sit unashamedly sophisticatedly on the right man. After all, Dior Homme is nothing but a straight-up iris-based fragrance, so give jasmine a chance here and wear it with a crisp white shirt.”
Reputed to be a favourite fragrance of Sean Connery (and they don’t come much butcher than Bond) this legendary perfume, launched back in 1889, is credited with being the first significant fragrance of the modern age.
It started out popular with men, then became popular with women, eventually establishing itself as a bona fide women’s fragrance. A member of perfume site basenotes.com describes it as “flowery, animalistic… like a cat having a poop in a lavender bush.” Which is quite possibly one of my favourite fragrance reviews ever.
Reiss Grey Flower
Launched last year as part of a duo (one fragrance for men and one for women), Reiss’ women’s offering, Grey Flower, turned out to be a rich, warm and surprisingly dark blend of frankincense, patchouli, amber and sequoia wood.
Big and punchy, it’s definitely not what you’d expect from a high street women’s perfume, sitting equally as well in your bathroom cabinet as it does in her boudoir.
Lust by Gorilla Perfume
Based around jasmine – an ingredient used a lot in women’s fragrance and said to be an aphrodisiac – this appropriately named perfume has a raw, sexual edge that a confident man can easily get away with.
“It conjures ideas of hot summer nights and sticky heat through its overtness,” says Moore. “The smell is intense, full of bravado, carnal, with raw jasmine and honey notes and is definitely not a wilting wallflower of a perfume.”
Balmain Vent Vert
Often described as being ‘spring in a bottle’, Balmain’s legendary Vent Vert first saw the light of day back in 1947 and is famous for its fresh ‘green’ aroma, which comes from the inclusion of galbanum, an oil extracted from a relative of the fennel plant.
Changes to the formula in recent times have made it a little more woody and even more man-friendly.
Une Rose by Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums
“British men are frightened of rose, partly because all our iconography and symbolism reflect the femininity of it,” says James Craven, Perfume Archivist at fragrance emporium Les Senteurs. “But in the Middle East it’s extremely popular with men.”
Not all rose fragrances are created equal though. “If you smell really good quality rose oil you’ll perceive it as spicy, woody and fruity – nearly anything but flowery,” he says.
Which is where this fragrance by Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums comes in. “The perfumer Edouard Flechier conjures a damp earthiness beneath the luminous sweetness of Turkish rose blended with sharp smoky chamomile, patchouli, castoreum and vetiver,” states Craven, who adds that it works brilliantly on men’s skin and describes it as dark, enigmatic, dangerous and seductive.
Jasmin Imperatrice Eugenie By Creed
Given that it was designed especially for Eugenie di Montijo, Empress of Napoleon III, you might think this scent by luxury fragrance house Creed was delicate and uber-feminine but, says Craven, many of those fragile-seeming 19th century ladies preferred strong, punchy scents – and this one sits fantastically well on a man of character.
“It has masses of warm, smooth, suave orris and sandalwood, vanilla and a hint of leather. The jasmine accord is not pure, fragile and white but deep, dark and faintly spicy.”
Tubéreuse Criminelle by Serge Lutens
When I’m feeling bold I personally love to wear this super-sensual rose creation by Serge Lutens.
Yes, it’s built around the unmistakable smell of tuberose but Lutens has craftily ‘dirtied’ it up a little, making it warm, smoky and musky and very, very sexy indeed – so much so that the gender of the skin it’s applied to becomes totally irrelevant.
Jo Loves A Shot Of Thai Lime Over Mango
“This fragrance provides a huge bang of fruit that works just as well for men as for women,” says beauty journalist and blogger Jane Cunningham, aka the British Beauty Blogger.
“It’s sharp, sweet and fruity at the same time and I think there’s something very sensual about man versus tropical fruit!”
Pick the right moment to wear and you may well become the irresistible exotic dish she says.
Shalimar By Guerlain
For some men, Guerlain’s vanillary, powdery, almost edible Shalimar is a fragrance too far – but others see it as the ultimate middle finger to those that assign perfumes a gender.
“Yes it’s a ‘woman’s’ fragrance but any man that can rock vanilla and civet in the right way is good by my books,” says Moore. And who are we to disagree?
Have you come across a women’s perfume that smells great on men too? Are you man enough to try a ‘pour femme’ scent?
Let us know using the comment box below…