As much of a social construct as gender is, there are some fundamental differences between the sexes. Not least among them the fact that, while your favourite jeans look better on your girlfriend than they ever will on you, you’ll never squeeze into hers. Then again, you don’t have to contend with bra wires either (we hope).
These differences can make it difficult for brands to cash in on fashion’s current obsession with all things unisex. With lumps, bumps and other bits to take into consideration, designing a gender-less wardrobe that’s actually worth wearing is no mean feat. And there are only so many baggy tees and monochrome oversized sweatshirts the market can take.
So many brands turn to fragrance instead, swapping clothing – a product gendered right down to its cut – for something slightly more malleable, something a little less hemmed in by notions of what’s masculine and feminine. But the reality is many of them mess it up, failing to understand that while, sure, fragrances don’t require a crotch tailored to the specifications of the sex of the person that’s going to wear it, there are notes we recognise as more masculine than feminine and vice versa. Many unisex offerings miss the point, often skewing too feminine or too masculine to be worn by both men and women, or playing it too safe that neither sex is interested (the olfactory equivalent of those monochrome sweats).
Which is why Laboratory Perfumes’ Atlas is a breath of fresh air. The latest release from the young, London-based fragrance house which creates only unisex fragrances, Atlas looks to Morocco’s Atlas mountains for inspiration, combining a thick bed of tobacco and rum with layers of vanilla and hay, all topped with ozone notes (which, if you were wondering, are those marine-like notes perhaps best described as ‘clean’-smelling).
This author unfortunately hasn’t had the privilege of visiting the Atlas mountains in person, and so can’t attest to whether or not Atlas actually smells like its namesake. But I can say it’s a solid (if slightly cloyingly sweet fragrance) for both men and women – one which offers decent sillage and won’t put too much of a dent in your pocket.
Just one caveat: swerve this one if you’re at all averse to liquorice – Atlas’ eugenol (a chemical compound that smells of clove) isn’t listed in the official fragrance notes but is very (very) much present. If, on the other hand, you’re a devoted All Sorts fan, then get spritzing.
Available at The Conran Shop, priced £65 for 100ml eau de toilette.
Bottle: Pleasingly minimal, like the fragrance flacon equivalent of a scientific beaker.
Fragrance notes: tobacco, rum, vanilla, hay, ozone notes.
Best for: Sharing.