It's often said that Americans like their perfumes "clean and fruity" and that the French like to smell dirty. While I am completely American in my love of twice-daily showers, deodorant and antiperspirant, I have discovered that a fragrance that is well designed and which has a tough of skank, if worn on clean skin, is a wonderful beckoning thing-- like a big white sign with red lettering that says "Come Hither". While I sometimes like it on others, I myself prefer to smell clean. Parfums de Nicolai's fragrance Eau d'Ete is one of my favorite clean, skin scents.
But, on the right occassion, something else is called for. In those moments, I look to the famous French perfumers for help; after all, they have decades of inspiration to pull from. It is said that Napoleon wrote to Josephine saying,
"I'm returning home in three days. Don't wash."In "The Emperor of Scent", Chandler Burr quoted Luca Turin as saying,
"The idea that things should be slightly dirty, overripe, slightly fecal is everywhere in France. They like rotten cheese and dirty sheets and unwashed women. Guy Robert is about seventy, a third generation perfumer, lives in the south of France, used to work for International Flavors & Fragrances, created Caleche for Hermes. One day, he asked me, 'Est-ce ques vous avez senti some molecule or other?' And I said, no, I'd never smelled it, what'd it smell like? And he considered this gravely and replied, "Ca sent la femme qui se neglige.'"(It smells of the woman who neglects herself.")
It's a lovely quote, that translation. But can I explain this idea, this desire for that? No, I can't. I like to believe that I neglect nothing in my life, least of all my body. The very idea that some man standing a few way away could catch a whiff of something so personal--- this terrifies me. Such intimacy should be preserved for one or two people in a lifetime, I think. That would not be sexy-- that would be an invasion.
And who would like this? And why? We are trained to like bodies that are well washed, well manicured, hair just so and body sculpted by hours at the gym. So why the fascination with things that smell 'neglected'?
While I love the quote, I'm not sure that it's what beckons me. And I don't want to smell unkempt or unclean.
But I must admit... it's a strong calling, to catch a whiff of something like this on a man that I am already attracted to. There's no language for this. There's no way for me to put it in words. So instead, I've scoured the web for photos that might capture it.
The images above capture that sense (the sex appeal, the disconect, the intimacy, the emotional hole) quite well. I'm looking for fragrances that capture these moods.
Niche Perfumes With Skank Appeal:
* Frederick Malle Bigarade Concentree - Created by Jean Claude Ellena for Frederick Malle. This was the first fragrance that made me realize that it can be good to smell dirty. To me, the seville (bitter) orange in this is (un)comfortably close to sweat. It's an experience to smell. The sex note is just under the service, can almost go unspoken. It is said to be inspired by Eau d'Hermes.
Others I'd like to try:
* Frederick Malle Musc Ravageur
* Eau d'Hermes
* Declaration by Cartier
* Bigarade Cologne for Frederick Malle
Notes of cumin, lemon, and orange combine to create the effect. I'll report back on my findings. Both images taken from Le Mepris (the french movie). Grain de musc (one of my favorite perfume blogs) recently used one of the images to describe Musc Ravageur and it has really intrigued me about the perfume.