Perfume: Articles of Interest #9

Avery Trufelman:
“So, what do you wear?”

Rachel Syme:
“Oh my God. I’m a slut. I wear a bunch of different stuff. I’ve never worn the same perfume two days in a row.”

Avery Trufelman:
This is Rachel Syme. She’s a staff writer for the New Yorker, and one of the most genuinely glamorous people I have ever met. So she always smells like some perfume or another.

Rachel Syme:
“I love Dior Poison and Anaiis Anaiis. And I love wearing No. 5 in the highest concentration as the oil. And I like tuberose and I love gardenia and I love it to be like a cloud of that around you. I just love it.”

Avery Trufelman:
I was the opposite of Rachel. I didn’t really get perfume. I would spread some on at the airport sometimes, but mostly I just found it all smelled perfumey.

Avery Trufelman:
“I don’t think I can smell… On paper, everything just smells like chemicals to me.”

Rachel Syme:
“Yeah. Well, it needs a moment to dry it out.”

Avery Trufelman:
I wanted to figure out what I was missing. So I asked Rachel to take me perfume shopping at Sephora. Hence, the annoying pop music you hear in the background.

Rachel Syme:
“I love this scent. It’s so delicious.”

Avery Trufelman:
“Oh, it’s kinda… I can’t describe it.”

Rachel Syme:
“It’s tuberose. That’s tuberose, flower. And then there’s a little ginger on the top.”

Avery Trufelman:
Whatever Rachel was experiencing, I wasn’t getting it. It was like I was trying to fudge my way through a wine tasting by being like, “Oh yeah, this one has overtones of grape.’

Rachel Syme:
“Too sweet?”

Avery Trufelman:
“I guess it just smells chemically to me. Like it smells like cleaning solution to me, you know?”

Rachel Syme:
“Yeah.”

Avery Trufelman:
I thought perfume was a kind of snake oil, that basically the only thing separating one perfume from another was the design of the bottle and the name of the brand. I thought perfume was just a way for big fashion labels to make money, which it absolutely is.

Rachel Syme:
“Chanel makes a ton of money from fragrance. Dior. The places where basically people can’t always afford the thing, but they can afford the perfume. It’s like people’s gateway drug to get into the branding.”

Avery Trufelman:
And so I was ready to make a story that would be like, “Wake up, people! Perfume is a ruse. You’re getting fleeced for a name and the packaging.”

Rachel Syme:
“I really admire and think a lot about the artistry behind perfumes when they’re made even, you know, any of these designer perfumes.”

Avery Trufelman:
This is what Rachel knew, that I had yet to find out. Perfume is a key to a whole other dimension that we’ve all collectively denied and forgotten.

[OPENING SONG]

Avery Trufelman:
Articles of Interest, a show about what we wear season 2.

[People don’t realize it’s fantasy.]

[There’s always this thing that you have to work extra hard to get.]

[Hmm, that’s so good.]

[No one dresses like a king anymore.]

[How do you make money? That’s how I make money, love.]

[There are lots of things that we take for granted that would once have been considered luxuries.]

Avery Trufelman:
If someone forced you to surrender one of your five senses, you’d probably handily give up your sense of smell. I mean, I would. We talk about how foods are umami or spicy or how music can be soothing or energizing or cacophonous, but with scent, we don’t really analyze it with a lot of nuance. The question is usually black or white. Do you like the scent or not? This smells good. This smells bad. We just don’t have a lot of tools to analyze smells linguistically or scientifically. In fact, there is no way to assess the volume of a scent. There are no instruments that can measure odor levels.

Pamela Dalton:
We have instruments that can measure the chemicals that are in an odor plume, but that doesn’t translate into, at least not at the present time, into what the odor experience is for any individual.

Avery Trufelman:
Pamela Dalton is a senior scientist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. But when I talked to her, she was not in Philly. She was talking to me from a conference room in Chicago.

Pamela Dalton:
I’m here for a deposition. I do expert witness work from time to time. And this is an odor case involving people’s complaints around a landfill.

Avery Trufelman:
In legal cases involving smells, they have to hire professional noses to make very subjective calls. And it’s not like Pamela is a superhuman. Generally, people are pretty good at smelling, much better than we think we are.

Pamela Dalton:
We can smell things when there’s one or two parts of a fragrance material in a billion parts of air, which is really, really tiny. So we’re more sensitive than we believe. You know, dogs may be sensitive to a range of compounds, but humans have much more sensitivity to a much more diverse set of chemicals in the environment.

Avery Trufelman:
But we don’t use scent the way dogs and other animals do. And in part, it’s because we’re bipedal. Our noses quite simply evolved to be farther away from the earth.

Pamela Dalton:
We’re now at four to five to six feet above the ground. So we’re smelling different things, right? We’re not smelling things as we were when we were loping around on all fours.

Avery Trufelman:
Yet still, on occasion, we’ll lift our noses to the air and take a sniff. It’s just that more often than not, we pay attention to smells that present a threat — spoiled foods, rot, death, mold, if there’s a fire or a gas leak. Farts.

Pamela Dalton:
And so we learned that we want to stay away from those kinds of odors.

Avery Trufelman:
We’ve come to associate scent with something primal and unpleasant. If you ask, “Hey, do I smell?” The collective assumption is that that’s a bad thing. We want to avoid smells and smelling. And this mentality goes back to a number of philosophers in the west from Plato to Aristotle to Kant, who derided our sense of smell as base and secondary, or really like quinary. Historically it has been the least respected of our senses. And so a lot of folks just try to ignore it.

Pamela Dalton:
But I think as a species, we have discounted that we really can smell a lot of chemicals at vanishingly trivial concentrations.

Avery Trufelman:
So we have the capacity to smell things in the parts per billions, but we lack the capacity to talk about them. So much of learning to smell comes from learning how to describe smells.

Miranda Gordon:
So I was at a party, a woman came in who was hugging everybody and she smelled really good. A number of people told her that she smelled good. And I said, “Okay, I can tell you that she’s wearing this particular brand. And it’s from this many years ago. And the reason that she’s most cozy and snug is because it’s got a lot of ionones in it. And she smells sort of like orris, which is the aged root of the Florentine iris flower. And it’s got a sort of a powdery feeling so she smells like a hug.” And everyone’s looking at me and I was like, “I’m not smelling any more than you are. I just have the words to tell you what the brand is, when it came out, and what’s in it.”

Avery Trufelman:
Miranda Gordon is the vice president of marketing at Mane. Mane is a fragrance company because the lion’s share of the hundreds and hundreds of designer perfumes that come out each year are made by the same dozen or so companies. Mane has made perfumes for Banana Republic and Armani and a ton of scents for really widespread popular brands you definitely know, like, (beep) and (beep).

Miranda Gordon:
We’re not allowed to talk about those so don’t mention those.

Avery Trufelman:
For some brands, that’s a dirty secret that they contract out their scents to other companies. But I don’t think there should be any shame in it, because sure, most of us have the potential to get really good at smelling, but actually designing a perfume is something entirely different. It’s like composing a piece of music or choreographing a dance. It is an art and the professionals make it look easy.

[MUSIC]

Avery Trufelman:
Let’s start simply. Some perfume ingredients can be very straightforward. Like if you’re trying to use a citrus scent, that’s pretty easy to get. That scent is extracted from the peel of the fruit with cold pressing.

Miranda Gordon:
The same way we make olive oil, we can make grapefruit oil or lemon oil or lime oil or mandarin oil.

Avery Trufelman:
But there are a lot of scents that you can’t just get. You can’t just press the oil of a mango or a strawberry or a pear or an apple. Like if you pressed an apple peel, you wouldn’t get apple oil, you would get apple juice, which is not very fragrant, and you wouldn’t want to dab that on yourself. So there are many, many scents that perfumers have to build molecule by molecule, in a laboratory.

Gino Percantino:
There are chemicals that have an apple odor to them.

Avery Trufelman:
Gino Percantino is one of the perfumers at Mane. If he wants to make an apple scent, he will gather a bunch of smells together, what some perfumers call notes.

Gino Percantino:
Combining and mixing those notes to get an authentic apple smell.

Avery Trufelman:
And a group of notes makes an accord.

Gino Percantino:
An accord is a group of ingredients that is usually less than 10 ingredients, to try to emulate a specific thing.

Avery Trufelman:
And there’s no one set apple accord. Every perfumer has their own way to make it. Think of it like Gino is painting a picture of an apple. It could be realistic. It could be impressionistic. It could be cartoonish. The apple could be slightly fermented. It could be a yellow apple or a green apple. It could be in a tree. It could be in a pie. Listen to how Gino renders a fig, which is another one of those scents you have to build note by note.

Gino Percantino:
Fig is always fun for me because I often work from some of my best coconut, just coconut. So I’m not talking about like pina colada with pineapple and all that. Just the creamy kind of coconut. If you dial it back and put more pulp into it, a little more juiciness into it, a little more green with some extra woods, cause you want that stemy element of it. And then you’ve turned a coconut into a fig.

Avery Trufelman:
And that’s the part that’s technically impressive, but making a perfume is not just about rendering a good believable fig. It’s then using that fig in a way that’s interesting and new. So Gino could situate the fig in a scent that’s smoky and leathery or something powdery and floral, or something lush and green, or include an ingredient that I would have never considered.

Gino Percantino:
“My favorite ingredient is Sichuan pepper.”

Avery Trufelman:
“Really?”

Gino Percantino:
“Yeah. Sichuan pepper. It’s kind of citrusy. It has a citrusy element. It has an aromatic element. It has that little spicy element.”

Avery Trufelman:
There’s a virtuosity in professional perfume. That’s the difference between, say an essential oil from a health food store, and a perfume. It’s the difference between the pleasure of a single ripe peach and the pleasure of an exquisitely executed risotto. Professional perfume is artistry and intuition and a lot of hard science, because some combinations just don’t work on a molecular level.

Suzanne McCormick:
If you don’t know what you’re doing and you take the smell of black currant and the smell of rhubarb, when you put it together in a test tube, things are going to interact at the molecular level and it’s going to smell like the cat pissed on your weed.

Avery Trufelman:
In Mane’s laboratory, in Midtown Manhattan, perfumers and technicians were busily mixing drops from a selection of hundreds and hundreds of notes. The smell of the laboratory was incredible. It wasn’t like a perfume counter in a department store. That smells like 50 top 40 radio stations blasting at once. Mane’s laboratory smells like an orchestra of raw possibilities, composed of both natural and synthetic ingredients. And without derailing this whole story, let me just say, there are some controversies in there. Perfume ingredients are considered trade secrets, so they aren’t listed on the bottle. And this opacity has caused some worry because there are ingredients, natural and synthetic alike that can trigger allergic reactions. And some animal studies have found fragrance chemicals that are probable carcinogens or have been linked to liver, kidney and lung damage. The perfume industry says that all of the ingredients they use are at such low concentration, that they aren’t dangerous to human health, but there have been calls to set more limits on the materials perfumers can use. And sure enough, every now and then an ingredient gets pulled off the market.

Gino Percantino:
I look at it as if they’re doing some kind of testing with ingredients and they’re being a little restrictive. I think there’s some value to that if it’s going to help humanity and in some way it ties my hands a little bit on trying to be creative.

Avery Trufelman:
Gino is operating within a set of constantly shifting constraints. Instruments are being removed from Mane’s orchestra all the time. By the different regulatory laws of every country, yes, but also by an ingredient’s availability. When a certain scent becomes trendy, it becomes harder to procure. Take Indian sandalwood. It’s a delicious natural scent, super popular.

Suzanne McCormick:
There’s a drop of Indian sandalwood and pretty much everything on the market. And the challenge with Indian sandalwood is that the trees have to be at least 30 years old before you can harvest them. You can’t just go plant more trees and have more oil tomorrow. You’ve got to wait 30 years. So Indian sandalwood would have to be replaced with Australian sandalwood which doesn’t smell the same or with synthetic sandalwood which doesn’t smell the same.

Avery Trufelman:
So making a new perfume isn’t just unbridled creativity. It’s limited by a lot of factors. And at the end of the day, the scent has to sell. Mane’s brilliant perfumers probably aren’t going to make something that smells like fig and Sichuan peppers. They manufacture pop music. They’re trying to make something interesting within the parameters of mainstream taste, something you’d buy in a Sephora or something you’d buy in your grocery store. Because Mane and the dozen or so major fragrance companies don’t just make perfume. They work on every product that has a smell.

Suzanne McCormick:
Home care, cleaning, laundry, personal care.

Avery Trufelman:
Suzanne McCormick is the head of fragrance for Method products. They make soap and detergent and body wash. And they work with two of the major fragrance houses because I kid you not, it is just the same small handful of companies that are crafting all the scents all around us. And this overlap means that trends in high-end perfume affect your dish soap.

Suzanne McCormick:
There is a trickle-down.

Avery Trufelman:
It’s just like how high-end fashion designers will create a look that eventually ends up at H&M. If a fragrance company develops an accord that sells really well, that scent might eventually end up in your face cream or your laundry detergent.

Suzanne McCormick:
Rose had been considered the older fragrance note and then all the fine fragrance, many fine fragrance brands were bringing it to life in a modern way. And then as you trickle down to our body wash, we have peony rosewater. And awhile back there was sea salt and everything, so we did lime and sea salt that was one of our fragrances that we did that’s continued to do very well.

Avery Trufelman:
And so, these scent companies are everywhere making you, your kitchen, and your bathrooms smell like citrus and lavender and rose. But this idea of our bodies smelling somewhat interchangeably with our fabric softener and our dishes is relatively recent. We used to have a wildly different concept of what it meant to smell good.

Barbara Herman:
I guess I could start with the perfumes that shocked me the most. And there were the perfumes of the 20s, 30s, and 40s.

Avery Trufelman:
Barbara Herman is the creative director of Eris Parfums, and the author of the book, “Scent and Subversion.”

Barbara Herman:
I like to describe what I did in this book was sniff my way through the 20th century.

Avery Trufelman:
What we think people should smell like is completely cultural. And it’s changed over time. In the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, women were marketed perfumes that were more funky.

Barbara Herman:
Women smelled like tobacco and leather. And, you know, as Jacques Guerlain said about his perfumes, perfume should smell like the underside of my mistress.

Avery Trufelman:
There was this idea that perfume was supposed to smell funky. Perfumes had ingredients like ambergris, which is oxidized whale vomit, and musk, which is deer sex gland secretion. Now, these kinds of smells are made synthetically, but in the early 20th century, people wore the real stuff, which sounds off-putting, but actually the smells are fascinating. Barbara happened to have some real ambergris in her refrigerator.

Barbara Herman:
I mean, it’s a very, very hard scent to describe. Some people say there’s tobacco notes. There’s obviously a very, animalic kind of fecal quality to it, but also slightly metallic and coumarin or hay-like, slightly sweet. It’s more of a feeling than it is a smell for me. It’s just like being enveloped in warmth.

Avery Trufelman:
I loved this smell.

Avery Trufelman:
“I’m like looking at a landscape through a pinhole. Oh, can I see more of it?”

Barbara Herman:
“Yeah. That’s a good way to describe it.”

Avery Trufelman:
“I wish I could stick my head in a box full of it.”

Barbara Herman:
“It’s very evocative.”

Avery Trufelman:
For all those weird and gross descriptors, ambergris smells incredible. Most scents, especially naturally occurring ones, are way more nuanced and strange than we’d like to believe. There’s a sweetness in sweat, a fruitiness in blood. I know I sound like a psychopath, but there’s a really fuzzy line between delicious and off-putting, if you pay attention to your nose and forget the fact that this may be whale barf.

Barbara Herman:
Because it’s sensual and cozy and a lot of subliminal, unconscious effects. I can’t put them all into words, but if you’ve experienced them and if you’re open to them, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Avery Trufelman:
And it’s interesting that people in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s were more willing to wear these strong animalic smells. It’s particularly interesting that they were marketed to women. On the one hand, it’s kind of empowering and bold and sensuous, but it also meant these women weren’t exactly dousing themselves to go to board meetings. These were scents for the bedroom and our idea of what femininity should smell like evolved in the 1950s when a lot of bright and powdery scents came out. Very like Doris Day, peppy.

Barbara Herman:
Florals, huge ass white florals, screaming.

Avery Trufelman:
And then like everything else in culture, scent was subverted by the time you get to the 70s when there was this natural wave of oakmoss and patchouli. Then the 1980s were about big bold fragrances, the kind that, as Rachel Syme puts it, could clear an elevator. And then there was a very important pendulum swing in the 1990s, a sea change that mainstream sensibilities have still not recovered from.

Barbara Herman:
The 90s was generally the clean decade.

Avery Trufelman:
This is when perfumes like CK One came out for men and for women. There was this wave of clean smells that were light and fresh and inoffensive. They made you smell like you just showered.

Barbara Herman:
Yeah. I mean, there’s some great clean perfumes. Like don’t get me wrong, I love to rag on them, but I just think that what perfume meant in the past and what it means now is very different.

Avery Trufelman:
Clean scents took off in a major way, exceedingly popular, a lot of money in them. And when perfume just became kind of generally pleasant and non-threatening, more and more companies felt comfortable yoking their prize brand name to it.

Barbara Herman:
Industrial perfume creation world, which happened like after the 90s or starting in the 90s when perfumes just got mass-produced, the celebrity scent thing.

Avery Trufelman:
And so broadly speaking, we are still stuck there in the fresh and clean era, particularly the United States.

Miranda Gordon:
Oh, we’re Puritans. To smell is to be sensual, or to be erotic or dirty. That’s why fresh and clean is such a big deal in this country.

Avery Trufelman:
Miranda Gordon at Mane again.

Miranda Gordon:
In France, you’re sexy if you’re a little funky. Here, you’ve got to be freshly showered and smell like nothing.

Avery Trufelman:
And in fact, if you do want to smell like nothing at all, that also involves fragrance because even when you’re buying a product labeled “fragrance-free,” that is often not true.

Miranda Gordon:
A product that’s labeled fragrance free in all likelihood remained a customer of ours. And we had to fragrance it in order to cover up the malodors of the functional things in your product. There’s probably something in there, it’s what we call a masking odor or a masking aroma, that’s canceling out whatever fishy smell or funky smell or oily smell the ingredients in your face cream might have.

Avery Trufelman:
Because most things on this earth have a smell. It’s just that an industry has developed around avoiding the weird ones. We want to smell fresh and clean and nothing else. And so, yeah, the mainstream perfume market’s been stuck in the clean boom for some decades now, but there’s been a quiet revolution in the last 15-ish years. On the fringes of perfume, an indie scene has blossomed.

Antonia Kohl:
“Okay, we’re going to smell tomato leather. This is meant to be literally a combination of those two smells.”

Avery Trufelman:
At her San Francisco perfume store, Tigerlily, Antonia Kohl sells scents that are deeply, deeply odd.

Antonia Kohl:
“This fragrance is inspired by the printmakers studio and by India ink, inspired by the God of the afterlife in Egypt and the smell she imagined would be inside the tombs. This is what it smells like when you’re waiting for the ferry to take you to Seattle. There’s so many more unusual scents in this store. We’ve got stuff that smells like campfires…”

Avery Trufelman:
Ooh, thousands of independent perfumers have started popping up. Many of them taking artistic risks that a designer brand wouldn’t dare attempt. There are hardcore boutiques like Tigerlily scattered around the world. And they almost act like oddball record shops for the underground music nerds who want to sniff the strange stuff.

Antonia Kohl:
“It literally smells like a bat’s cave. It’s like a strong petrichor where you feel the water on the dirt and the stone in the cave. And then it also represents a day in the life of a fruit bat. So you also get the fallen fruit like rotting banana, and you get a leather that represents the bat’s wing.”

Avery Trufelman:
In this relatively new movement, there are a lot of perfumers who make scent on the side as a passion project. That’s the case for the perfumer who made the bat scent. She has a day job.

Antonia Kohl:
“She’s also a bat behavioral scientist and an orchid farmer. So yes, she teaches at the University of Washington in the behavioral sciences and she specializes in bats.”

Avery Trufelman:
“And she does perfume on the side?”

Antonia Kohl:
“Yeah.”

Avery Trufelman:
“Wow.”

Antonia Kohl:
“And wins awards for it.”

Avery Trufelman:
As Antonia and I sniffed around Tigerlily’s cabinet of curiosities, a customer rushed in breathlessly.

Antonia Kohl:
“Hi! How are you doing? I know what you’re here for.”

Customer:
“I know, I called. I’m the crazy lady.”

Antonia Kohl:
“And Mauricio I think has it for you in the back there.”

Avery Trufelman:
This customer was looking for a niche scent that had been put on hiatus because-

Antonia Kohl:
“The perfumer also is a cybersecurity expert and has a new job, just got promoted. And so he’s so busy, he can’t make any more of it. So she called today and was like, ‘Do you have any left?'”

Avery Trufelman:
People have really strong reactions to perfume. It’s an emotional thing. And it’s not just for that customer at Tigerlily. We’re all wired for it.

Pamela Dalton:
You snip these molecules in, they bind to a receptor-

Avery Trufelman:
Pamela Dalton from the Monell Chemical Senses Center again.

Pamela Dalton:
That signal is passing through a portion of the brain called the limbic system, which is responsible for emotional responses. So it’s that emotional response that becomes so tightly associated with something that we’re smelling.

Avery Trufelman:
When I went to my college reunion, I was struck that my old dorm hallway still smelled the same. A waft of bergamot always reminds me of an ex. Eucalyptus brings me back to childhood trips to visit my grandma in San Francisco. We all have this superpower to use scent as a gateway to the past, but in learning to smell and learning to talk about smell, we can experience a vivid present. To stop and smell the roses, sure. But also stop and smell the garbage. Really. And the couch, and the hallway and the shampoo and the skin of a mandarin, the sweat and the rain and the pleather and the brick. To smell where you are right now.

Rachel Syme:
“Yeah. I think a lot of people are like, ‘I don’t like perfume. I have no interest in it.'”

Avery Trufelman:
The first time I met Rachel Syme in that Sephora in Union Square, I was one of those people.

Rachel Syme:
“And for me, I’m like, wow, I think it’s an art form and I’m fascinated by it endlessly. And I love what people make. And even here, I just love exploring all different creations. And that’s why I buy something in a bottle because it’s something somebody made. It’s buying art.”

Avery Trufelman:
The second time I saw Rachel, she gave me a little bottle of perfume. She warned me. It was the kind of thing you couldn’t get at a Sephora. The bottle was plain. I had never heard of the brand. At first sniff, it was cozy cedar and leather. It was riding on the back of a motorcycle through the woods. Another sniff, and it smelled like gasoline and it was actually sickening. It nearly gave me a headache. I abandoned the scent for months, but recently came back and smelled again. And this time something malted came out of it, almost gourmand. I can’t pin it down. It changes with my mood. It changes with my skin. It changes with my day, with my surroundings, and the weather and the cacophony of smells all around me that I, by and large, used to ignore.

[CLOSING SONG]
‘Portrait’ by Sasami Ashworth
A pocket, a piece of paper.
Words from yesterday.
There’s a portrait, painted on the things we love.

Avery Trufelman:
Articles of Interest was written and performed by Avery Trufelman. Edited by Chris Berube with additional edits by Joe Rosenberg and Emmett FitzGerald. Scored by Rhae Royal. Fact-checked by Tom Colligan, with additional fact-checking by Graham Hacia. Mix and tech production by Sharif Youssef, with additional mixing by Katherine Rae Mondo. Our opening and closing songs are by Sasami.

Special thanks this episode to master perfumer Mandy Aftel, perfume critic Chandler Burr, perfume bottle designer Chad Lavigne, Dana Bruno at Mane and especially Bibi Praval at Mane.

Insights, support, and edits from the whole 99pi team, including Vivian Le, Sean Real, Abby Madan, Kurt Kohlstedt, Delaney Hall, and Katie Mingle.

And Roman Mars is the fresh and clean scent of this whole series.

[CLOSING SONG CONTINUED]
There’s a portrait, painted on the things we love. We love.

[BREAK]

Miranda Gordon:
Gender and fragrance is as artificial a social construct as gender in society.

Avery Trufelman:
Amen, Miranda Gordon, VP of Marketing at Mane.

Miranda Gordon:
Nobody ever said that flowers were only for girls. Or actually, we did say… the industry said. But I don’t know that the globe agrees that flowers are for girls and woods are for boys.

Avery Trufelman:
There is no way a given gender is supposed to smell because we all just kind of smell like our skin and sweat. The distinction between cologne and perfume is just about the concentration of oil. It’s not that cologne is any more masculine than perfume. It’s just the way it’s marketed. Men and women both used to wear a lot of perfume, usually to mask the fact that they didn’t bathe, until one man decided that perfume was for women.

Ian Kelly:
But in the course of that, he also would bathe every day, which was taken at the time, the late 18th century, as a rather ridiculous vanity and indeed something that might be even dangerous for your health, to wash that often.

Avery Trufelman:
That’s author Ian Kelly. And he says there was this one historic gentleman who decreed that men should smell as plain as possible. In fact, he also thought men should dress as plain as possible. That to be manly was to look boring.

Ian Kelly:
He, yes, happened to be the right person at the right time to be the center of some shift in fashion.

Avery Trufelman:
Your next Articles of Interest are suits.

  1. iamthelab

    Curious what role the growing essential oils market has played in the personal perfume industry?

  2. For me, the scent of perfume has the same relationship to emotion as music. Eduard Hanslick, the 19th-century music critic, opined that music does not elicit emotions, but _memories_ of emotion. When I hear Beatles Abbey Road, I remember my relationship with Deborah A (I have other examples), and when I smell Lilies of the Valley (popular back in the 60s when I was in high school), I think of my crush on Linda H. Fortunately, all good memories.

    Thank you, Avery, for the sweet aroma of another season of AOI.

  3. Mish

    Very interesting! Loved this episode.
    I am a foreigner living in Japan and I realized how fragrance is cultural when I wanted to buy toiletries but they all have strange smells to me. Dove soap is a brand here too, looks the same, but quite different in its smell. 15 years and I still can’t get used to it… I bring them back with me from visits…
    also, in Japan, and perhaps China, they had interesting incense games where people smelled 3 incense burners one after the other and then had to guess if they were all different, all the same, or some the same and others not. I’ve tried it- you’d think you’d be able to tell…. but no. So hard!

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