The world of perfume exhibits some of the most regressive and progressive tendencies when it comes to gender. On the one hand, mainstream designer offerings are typically rigidly segregated by gender with “women’s releases” constituting a vomitus of pink fruity florals in shapely bottles and men’s offerings focused on synthetic woods, ambers and leathers in […]Read More Beyond “sugar and spice”: The queer side of niche perfume
When I finally got around to reading the first book in the historical mystery series featuring amateur Egyptologist Amelia Peabody, I was struck by its overtly imperialist aesthetic. Set in the late 19th century, it parodies and celebrates English archeologists. It also patronizes the local people at every turn. For the White Western reader, it […]Read More Vicarious living through Comme des Garçons: Exoticism and cultural appropriation
The Avon bottle looked like a stagecoach and sat precarious and dusty on the spindly metal shelving in the single bathroom shared by my family in the 70s. The beer-bottle brown angular container wasn’t easily identifiable as a stagecoach. It was so abstracted or, perhaps, so poorly designed, so that I couldn’t easily associate it […]Read More Queer eye on Father’s Day: Masculinity and subversive gay style
Many outspoken male fragrance enthusiasts share childhood memories of being captivated by their mothers’ perfume. It’s such an iconic moment among non-gender conforming male perfume connoisseurs that it deserves its own film sequence: the mother sweeping up her little boy in a cloud of No. 19, Diorella, Chloe, or Halston. And then his secret missions […]Read More Gender-bending fragrance choices: The courage to be queerly perfumed
It is popular in North America to insist that we make choices about how we present ourselves for our own comfort, self-expression and pleasure and not to impress others. In fact, many of us in the U.S. would be almost embarrassed to acknowledge that others’ values and tastes shape our style. “I wear it for […]Read More Beast-mode perfumes and unspoken rules: How much is too much?
As discount store shelves sag with unwanted boxes of Brittney Spears Fantasy Rainbow Unicorn or Nautica Voyage Blue Macho Intense, the price of perfumes from the likes of Memo Paris, Tom Ford and Clive Cristian creeps ever northward. With the bottom of the cheapie range dropping ever lower, there has been a sort of olfactory […]Read More Limited edition: The romantic quest for perfume exclusivity
When political prisoner Ingrid Betancourt was released after six years of captivity, she was asked how the experience had changed her. Her complicated response included a commitment to “always have flowers in my room and wear perfume.” The experience of being brutally treated, and, she emphasizes, isolated from most of the human cultural forms she […]Read More Perfume as luxury, art, and consumer compulsion