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Welcome to the Age of Gender-Neutral Fragrances

gender neutral fragrances
Top beauty and fashion houses are all curating exciting lists of gender-neutral fragrances

Top beauty and fashion magazines and current affairs publications across the globe—ranging from CNN to Elle, Vogue, to Harper’s Bazaar, are all curating exciting lists of gender-neutral fragrances. Their varied, updated lists can make choosing a perfume far easier if you are non-binary or you simply do not want to define yourself the way the perfumed industry has traditionally classified its customers. Of course, colognes and perfumes exist for anyone who wants to wear them. Since time immemorial, sartorial customers have been picking scents “with their nose,” choosing to bypass packaging and marketing in favor of fragrances that genuinely make their hearts sing. If you’d love to own a few gender-neutral fragrances, consider the following considerations when building your new collection.

 Perfume Notes

Learning to build a gender-neutral fragrance collection begins with discovering the notes that make each fragrance unique. Fragrance notes work in the same way musical notes do, working together to create unique masterpieces that reflect the knowledge, experience, and creative talent of their “nose,” or creator. All perfumes have three main notes: top, middle, or heart, and base notes. The top notes are those you first smell when you spray or apply the perfume. In traditional perfumes, top notes usually come from the citrus, fruit, or fresh herb families. They contain small molecules that evaporate quickly. Middle notes form the main body of a fragrance, and they emerge when the top notes evaporate. Finally, the base notes appear when the top notes have completely evaporated. They work with the heart notes to create a lasting scent.+

Traditionally “Feminine” Notes

Perfumes that are commonly marketed as “feminine” contain specific notes. These include rose, jasmine, coconut, vanilla, powdery notes, and caramel. A typical perfume marketed as “feminine” is Prada Candy, which contains caramel top notes, powdery and musky notes, and vanilla and benzoin base notes. Benzoin is a warm, balsamic note that is reminiscent of vanilla. Thus, an entire category of fragrances is known as “gourmand scents.” They all remind one of the revered desserts made with ingredients like vanilla, almonds, and caramel. Flowers also play a big role in feminine fragrances, with revered notes including rose, jasmine, citrus, fruity, and clean white florals. For instance, classic perfumes like Coco Mademoiselle Parfum Chanel are sweet and can have a little spice. Still, they lack the earthy, herbal notes that characterize “masculine” perfumes. 

Traditionally “Masculine Notes”

Think of the word “masculine fragrance” and your mind may conjure up images of bottles such as Fahrenheit by Dior, Egoiste by Chanel, or Kouros by Yves Saint Laurent. Let’s take Kouros, a firm favorite since the 1980s. This perfume is musky, animalic, earthy, leathery, warm spicy, and woody, though it does have a small percentage of floral content. Some of its most interesting top notes are coriander and clary sage. These give way to heart notes of orris root, vetiver, cinnamon, carnation, and patchouli. Finally, the strong base contains civets, leather, musk, oak moss, tonka bean, and more. Fahrenheit by Dior, meanwhile, is impossible to mistake for another. Its main accords include leather, wood, spice, animalic notes, and aromatic and aquatic notes (though it has a slight floral/citrus/green feel). Typical men’s fragrances often include leather, aromatic herbs, and aquatic notes. Smoke is another note that is super popular among fragrance connoisseurs. A few luxury perfumes you can expect to pay hundreds of dollars for are Serge Lutens’ Fumerie Turque (a tobacco-scented perfume) and Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille. Both these brands have always had a gender-neutral marketing and bottling strategy. 

Gender-Neutral Fragrances to Consider

Some brands (including Malin +  Goetz and Byredo) have offered gender-neutral fragrances from their launch date, valuing a beautiful fragrance’s complexities, dualities, and contradictions. These brands understand that taste changes over time, and what might seem feminine or masculine to one generation can be vastly different for other generations. Just a few exciting bottles you might want to try to include Off-White Beauty Solution No. 1 Eau de Parfum (containing notes like patchouli, vetiver, seaweed, sand, bergamot, and clary sage), Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540 (which has woody, floral, and amber notes), and Kilian Kologne Shield of Protection (with rosemary, cedarwood, and green mandarin). 

Gender-fluid and gender-neutral fashion are undoubtedly some of the most powerful forces in this industry, and without a doubt, it has affected the fragrance world. Consumers are no longer interested in being defined by perfume manufacturers. Instead, they are keener to learn about notes, choose those that align with their mood, and support companies that don’t seek to bottle up their consumers and the perfumes they create.

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Q&A with Naoufel Testaouni: Co-Founder & CEO of QueerTech