Why do we associate light, floral scents with women and musky and woody scents with men? Rose, violets, gardenias, these are flowers. They aren’t female. The smell of common ingredients in ‘female’ fragrances—sugar, fruit—aren’t ‘feminine’. They’re things that grow on bushes or are used as baking ingredients. They shouldn’t conjure up the image of a woman. There’s nothing to say that leather or wood scents have to mean ‘male’ either. But more often than not, they do, in fragrance, and have for the last 100 years or so, at least.
However, that trend may now be over. The latest in the Chanel Les Exclusifs range, a unisex fragrance called Boy, “challenges traditions” and “transcends gender”. The coolest niche brands are unisex. And increasingly, ingredients tagged for men are nudging their way into formulations targeted at women.