History of Mens Fragrance: Egyptian Gods to Stylish Mods

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They say a change is as good as a rest. So, I’m diving into something a little different, the history of mens fragrance, to get fully acquainted with our scented past.

From ancient spice markets to modern niche perfumery, it’s not just about smelling great; it’s a narrative of cultural change, scientific leaps, and, yes, a bit of masculine, artistic flair.


Ancient Scent Beginnings

Ancient Egypt

Let’s start at the very beginning. Ancient Egypt was a place where scents weren’t just scents; they were symbols of the divine and a sign of who you were in society. 

Exotic spices and resins were costly, so only the rich could afford them. It was said that one whiff of frankincense or myrrh, and you’re connected to the gods. Now that’s powerful stuff.

Ancient Rome and Greece weren’t far behind. It wasn’t just about smelling good; perfumes were part of status, religion, and everyday life. Today’s fragrances still allow us to bring a bit of ancient opulence into our modern lives.

Middle Ages and the Renaissance

Moving on to the Middle Ages, between 500 BC and the 1400s, this is where it gets rather interesting. Spices were bought and sold by traders across Europe and the Middle East.

The Arab world really upped the game with distillation. Plus, it brought us richer scents using resins, musks, spices and woods such as oud that lasted longer and smelled deeper. 

Then came the start of the Renaissance (14th – 17th century), an era of discovery. Imagine the excitement of European nobles as they got their hands on exotic scents like musk and ambergris. Talk about luxury!

17th and 18th Centuries: The Age of Elegance

King Louis XIV

Now, the 17th and 18th centuries were all about elegance. Picture this: the French court of King Louis XIV, where even your clothes were perfumed. Lavender fragrances for men, rose, and even orange blossom were all big hits. 

Louis XIV was not exactly the take-a-bath-every-day type, and perfume was used to mask his foul body odour. Apparently, he was famed to have only bathed 3 times in his life… yikes!

In 1760, a London tailor (now a famous perfume house) founded by James Henry Creed presented to King George III a pair of scented leather gloves. Creed fragrances are still available for the discerning gentleman.

19th Century: Industrial Revolution and Modern Perfumery

Industrial Revolution

The 19th century changed everything. The Industrial Revolution made perfumes accessible to all. And then came the real game-changer: synthetic aromatic compounds.

Suddenly, there were scents we’d never dreamed of. The lavender-heavy Fougère Royale created by Houbigant in 1882 was a real milestone, setting the stage for what men’s fragrance could be.

20th Century: Designer Scents and Masculine Vibes

Barbershop image

The 20th century was all about designer fragrances. This was when fragrances evolved from simple scents to become bold statements of identity.

Chanel may have been the perfume brand on everyone’s lips, but Coco had yet to focus on male fragrance, with only the classic 1955 Pour Monsieur in her male collection (this did not change until the late 1980s).

Although it was the Romans who introduced the concept of barber shops, it was not until Barbershop colognes of the 1950s that men truly began embracing fragrance as part of their grooming routine.

London in the 1960s, and the underground Mod scene was becoming more mainstreamThese well-dressed youths stood different; they were stylishly attired… and smelled great, too.

Aramis, Brut, and Old Spice may be scoffed at now, but these were the trailblazers – these weren’t just smells; they were powerhouse fragrances that started a scent revolution.

For me, it was the 1966 release of Eau Sauvage by Dior that instigated the rise of bold, distinctive, designer male scent. 

Between the 1970s and the millennium, we saw an explosion of brands offering designer male fragrances: Ralph Lauran, Dior, Givenchy, and Calvin Klein, to name a few. 

21st Century: Niche Fragrances and Personalisation

Diptyque in store

Here we are in the 21st century. It’s all about niche fragrance brands; many, such as Tom Ford, Diptyque, Lalique, and Serge Lutens, have become almost mainstream.

Men are exploring, too, trying their hand at scent layering and breaking the old scent stereotypes to create a modern scent wardrobe for themselves. 

It’s a world where you can be whoever you want to be, one spritz at a time. And let’s not forget sustainability. It’s not just about smelling good; it’s about doing good too.



So, there you have it.. the story of men’s fragrances through the eyes of a born and bred Londoner; it’s a journey through time, culture, and style. 

From the sacred oils of ancient Egypt and London Mods to today’s artisanal creations, it’s a world that’s constantly evolving, just like us guys. 

Also Read: Fragrance Collecting As A Hobby: A Beginners Guide For Guys

Who knows what aromas the future will bring, especially with so many unisex scents on the market, ready for a new generation. One thing’s for sure: it’s going to be an exciting olfactory ride.

Also Read: Masculine Fragrance Families: 6 Olfactory Groups




Further Reading

Below are some additional articles from Viora London’s blog. We write articles on a number of interesting lifestyle topics such as fragrance, beauty, luxury accessories and more.

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The Viora London team caters to a worldwide audience. We provide a professional review service on fragrance, beauty and luxury items to assist our readers make informed purchasing decisions.

Our primary audience is from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Europe, although we have readers from as far away as Hawaii!

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