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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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).
London in the 1960s, and the underground Mod scene was becoming more mainstream. These well-dressed youths stood different; they were stylishly attired… and smelled great, too.
For me, it was the 1966 release of Eau Sauvage by Dior that instigated the rise of bold, distinctive, designer male scent.
21st Century: Niche Fragrances and Personalisation
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.
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.
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.