The Fairer Recs: Unisex Fragrance

We're lucky enough to be surrounded every day by the women of Birchbox. Beyond their keen eye for detail and great taste, they're also science nerds who can teach us a whole lot about products we never knew we couldn't live without. Today’s edition: Unisex fragrance.

You're skeptical of: Unisex fragrance.

Why it will change your life: Remember those CK1 ads from the ‘90s featuring androgynous, pre-hipster models (including Kate Moss in her prime)? For Nirvana and Pearl Jam alike, that scent, or at least that ubiquitous marketing scheme, was a formative part of adolescence. It’s probably the main touchstone when it comes to scent that be worn by both guys and girls, and yet, unisex scents have come a long way since then.

The truth is that most of our ideas about fragrance are guided by marketing (either explicitly or subliminally). One of the main things fragrance marketing reinforces is the idea that scents are strictly gendered. Woodsy scents, leather, and cigars are all masculine. Florals are clearly feminine. When you remove yourself from these simple categories, fragrance notes are a bit more nuanced and complex. A lot of guys might be surprised to find themselves attracted to a fragrance with some stereotypically feminine notes. The key is smelling and judging in a marketing free “no spin” zone.

The best way to figure out what you like is to put several options to the smell test on a piece of paper. Once you’ve weeded out the ‘mehs,’ and the just-plain-awfuls, test one on a pulse point (your wrist or neck) and let it hang out for about twenty minutes. The fragrance will develop on your skin over that time so you’ll want to make sure you still like it after ten minutes. What you’ll end up with is a fragrance that you actually like for itself. (Which reminds us of another formative ‘90s classic.

One to keep in your medicine cabinet: Atelier Cologne’s Vetiver Fatal is a perfect example of the modern unisex fragrance that’s versatile without being boring or flat. It opens on fresh citrus top notes and ends with base notes of woodsy Haitian vetiver and earthy cedarwood. In between you’ll get notes of orange flower absolue, violet leaves, and black plum but we swear both men and women are attracted to it equally.

For more discussion of unisex scent—as well as an office-wide sniff test—check out our second installment of “He Says, She Says”:

—Andrew Vazzano

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