Tuesday, August 19, 2014

14 Women's Perfume That Men Should Borrow

Last year I posted a list of masculine-labeled perfumes that I believe women should borrow and make their own. I figured it's time to do the same for men and supposedly-feminine fragrances. Personally, I don't care one bit about the pour homme/pour femme issue and don't think perfume has a gender. There's juice and skin--- if it smells good to you that's all it  matters. But people have been conditioned to make the distinction, especially on the mainstream market. Many niche/indie/artisan brands have abandoned the man/woman labels a long time ago, using neutral packaging and names (think Lutens, Malle, Parfumerie Gnerale, and many others), but even within those brands there's sometimes a bit of a bias (Geranium Pour Monsieur). So here's my list. I tried to avoid long-discontinued or impossible to find stuff. Please chime in with more ideas.

Chanel Cuir de Russie and Bois des Iles. These two classics are now part of Chanel Exclusifs, a range that is a lot more guy-friendly, but in many Chanel boutiques and department stores the Exclusifs are still located too close to the makeup counter, making some men avoid them. There's also a brand image issue, especially among men of a certain generation (pre-Bleu,obviously) for whom Chanel perfume=No.5 (which I wish more men would try, but I know that many have a real issue with the aldehydic opening). I once gave my father a bottle of Chanel Antaeus. His initial reaction was "Chanel? Isn't that women's stuff?". He ended up wearing and enjoying it, of course.

Robert Piguet- Bandit. I'm pretty sure that if Bandit was released today by a major brand it would have declared a masculine. Smaller brands can go unisex, like Etat Libre d'Orange did with Bandit's modern offspring, Rien, but on the general market such a leather-galbanum-smoke composition would do better with guys. Cabochard also belongs in this category, but since reformulations have made it unrecognizable I'm not even going to bother.

Hermes Eau de Merveilles. This is a proper gender-neutral fragrance, but for some reason Hermes positioned it as the feminine answer to Terre d'Hermes and created  some limited-edition pendant presentations. To make it even more annoying, SAs at most department stores that stock it can be pretty horrible about yanking a tester from one's hand and saying "that's for women/that's for men" (my local Saks is notorious for that). Still, this salty orange and ambergris is a modern marvel.

Ormonde Jayne- Ormonde Woman. Just as I think women should give Ormonde Man a try before deciding between the two, men would do well to consider the super green sister. It's a bit more lush and thick, but not necessarile femme.

Estee Lauder classics: Azuree, Aliage, Private Collection. Yes, I know that approaching an Estee Lauder counter and asking for the stuff they usually keep hidden is not a guy's idea of a good time, but the mossy green Aliage and Private Collection are worth the trouble, and the leather-chypre Azuree is Bandit's younger sibling.

Donna Karan Collection: Black cashmere, Chaos, Donna Karan Signature. Many people still don't realize that these gorgeous re-released line is easily available from Neiman Marcus and online. The only official offering for guys is Fuel For Men (I wear the 1994 original in the gas pump bottle), but both the spice-incense-chamomile of Chaos and the almost eerie darkness of Black Cashmere (saffron, incense, pepper, among other things) can be just as easily worn by them. The same goes for the original Donna Karan Perfume (now "Signature") that was freed from its duck-shaped bottle.

Miller Harris- Figue Amere. This is a packaging issue more than anything. Figue Amere comes in a fuchsia-colored box that doesn't do justice to this salty and herbal fig perfume that's free of the coconut and creaminess of Premier Figuier (L'Artisan) or Phylosikos (Diptyque).

Bottega  Veneta by Bottega Veneta. It's one of the best mainstream perfumes from a couple of years ago. While the brand has released a pour homme version  the following year, I still think the original sueded chypre is not to be missed.

Serge Lutens- Daim Blond. Speaking of suede. While Uncle Serge doesn't use feminine/masculine labels, this iris-apricot-suede is generally more embraced by women, and usually offered to them by SAs. It's the apricot jam note, I'm sure, but it shouldn't scare away men. Daim Blond is much more complex than the sum of the official notes, and it's probably the best suede on the market.

Photo by the wonderful Leora Long who is also the photographer behind the classic Nina Ricci Farouche image.


  1. Cool list, I agree on BV which I only recently sniffed out after getting the men's one. Cuir Russie I find too dated, similar with bandit. I've yet to get particularly excited about Serge. I think Shalimar could be on the list, I really liked accord Oud by Byredo which seems quite feminine in it's online reception. Rouge Avignon from Phaedon too, I know they don't specify gender but it's one I thought feminine but a few guys enjoy wearing.


  2. I also love Voleur de Rose by L' Artisan, a beautiful patchouli rose combo that smells gorgeous on my hubby.

  3. Possibly my all-time favorite, Donna Karan's Black Cashmere, would definitely be gorgeous on any man. Can't tell you how thrilled I am that it is available again. Do you know if the new juice is as amazing as the original? Great blog today. My husband has a few "men's" fragrances that he likes, but I'm going to start encouraging him to try a few of mine.

  4. Great post! I always like to think of scents as genderless, but, of course, that's not actually the case in the real world. My beloved DH, after all these years, will still only wear scents when I'm using him as a guinea pig for skin chemistry and perfume testing. I think it's a whole lot easier for women to ignore gender marketing than it is for men. Adore all the scents you listed, but I'll mention some of the less available or vintage scents that I always immediately think of that would work for men, with Diorling, Piguet Visa and Lanvin Scandal, Rumeur and Crescendo topping that list. And, although it would take a very secure man to wear it (or, at least, tell people what he was wearing, if asked), vintage Miss Balmain extrait is one I think would work fairly well for a man, also Jil Sander Woman 3 and 2, the original Shiseido Zen and L'Artisan's limited Fleur de Narcisse. I know most men wear Caron En Avion, TB and Poivre, but I also think of Alpona as being relatively unisex and there are several vintage chypres that seem pretty much genderless to me, such as Coty's and Millot's Crepe de Chine. Oh, and was wearing POTL yesterday and am not sure how many men wear it, but they should.

  5. Great post, more to try.

    I wear regularly - SJP Covet, Voleur De Roses, Bandit, Gres Cabaret, Gres Cabochard, Halston Catalyst, O de Lancome, Roger et Gallet Eau The Vert, Tresor, Karl Lagerfeld Sun Moon & Stars, Rien, Mitsouko, L'Ombre Dans L'eau.

    Also occasionally a selection of other "ladies" fragrances, that really aren't.

    As you say, if it smells good on you, wear it....


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