Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home































...smell just right

PERFUME magically transforms a person's countenance. It is an accessory that can single out a individual among a hundred others. It has the power to change ones personality, influencing the way one feels. Sweet, strong, floral or musky each can create a different sensation.
Perfumes at first whiff send out a strong invitation to the wearer. Slowly it permeates the entire surrounding. Soon it blends with the body in such a way that it becomes unnoticeable to the wearer. It leaves an unmistakable trail but is hard to pinpoint. It oscillates like musical notes throughout a person's being.

The advent of perfumes came about thousands of years ago. Ancient Chinese used a strong and pungent musk. Queen Cleopatra of Egypt used scented oil all over her body. People of Greece used to bathe in scented water. Indian folklore contains the tale that woman would bring a wave of sweet aroma that would permeate every corner of any room she entered. Her scent was a testament to her beauty.

The use of perfumes began when people started decorating their homes with flowers. Incense was added during religious ceremonies. The smoke and the scent together brought about the first whiff of perfume. In Latin 'per' stands for medium or through and 'fumer' stands for smoke.

The concentrated fragrance of aator existed in the Middle East since time immemorial. Present day scents come mainly form the west. Where once these used to be made mainly from natural products now they add artificial chemicals. Although the older methods created more exotic scents, the newer methods create longer lasting smells. Formulating a new perfume is a delicate balance between the two types of raw materials.

Prices of perfumes are often high because of the materials used and the process applied. Two cups of the sweetest smelling aator requires about a million fresh red roses. Ancient techniques consisted of three things. Firstly there was the scent of the flowers. Secondly there was the need for a fixative that would seal and hold in the smell for a long time. Often they had to add strange ingredients like the sweat of a civet. That's a particular breed of cat. Then they would use amber grease and alcohol. Besides these there were about 50 other ingredients.

Every perfume is unique and they can be separated into three different categories. First of all there is the standard perfume. It has the strongest scent. A drop is enough to have a huge effect on a passer-by. It also has a relatively higher price. It is best to store these away from directly sunlight. A good place would be a dark wardrobe. Apply on specific parts of the body for a better effect such as the wrist, the crook of the arm, forehead and neck. Often the scent lasts for 12 hours.

Then comes the eau de toilette. It is like the perfumes except it has a higher alcohol content and a lighter scent. It generally lasts for about 4-6 hours.
Last of all there is the cologne. It has the lightest scent of all and least costly. It has a high alcohol content and creates a soothing cooling effect when applied during warm weather.

Every perfume belongs in its own world falling into specific categories.

Florals: These give out the aroma of fresh flowers without any distinctive types. Makers of this range include Beautiful, Joy, Charlie and Armani. They are for women imparting an image of femininity, beauty and romanticism.

Single florals: This is one of the most important classes and deals with the specific scent of only one type of flower like rose, jasmine, lily etc. Some of the well-known brands include White Linen, T rose and Diorisimo.

Soft florals: These are created using synthetic chemicals with flowers. They have a light powdery aroma and one of the most remarkable brands is Chanel No. 5.

Orientals: There is a huge market for this sophisticated and strong scent. Some of the notable brands are Shalimar and Chantilly.

Soft Orientals: These are a modern creation adding spices such as cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. Check out Coco, Cinnabar, Poison and Opium.
Citrus: These have a tangy and slightly pungent aroma due to the addition of lemon, orange, lime etc. It's a small classification with limited brands like Crystal and Diorella.

Leather: These are basically perfumes designed for men. They have a dry musky scent and are soothing for the skin. Check out Gemini and Trimystic.

Cypress: The name is taken from that of the island and the perfumes are of a dark colour. They smell like exotic ferns of marshlands and are similar to the smell you get when opening a sandalwood/chandan box. The range includes Ms Dior, Cassette and Ciao.

Greens: This is a new and sweet category of perfumes. It's a lot like squashing fresh leaves between your fingers.
What's right for you?

Perfume usage is an extremely personal matter. It becomes a must have accessory and the best way to use the right scent is to rely on personal taste. Deodorant and eau de toilette can be sprayed all over the body. It gently blends with the body's own scent. If you want to hold the aroma for a longer duration make use of the soap, powder, oil, lotion etc of the same brand.

Using perfumes is an enhancement of one's image. It helps to create a desirable effect on others. But more important than that is it has a feel-good factor unrivalled to anything else. You can be wearing an Armani suit and smell like a garbage truck that ran over a skunk across a sewage drain on a hot day. On the other hand you can be in a comfortable torn t-short and feel on top of the world because you smell just right.

By Sultana Yasmin
Translated by Ehsanur Raza Ronny

1. Napoleon is said to have used an average of 54 bottles of cologne each month, and always wore his favourite scent into battle.

2. King Louis XIV of France prescribed that members of the court should use a different fragrance each day.

3. Sir Walter Raleigh regularly drank a mixture of wild strawberry leaves - and always placed potpourris of roses and orris powder throughout the rooms of his home.

4. During the 17th century, gentlemen carried aromatics in the heads of their walking sticks - to open and inhale whenever the occasion demanded it.

5. There was nothing sissy or feminine about the early American cattlemen who came into town for their monthly baths and took to lilac water in an effort to overpower the smell of sweat and animals. They might have been home on the range that way, but they knew better for their nights on the town. And nobody giggled when the well dressed, starch-collared man at the turn of the century left the barbershop with his hair slicked and parted and smelling of petunias. There was nothing frigid about their use of fragrance.

6. Prior to World War I, the only fragrant lotions used by men were bay rum and witch hazel. Men who wanted to be daring during the Roaring Twenties broke the precedent by wearing a dash of woman's perfume under their jacket lapels.

7. Rudolph Valentino, one of the greatest screen lovers of all time, wore cologne that reportedly charged the air with a cool, citrusy, masculine scent, and he inspired a fantastic following of men who slicked their hair as he did and dashed on his very brand of citrus. And women across the country reacted with overwhelming enthusiasm.

8. The free spirit of the Roaring Twenties liberated men (as well as women) but did not give them a really original fragrance experience.

9. It wasn't until the early 30`s, during the Depression, that an American cologne after-shave was introduced which captured the imagination of men across the country. It was an instant success and was considered the ultimate "morale booster."

10. In the mid-60`s, it is recorded that rapid social, economic and industrial changes inspired men to want to experiment with innovative fashions and fragrances. But, said one journal of the day, though the desire for fragrant self-fulfilment exists, so far, few companies seem to have responded to it.

11. It was not until the late 70`s that the fragrance needs of men have indeed been recognised and, from all indications, the future holds an even greater variety of "oil factory" pleasures than ever before.
12. Assyrian warriors curled their long beards with scented oils.

13. Frankincense and myrrh figured strongly in the Bible as gifts to the Christ child from the Three Wise Kings

14. The history of fragrance and lotions for men goes back to the very beginning of civilisations on this earth. Like everything else in the great sweep of progress through the pages of time, invention grew from necessity. Hot dry weather caused skins to crack and dry. It was soon discovered that oils and rendered animal fats not only helped heal the skin but prevented further irritation. The rich used fine almond, olive and sesame oils, while the poor were less fragrant but equally comfortable with castor oil. As far back as 200 years before the birth of Christ, the Babylonian ruler, Hammurabi, decreed that everyone in his kingdom (men and women) had to wash in perfume.


home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2003 The Daily Star