Over at http://frompyrgos.blogspot.com, I read an interesting blog post entitled, “The Slow Death Of Basenotes and The End Of The Perfume Renaissance.” I’m not interested in being the contrarian here, and I do think there is something to be said for the author’s notion. On the other hand, a well known political commentator once declared the “death of history” not all that long ago (before the 9/11 terrorist attacks). To sum up my position, this sort of observation is likely mistaking ebbs and flows for births and deaths. This reminds me of something I heard not long ago, when I turned on BookTV and witnessed a female author talking about her book, which argued that allowing women into the military was going to do serious damage to the nation’s fighting capabilities (or something along those lines). Her “evidence” was talking to some men on an aircraft carrier, it seemed. What she was mistaking, IMO of course, is that when something new is introduced into society, there is often a period of adjustment, which I consider part of the ebbs and flows, if and when it occurs.
For me, this was the case with scents. I had worn some Aramis back in the 1980s and some Francesco Smalto Pour Homme back in the early to mid 1990s, but never really thought much about them. On the other hand, by around 2000, I was interested in developing some new recipes for my notions about a healthy diet, so I was working with herbs, spices, etc. The point is that I was not at all unfamiliar with all kinds of aromatic items many Americans do not use when they cook (fenugreek, coriander, curry powder, masala powder, cardamom, cumin, marjoram, etc.), yet I didn’t think about perfumery at all. Then I was giving a gift in 2007 (Adidas Moves) and was curious if there was any information about it online. That idea led to the discovery of various perfumery blogs, basenotes.net, makupalley.com, etc.
For one reason or another, this seems to have been true for a large number of people, perhaps beginning around 2000 or a bit later. Remember in the late 1960s when San Francisco was the place for young non-conformists to congregate? Obviously you may only “remember” from a history class, but one can think of various historical examples of this kind of phenomenon. Turning to scents, I have been surprised by how many apparently enthusiastic “perfumista” types came and went, often rather quickly. Actually, I wrote up a partial blog post about it a couple months ago but it is still patiently waiting in draft mode for orders to move out. One question I addressed in that post was, why does this happen? Now I’m asking myself if this happens in similar areas, such as wine connoisseurship, at least to the degree it seems to with scents.
I think it may not, mainly because scents are easy to just ignore, even if you continue to wear them (meaning that the bottles one acquires need not “go to waste”). Moreover, I’ve found that I really need to “rotate” my scents so that I may only wear one that I like two or three times a year! Not many others have the choices I do in that respect, so boredom seems like a strong possibility. It may be that for many if not most, the “divine madness” one experiences with a scent at first only lasts for a few wearings, if one tries to wear the scent too frequently. There is a often tension in my thoughts when I first wake up about whether I should wear an “old favorite” or try something new that I think I might like, but I like having this kind of “problem.” In any case, one thing I said in that draft of a similar idea for a post is the following:
“The person writes more reviews that I do within the same period of time, with these musings becoming more and more ‘poetic’ and ‘philosophical.’ Then, all of a sudden, the person is gone. In some cases he or she deletes all his/her reviews, while in other instances, he or she bids farewell to his/her ‘fans’ and explains how he/she must ‘move on.’ In still others, we simply see a slow withdrawal over weeks or months. Of course this is not always the case; some reviewers with these tendencies persevere, perhaps slowing down significantly, though in some cases I’ve noticed a bit of bitterness seeping into their ruminations.”
This is just an impression of mine, of course, though I could provide some examples (our friend at http://frompyrgos.blogspot.com has already done that, so you can just read his post if you want some). When I first realized how many scents are available to me and how much they varied, I knew it would take me quite a bit of time to just begin to get a handle on things. I didn’t think trying to rush things would make sense, and in fact, I still have no sense of urgency. With others, I’ve noticed things I consider counter-productive, such as writing long invectives against Chanel because of disappointment over their latest men’s releases. My guess is that in some cases, such people are looking for someone to blame for the bell curve that represents their enjoyment of scents. After all, there are plenty of great vintage ones that still cost less than the average designer scent. I’ve been on a bit of a “vintage hunt” for over two years now and there are plenty of them I’ve yet to sample, for example.
On this blog, I have only written up a new post when I felt I had “something to say,” and I guess I view myself as a scent tortoise as opposed to all the hares that have come and gone over the years. Also, I agree with the author of “The Slow Death Of Basenotes and The End Of The Perfume Renaissance” on his commentary about basenotes.net, in that I wish the owner of that site would figure out how to straighten it out once and for all. If this is very difficult for some reason, why not be “transparent” with members and tell us exactly what the problem is? No matter, I know that I too have moved on to some degree from basenotes, in that I don’t mind nearly as much when it is down as I did a few years ago. There are lots of other things to do, and that’s just online! For those who find themselves thinking that they need to bow out of the perfumery scene, why not ask yourself if you can just slow down and let it come to you, so to speak, rather than pursuing it aggressively? That’s what I’ve done with various interests and hobbies, and it’s worked out very well.
My guess is that what we have witnessed is a kind of first wave of “internet age” interest in scents. There may be a lull and various kinds of consolidation, but I think we’ll see just as many new people (if not more) becoming aficionados as there have been aficionados dropping out of the scene over a longer course of time (perhaps a few years). The reason is self-evident: the departing aficionados became enthusiastic about scents in the first place because of the enjoyment they provide. It may be true that for most people this enjoyment occurs on a “bell curve,” but with all the resources now online (and growing every day), there’s no reason to think that it won’t continue to grow. I think that when one first experiences a scent he or she really likes, there is the assumption that will be the case during every subsequent wearing, and not everyone reacts the same way when it becomes clear this is not the reality. Without a large rotation, the “magic” may indeed evaporate rather quickly. Many of those who departed the scene in a notable appear to have been what one might call chronic samplers who seemed intent on testing boundaries rather than enjoying what they already had. I wish such folk would comment here and provide some insights but if they are truly gone from the scene for good, I can only wish them the best.