Pop goes the Shera ?


I’ve enjoyed many of “Sherapop’s” posts on her blog, but after reading a comment of hers on the FromPyrgos blog recently, I am wondering if she has “gone over to the dark side.” Before proceeding, I suggest you read my last post, “Why is basic logic lost on some people?” because it will “bring you up to speed” on some of the strange claims being made in this context. I’ll begin by quoting Sherapop’s entire comment (on the subject of vintage scents):

Really it’s a religion, Bryan. That’s the way I look at it. Religion is at best arational, at worst irrational. As long as they are doing no harm to anyone, I don’t have a problem with it. We’re not talking about Miranda Barbour and satanic rituals here–at least as far as I know. I must say that I do have a hard time taking some of these people seriously as thinkers or critics, however.

As an example, I was going to review Barbara Herman’s book on vintage perfumes (ridiculously titled “Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume,” which is about as far from truth in advertising as anything could possibly be…), but it was so frustratingly unsystematic and subjective and romantic and, yes, religious, that I figured: what’s the point?

What can I say about a book which opens by observing that all perfumes spoil and will eventually disappear, leaving no traces behind, and then goes on to offer reviews of many “vintage classics” with no mention of the provenance or age of the samples or bottles. Way too unsystematic for me, but it’s really just a little book by a vintage loving blogger written for vintage loving bloggers. That’s all that it is. Oh, and also a plug for the gray-market decanters, whom Herman shills for by exhorting readers to begin their vintage journeys at those websites. (I do hope that she’s at least getting a kick back on the referrals!!!!)

In some ways, this whole “vintage movement,” if you will, seems very similar to a cult, especially the way people jump all over anyone who dares to attempt to shine a bit of light into the dark cave in which they spend their days, like archaeologists attempting to unearth treasures from centuries past, when in fact they are much more likely to dig up the bones of the victims of a serial killer.

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.

My first thought after reading this was a question, how is scent appreciation “rational” in any context? Is she claiming that people who only enjoy niche are entirely rational, by contrast? Are the people who go to major department stores, spray the latest designer scent on their arms, and say “oh, that’s nice, I will purchase a bottle,” acting considerably more rational? As I’ve said before, I came to conclude that I enjoyed vintage designer (“men’s” and “women’s) more than niche or recent designer only after being very skeptical about claims concerning bad reformulations. I had to smell it for myself, and during the first several months of this new hobby, I couldn’t tell the difference bettween “drug store dreck” and expensive niche. It’s only when I started to say to myself things like, “Dunhill’s Desire smells like Rochas Lui but there’s something I don’t like about it, almost like a chemical smell,” that I realized there might be a big difference in the ingredient quality between these two scents.

She then goes on to criticize a book I have not read. Her criticisms seem to have at least some merit, but it’s inappropriate to at least intimate that all vintage aficionados share the views of this author. Her claim about “gray market decants” suggests she doesn’t know much about such people, because I’ve made very few sales this way, and I don’t even want to do it any more (on those few occasions) because it’s such a hassle. In fact, with vintage prices where they are now, I’m strongly considering just listing bottles I don’t need on ebay, despite how much I dislike selling on ebay. I wouldn’t doubt that the book leaves quite a bit to be desired, but so did “Perfumes: The Guide,” the point being that one might read these books for the insights and information contained within, even if there is quite a bit with which one disagrees.

To say that hobbyists are like a cult strikes me as quite bizarre. With the internet, it seems like more people are collecting and becoming hobbyists in all kinds of different fields. The ability to share information and even products to this extent was never possible before, so yes, it is new, but really, Sherapop, do you expect a Jonestown type incident among vintage aficionados? Will we gather in covens, wearing special robes, and spray each other with our vintage favorites? I’ve never even met a fellow vintage aficionado in person! Do you know what an “alarmist” is? And by your own standards, how are you not in this cult-like situation with your fragrance hobby, while those who usually prefer vintage (on most days) are? What are those standards? How did you come to this conclusion?

If anyone is being ridiculous, it is a person who makes this kind of statement you did! I hope you will reconsider and be more precise about exactly what you are claiming (with supporting evidence that is the “rule” rather than the exception). If you do find someone making outrageous claims, please let us know. I’m sure you realize that there will be a few “extremists” in any “movement,” as you call it, just as I think Mr. Ross is in his blog posts those who mostly wear vintage scents. There are quite a few blogs now about vintage scents, so perhaps you can tell us who these people with extreme views are. Or do you think that these kinds of blanket claims are appropriate? IF there is a whole lot of “irrationality” to be found here, it seems to reside in the minds of those who can’t stand the thought that some people prefer vintage scents !

NOTE: On her blog, Sherapop recently wrote about how much “nicer” the tea aficionado online community is, and my question to her is, don’t you think that with this comment you are adding to the “nastiness” of the online personal fragrance community? It’s almost like two different people wrote these two things (the tea post and the comment at the FromPyrgos blog)! Also, I’m working on a post that some may view as the “other side of the coin,” which should appear within a few days. That one should make it clear that I think Sherapop’s general notion has merit, but at the very least I think she has exaggerated the claims being made by the majority of the “vintage crowd.”

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2 Comments

Filed under Criticizing the critics.

2 responses to “Pop goes the Shera ?

  1. Dear Bigsly,

    I admit that my initial comment at From Pyrgos may have seemed a bit extreme. In fact, I was reacting to the barrage of angry attacks on Elena in the comments to the Fragrantica article discussed by Bryan. Lots of nerves were evidently touched by her article, and I had experienced those sorts of reactions in the past, both at Dnotes and at the salon de parfum.

    When I talk about the religious aspect of this “movement”, as I facetiously put it, I am referring to the “search for the unicorn at the end of the rainbow” attitude of some (not all) vintage seekers. For heaven’s sake: something is not automatically good just because it is old! I wrote about this at the salon more than two years ago. I’m not sure whether you were reading me back then, but here is the link:

    http://salondeparfum-sherapop.blogspot.com/2012/02/question-of-vintage.html

    As evidence that this is a quasi-religious attitude, when I wrote a comment on Elena’s article, inviting the naysayers to come discuss the topic further at the salon, my comment immediately disappeared. It was not deleted by administrators (Zoka has confirmed) but thumbed down by angry vintage enthusiasts! Seriously, people: can’t we have a friendly debate about these questions?????

    It just occurred to me that my follow-up comment at From Pyrgos may help to clarify my position a bit. Here is what I wrote:

    ——————————————————–
    My position may seem nuanced, but it’s actually pretty simple: I like good perfume. I know, I know: don’t we all?

    The way this plays out as far as the present debate is concerned is as follows: I do believe that the tsunami of new launches and flankers and the mushrooms-after-a-rain-like proliferation of new niche houses, and the gobbling up of formerly independent design houses by the corporate giants, all have conspired to *lower* the basic probability that when I take a sniff of a brand new perfume it will be very good. It is simply a fact–at least to my nose!–that the perfumes produced by the design houses now subsumed under Coty Prestige have undergone significant homogenization and abstraction. Ditto for LVMH. In some ways, it doesn’t matter whether we blame the IFRA or not. That’s just a chicken and egg problem, really.

    My position is not an instance of vintage worship–and I am keenly aware of the reality of chemical decomposition, which is why I find that Weltanschauung about as tenable as the official position of the Flat-Earth Society. Instead, my perspective simply recognizes what seems obviously true: that we should expect quality in direct proportion to the talent, energy, and time devoted to a single perfume. With all of this multilaunching activity going on right now, we are seeing the perfume equivalent of Tweets rather than the chefs-d’oeuvre of the previous century. Is a Tweet a timeless classic of literature? Hell no. Maybe one out of every 5 billion Tweets has some literary value, but on the whole, it’s just a lot of noise.

    I feel the same way about most of the chemical soup being pumped out of the perfume industry factories today. A few good perfumes are being produced, to be sure, but finding them just by testing a couple here and there is similar to spinning a roulette wheel!!!!
    —————————————————

    So, have I “gone over to the dark side”? No, of course not. In fact my position remains as it was when I penned a piece specifically in honor of you and Bryan, “Between Charybdis and Scylla: Is there a third way?”. Here’s the link to that article, which I know that you read, but you might want to do a quick review. lol (that was a joke! ;-)):

    http://salondeparfum-sherapop.blogspot.com/2013/05/between-charbydis-and-scylla-is-there.html

    Seriously, bigsly, I opened my first comment by acknowledging that I don’t have a problem with people doing whatever they want–barring Miranda Barbourish activity. So, no, I do not believe that we have a Jonestown massacre in the offing!

    However, your point is well-taken that there is no “rationality” whatsoever involved in any of these matters of taste. Appreciation and depreciation of any- and everything is all and only a matter of values! What is a hobby, in the end, but a way to spend time, to fill the days of one’s life? So I agree, and I sincerely thank you for galvanizing me to clarify my thoughts, bigsly.

    Please rest assured, I have not gone over to the dark side!!!!! šŸ˜‰

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