It is undeniable that unisex trend has been growing for a while now. Starting off with CK One by Calvin Klein in 1994, the fragrance industry began distancing itself from the 2 extremes of gender and approached the neutrality instead. But even after that, certain fragrance notes tend to remain gender-specific (floral being feminine, fougere being masculine, etc.) Many brands and perfumers have attempted breaking the pattern, but it is not an easy task to change the stereotypes that have been ingrained in the minds of consumers whether subconsciously or not.
If you take a step back from the unisex wave, perfumes were essentially made for women back in the 19th century. In France, the bourgeois men consisted of 2 types: businessman or dandy. The dandy ones had refined tastes in styles, which led them to use perfumes which were actually meant for women. For instance, Jicky by Guerlain was a popular choice among men. Only in 1934, Caron, a French perfume house, released the first ever male fragrance in history, named Pour Un Homme (meaning ‘for a man’ in French). This was the start of the perfumes for men, and intentionally or not, the segregation of perfumes in gender-specific manner.
Calvin Klein’s CK One was definitely a sensation with its provocative campaign images and marketing movement, becoming the bestselling perfume in US in the mid- 1990s. The concept was clearly embracing both genders, with its citrus top notes, floral middle notes and amber-musky base notes. The scent itself is not anything crazy, personally. However, it is indeed magical that it goes well with any sort of gender orientation.
Fast-forwarding to the current generation, many unisex perfumes have been released to date. Well-known brands like Jo Malone, Diptyque and Le Labo focus on creating fragrances that are wearable regardless of the gender or age. More established and fast-commercial brands like Estee Lauder, Lancome, Givenchy, Giorgio Armani, Dior, Chanel and Guerlain release unisex fragrances from time to time but are still more inclined to target a specific gender when promoting their fragrances. When such huge players act on the market, stereotyping seems unavoidable. Majority of fast commercial perfumes are still labeled and classified under their respective gender which is like a glass wall, something that the contemporary indie brands are attempting to break down.
It is also an interesting point that women are more willing to explore male fragrances. For instance, Eau Sauvage of Dior, supposedly men’s fragrance, gained more popularity among women since its release in 1966. Not only that, albeit it differs from region to region, women generally use or purchase fragrances more frequently than men. Naturally, fast commercial brands target the more lucrative audience: the women.
Nonetheless, with the rise of metrosexuals and acceptance towards such lifestyles, more unisex products are expected to be released into the market. However, the movement to completely neutralize the gender-specific industry like fragrances are yet to be known if it is going to be successful, with its history of being female-centric, and the long-established belief that fragrances are too ‘feminine’. From a personal standpoint, such cultural aspect should be questioned and altered before the true unisex fragrance market can rise.