Like fashion, perfume trends evolve over the years. Like the reflections of a society and an era, fragrances adapt and the highlighted ingredients change. While there are “rose” or “tuberose” years, some scented trends made their marks on entire generations. For decades, noses have been trying to create the juice that will fit perfectly into the spirit of the times thanks to winning accords. From the 1950s to nowadays, we offer you an overview of perfume trends.
The American Dream of the 50s
Perfume trends for men
While the fragrance of the 30s and 40s was marked by women’s glamour and opulence from Hollywood, the following decade saw the emergence of fragrances for men. The first eaux de toilette appeared in the form of “Cologne” style perfumes with fresh and light notes that were easy to wear on a daily basis. These compositions also appealed to men, who had until then been rather shy about using perfume. While lavender continues to please, vetiver makes its appearance in these masculine creations. Faced with this growing craze, men’s fragrances are asserting themselves around oriental or aromatic notes. On the women’s side, perfume trends hardly changed at that time. Fragrance still remains a gift offered by the husband for special occasions. Highly codified and stereotypical, the perfume represents a feminine ideal.
Fragrances from USA
During the 1950s, perfume became more widely available and its sale was no longer reserved for specialist shops. Fragrances are much more affordable and invade supermarkets, temples of consumption. Europeans of all ages dream of an American way of life like in the movies between drive-in and rock’n’roll. Fragrance is no exception, and as early as 1952, Estée Lauder markets its first perfume, Youth Dew, which would serve as a precursor for American perfumery. Initially created as a bath oil, the fragrance would later become a highly concentrated eau de toilette. This new trend imported from across the Atlantic is more olfactively accessible, more “readable” by everyone. It will have a strong influence on the European market.
Another trend coming from our American friends: detergent. How is that related to perfume? Because of musk, quite simply! Indeed, these products are perfumed with synthetic musks: inexpensive substances that are not soluble in water. After washing, the perfume soaks into the fibres of the clothes to be at one with your skin. This “clean” scent will thus seduce everybody very quickly.
60s: twist of freshness
In the 1960s, synthetic chemistry evolved and offered perfumers new notes to add to their palette. So at that time, Noses reinvent some classics with the help of new molecules. With floral and delicate notes, springtime scents become very popular with women. Lily-of-the-valley, rose and jasmine are the height of sophistication. But the love for oriental nuances lasts and becomes a permanent fixture in the perfume trends of the 60s. Patchouli began to make its mark on many noses.
Against a backdrop of frenzied twist, women’s emancipation is beginning to make itself heard. They become prescribers of their own purchases and begin to have fun with fragrances. As if to accompany this revival, a wave of freshness is felt and Eau de Cologne, always very popular, is reinvented with the addition of lemon or mandarin.
The seventies between ideals and marketing
The following decade will undeniably be marked by the hippie movement born in San Francisco. Patchouli is of course a reference point and becomes the symbol of a generation looking for change. Compositions with floral and aldehydic notes win all the votes, along with greener, chypre fragrances. If hippies are advocating some kind of return to nature, marketing is taking off in the perfume industry. More than just an odor, perfume should reflect a way of life.
Advertising plays an increasingly important role in new fragrance launches. Every popular movement such as feminism or neo-romanticism has its own fragrance: it is necessary to decipher the still unsatisfied needs of consumers in order to offer them the fragrance that will suit them. For men, compositions dare to be more virile than before and fragrance becomes a real asset for seduction.
The cult of the body during the 80s
During this decade, the social and professional emancipation of women continued to gain ground. Men also want to assert themselves more than ever. Fragrances with character seem to best reflect this desire. The heady and animal notes prove it in perfumes with tenacious character. Mystery and seduction are sought after with fragrances with sensual and oriental nuances: cistus, pepper or cinnamon are frequently used. This decade is marked by a certain form of individualism but also by cult of the body. Physical activity is practiced to maintain a slim and athletic figure, and the fresh and dynamic perfume trends are aimed at sportsmen and women. Fruity notes from the United States also arrived in European perfumery, giving it a new lease of life.
Nostalgia and purity of the 90s
The 90s marked a return to sobriety and simplicity. In a society turned upside down by great changes, we are looking for pure and natural fragrances that evoke more authenticity. Juices smell “clean” and marine. Women are returning to more floral and spontaneous compositions. Contrary to the sexual-exacerbated fragrances of the 80s, the first unisex perfumes appear and conquer an entire young generation that like to play with these new codes. During the 90s, a revolution in fragrance also take place: these of gourmand notes! Like a desire to go back to childhood, the compositions are coated with sweetness like comforting and regressive vanilla, caramel or even chocolate.
From 2000 to today: a new fragrant era
Since the year 2000, perfume trends have evolved through new and diversified approaches: a return to the great classics of yesterday, or a tenfold increase in inventiveness with the appearance of olfactory oddballs. Women’s perfumery is becoming sophisticated and glamorous again, a counterpoint to the uniformity of the nineties. Women expressed themselves in all their facets: strong but also fragile, sometimes woman-child, sometimes seductive… It is also during this period that niche perfumery increasingly appeal to a population in search of originality. Far from the “mainstream” circuits, a new form of creativity is emerging thanks to perfumers who are trying to stand out from the crowd. The 21th century will thus mark a new form of audacity in perfumery.
While some remained faithful to their great classic, others were waiting for the fragrance of tomorrow. What are the perfume trends that marked your youth?