THE EVOLUTION OF FRAGRANCE
King Louis XIV was so obsessed with perfume that he was called the "perfume king." He had it sprayed on clothing, furniture, walls, and tableware. Even his visitors were sprayed with perfume before meeting the king.January 27th, 2016
Fragrance is the most common product we use on a daily basis to feel fresh and attractive. Either as an aftershave, body spray, or another scented product.
It is safe to say men’s fragrances have come a long way since their ancient origins. Although the modern gentleman applies fragrances such as Gruhme No.14 to feel masculine and confident, the original purpose was somewhat more practical.
Back in the day, like a really long time ago, nicely scented potions were a matter of necessity. People’s noses were constantly, and vigorously, assaulted by the unpleasant odours of smoke, rotting food, open sewers, and God knows what.
THE EARLY DAYS
According to the legends (and the history books), the glorious art of crafting scents began in ancient Egypt thousands of years ago. Here fragrances were primarily used during religious ceremonies, and also where the term perfume originated. The Egyptian priests created scented smoke by burning wood and resins as a means for communicating with the Gods. The word perfume is derived from Latin per fumus, meaning through smoke. The Egyptians believed the Gods would smile on them if they surrounded themselves with a pleasant aroma.
The Egyptians were also the first to create perfume bottles in which to store the perfume. The bottles were commonly made of glass, which was (also) invented by the Egyptians. Not to mention they built gigantic pyramids! Is there anything these guys couldn’t do??
EUROPE AND THE PERFUME KING
Eventually Egyptian perfumery influenced Greece and then Rome, where the first professional perfumers emerged during the first century.
However, Rome didn’t rule forever. Christianity emerged and the use of fragrance faded out. Then for hundreds of years after the fall of Rome, perfume was primarily an Oriental art. It spread to Europe when 13th century Crusaders brought back samples from Palestine to England, France, and Italy.
Perfume then came into widespread use among the monarchy. France’s King Louis XIV was so obsessed with it that he was called the “perfume king.” He had it sprayed on clothing, furniture, walls, and tableware. Even his guests were sprayed with perfume before the eccentric king would greet them.
GOD SAVE THE QUEEN (BUT NOT HER SCENTED GLOVES)
Meanwhile, in England, Charles Lilly, a London perfumer, introduced scented snuffs and a revolutionary fragrance consisting of orange flower, musk, violet and amber. Funny enough, and contrary to his name, he did not use lilies.
It was Italy, however, who was the leader for cosmetics and perfumes. In Venice they made scented pastes (that’s cool), scented shirts, stockings, gloves (Wait, what?), shoes, even scented coins (seriously!?). Apparently Queen Elizabeth I was given a pair of these scented gloves, and had a perfumed leather cape and shoes made to match… obviously.
The gloves were often perfumed with neroli, or with animal scents such as ambergris and civet. Apparently the gentlemen, who often refused to kiss the ladies’ hands because it made them sick, didn’t always appreciate this. Can you blame them?
THE BIRTH OF THE MALE FRAGRANCE
Though the creation of perfume goes back thousands of years, men’s fragrance was developed in more recent times, relatively speaking. In the beginning of the 18th century, 1709 to be specific, Jean-Marie Farina who had moved from Italy to Germany created a special scent to honour his new hometown, Cologne.
This new fragrance was fresh, a welcomed contrast to the heavy scents who dominated the market at the time. With notes of citrus, flowers, and herbs it quickly became popular, and Farina’s list of customers expanded rapidly. Soon his Eau de Cologne, meaning water from Cologne, was sold throughout Europe and became a royal and imperial favourite. Not only was it used as a fragrance, but also recommended for internal use to maintain good health. Eau de Cologne is still produced today by the eighth generation of the Farina family.
PERFUME IN MODERN TIMES
By the early 19th century personal hygiene took centre stage (finally!) and was perceived as purification of the soul. New technology made perfume cheaper to create and allowed for new ingredients to be used, thus creating new, exciting and much cheaper fragrances. During the 20th century technology made greater progress and for the first time it was possible to mass produce perfumes and fragrances. Synthetic ingredients were also introduced. By the end of the year over 100 fine fragrances were being launched every year
Today there are over 30,000 designer perfumes on the market and they are no longer only available to the wealthy. As you can imagine, the industry has undergone several changes in technique, material as well as style. In the years to come the industry will keep evolving and new fragrances will be introduced to the market. Who knows which magical powers they may hold in the future? Maybe we will go back to drinking it, like they did with Eau de Cologne?