Finding Yourself in Scent

If Diana Vreeland thought fashion should be an intoxicating release from the banality of the world, maybe scent is supposed to be that release from the banality of the self.


It took me to 25 years to come up with this, but I’m pretty sure I’m right: the best compliment you can give a woman is not just to tell her that she smells so good, but that she smells so her.

You see, for the longest time, I have envied this broad I invariably see waiting to catch a cab on Bowery between Bleecker and Bond streets on weekday mornings. She’s not particularly striking; she wears a grey pencil skirt and black kitten heel sling backs. Her hair is blonde and typically wet while she’s hailing a cab and though I can’t quite make out what her face looks like, I always know she’s there because I can smell her down the block.

She exudes the stench of cleanliness. A scent that I, personally, would call I-Have-My-Shit-Together-and-I’m-Clean if I maintained the same one. Because, see, that’s the thing. To not just bear your own scent, but to emanate it so expansively that even a stranger can detect your presence seems to say, I know who I am, so you should know too.  

Of course, this theory is only propelled by my historically having radiated no scent at all. Believe me, though, I tried. There was the depletion of a month’s allowance because of Ralph and Versace Blue Jeans and Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue, and then as I got older, there was Chance by Chanel and Hermes’ Un Jardin Sur Le Nil. But I never holstered smell the way my mom, or that woman on Bowery, does. You could smell Calvin Klein’s Escape on the former from a long-ass arm’s length.

If anyone were to comment on my olfactory aura, it was typically to tell me that I needed deodorant.

This actually happened as recently as a month ago (thanks dad!), and as a result ignited my foray into wearing Le Labo. The fragrance brand has been around since only 2006 and yet has become widely recognized, perhaps in part due to its high price point (which is apparently a cause of the volume of alcohol, a.k.a scent, a.k.a smell of long-lasting you present in the product). It has also instilled an untrammeled sense of youth in its perfume, which seemingly carries the implications of a dated good, and I think that lead me to bite the bullet.

I thought paying $140 dollars for a 50ml bottle of a non-consumable liquid would be a difficult feat and frankly, I wasn’t wrong. It wasn’t green juice replete with pungent anti-cancer properties and it didn’t make me shit gold. But there is something so indulgent in all the right ways about buying something that is for you in a way that no pair of shoes, or pants, or a dress — which are all subject to third party interpretation upon immediate contact — can be.

So, I started wearing it, and as with exercise, I couldn’t see results immediately or without the help of a third-party opinion. I could smell it for a bit, but then the scent became so imbued with my skin that it seemingly disappeared. And just when I was ready to give up, call it a wash and go back to begrudgingly walking past Bowery Street Girl, under arm odor in un-relinquished tow, I walked into an elevator in an office building last week and a man looked at me and remarked, “Le Labo Bergamote 22? Smells so you.”

I didn’t know him but I think that made it all the more special.

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