In a recent article in The Guardian, Sady Doyle ponders how and why Americans engage more conservatively with perfume and perfumery as art. It’s a fascinating discussion, and one that merits more attention and investigation. Doyle seems a bit hasty in proclaiming Americans anti-perfume. “The scents we do like tend to smell weird to everyone else.” Perhaps. However, the same is true for virtually every culture compared to any other culture.
Having taught at colleges across the US since 2000, I noticed some strong scent trends. Many of my students 2000-2012 flooded the quad and classroom with artificial food-based scents reminiscent of candy.
While there are certainly generational cultural trends there’s not much evidence to support the argument that we are uniquely scent averse or perverse. Doyle states that Americans are ‘far behind’ but in what regard? Where and how far do we have to go? Is this a cultural problem or a marketing one? The fact that Chris Brosius has had success in innovative scent retail experience, not to mention Lucky Scent’s Scent Bar, Aedes de Venustas and more popping up each year, seems to suggest that we are evolving our olfactory palate. We Americans may not have the historical appreciation or sophisticated habits of Europeans or Middle Easterners, but we are far from a nation of scentphobes – even if we are germophobes. Given that flavor is roughly 90% olfaction, we have an established desire for strong scents and tastes. We are, after all, the nation that created Doritos and Sierra Nevada IPA.