Armani Eau Pour Homme was my first perfume major perfume love. Though Xeryus by Givenchy takes the honour as the very first scent I ever saved up for and bought by myself, it was only the top notes that I loved in that grey, onyx masculine (and the fact that it got me such attention….I can still see the girls at school stopping in the corridors at fifteen and nuzzling up to my neck……what power is this thought I…...)



The taut and scintillating top accord in Xeryus of grapefruit, artemisa and cypress that had so captivated me soon warmed and wavered, however, into a soapy, and too manly, fougère that despite what the young ladies might have thought, just wasn’t entirely what the doctor ordered. I never felt entirely comfortable in its embrace despite the pleasure that certain aspects of the fragrance gave me, that sense of sharp, diffracted light glinting on granite……



My interested ignited, I kept looking and smelling, but it wasn’t until I discovered Armani, at the local chemist’s on Dovehouse Parade (the joy of expensive, out-of-shoplifter-reach perfumes being locked up in glass cases behind the counter, and the intrepid asking of the bemused assistants if you could smell them!) that I found a bottle of perfume that I fully adored, for quite a few years actually, getting bottles for birthdays and Christmas presents and purposefully building up the charisma around what I had already firmly decided would be my signature.  




What drew me to Armani, beside the lovely magazine advert you see above –  so much more appealing to me than the muscular absurdity of all the Antaeuses and the Drakkars and the Azzaros –  was its stunningly beautiful opening accord of brisk, refreshing citruses, that contained, compressedly, all the zap, vivacity and optimism of a brand new day in April;  sharp, clean, lime, twisted cleverly with freshly picked mandarin and basil leaves long before Jo Malone ever had the thought, cleverly laced delicately over a gentle heart of lavender, lemon, and clove. Delightful. I remember that every time I sprayed on this scent my budding teenage self would experience a spurt of ecstacy, and it is in this experience, of first perfume love, that the seeds of my current scent-obsessed self lie. Wearing this beautifully made, ‘designer fragrance’ was so exciting to me I would race around to Helen’s house after school, or on weekend mornings, proffer up my wrists; she would be there already smelling beautiful in her Yves Saint Laurent Paris, and we would listen to Prince with the windows open wide onto her garden; lounge about; talk pompously, and dream.




Yes, Armani was most definitely my signature for quite a while, but there has always been a tendency for people to commandeer another person’s scent when they like how it smells (and why not? It is a very sincere form of flattery), and true enough, soon, my friend Owen, who lived on the same block, decided that he, too, wanted to wear Armani. Begrudgingly, I had to let him do it. And then,  to my great horror, I soon realized that it smelled so much better on him, so much smoother and angelic (the perfumer, Roger Pellegrino, also created the incomparable Anaïs Anaïs to give you an idea of its pedigree), and suddenly I felt that I just couldn’t justify wearing it any more. I have very base-heavy skin that always brings out the oakmoss and sandalwood in the final stages of perfumes while eating up and spitting out the top notes, and it was this stage that I had always been far less keen on in Armani (though I think I had never entirely admitted that to myself). It was certainly the reason, however, that I had to keep respritzing the scent to keep that lime and mandarin fresh until l discovered, eventually, the baume après rasage, which, with its creamier, more balsamic aspects, kept the snowy lemons and petitgrain, but did away with all the vieux beau base notes, wrapping up all the dapper citruses in the white draping sheets they use to cover museum statues, pointing me in the process towards the more vanillic orientals I was later to fully claim as my own.




On Owen Armani smelled perfect, and the smell of it became inextricable from him and his clean white shirts for years and years, my own self-associations quickly fading as I latched onto other perfumes that seemed to enliven my essence much more than that one had. By chance, we actually got back in touch again a couple of years ago after a long absence of contact, and funnily enough, he asked me if there were any scents that came anywhere close to capturing the atmosphere of Armani, which he still retained a lot of affection for. To his great satisfaction, I pointed him immediately in the direction of Armani Privé’s more expensive, but very similar Oranger d’Alhambra, which is clearly based on the original Armani but with even more delicious and more expensive smelling top notes (the beginning of that scent is to die for if you are a citrus enthusiast). It is a better fragrance in some ways I would say, Eau Pour Homme’s natural evolutionary progression. Nevertheless, I still retain great affection for the original Armani –  as you will always do for any first love – and when I found a full, boxed, vintage 100ml bottle recently at a Japanese thrift store, I naturally couldn’t help buying it.




It smells exactly as I remember it: crisp, fresh, the smell of a beautifully pure and elegant young man, and I simply can’t pull it off. It smells muddy and muddled on my 43 year old skin, the citruses quickly subsumed by that classic oakmoss that I never really liked, and so it has just been sitting in its box until I wondered, the other day on a whim, if it might not suit Duncan. The narcissistic implications of this aside, he does usually carry off the cologne type of fragrance very nicely, and though he initially brushed off the suggestion with a ‘Oh no, that one’s boring, isn’t it?’, once seduced by the lime (he loves lime) he sprayed and sprayed away and smelled really quite gorgeous in it. All day in Yokohama on Monday, a beautiful, unseasonably warm spring day (balmy and 19ºC; the next day it went down to minus 2 and snowed), the trail of scent he was drifting sophisticatedly and non-intrusively behind him was most pleasing. It did remind me of Owen, a bit, but was different; warmer, more aromatic, more whole.  Owen made that scent almost too morally blameless somehow, a celestial, lemonic ‘odour of sanctity’ that while quite enviable, was also, naturally, part of its charm on him. Still, that intense ‘aroma of integrity’ did occasionally get on my wick, even when I fully admit that he wore it better. On me there was always some kind of dissonance. Finally, with Duncan, though, if I can persuade him to make it a staple, with its ideal balancing of citrus and lightly spiced vetiver and oakmoss, its perfect encapsulation of a certain kind of unaggressive masculinity, I think that my first love, Armani Eau Pour Homme, may have found a new home.












I was wondering also if you have had similar experiences. I am interested in your own stories of ‘fragrance plagiarism’; of someone, a sibling, your best friend, ‘stealing’ your scent (as my brother and father did with Kouros, though I know for a FACT that I wear that one better…..grrrr);  or else realizing, to your great dismay, as I did, that another person simply wore a perfume so much better that you just had to throw in the towel and give it up.  



Also, do you think that once associations around a person have formed with a scent that it is possible for them to be transferred completely to another, or will there always be some deeper, subconscious confusion? Is it selfish and narcissistic to clasp these bottles so closely, so jealously, to our chests?




Filed under Flowers


  1. Lilybelle

    My mother has “stolen” my fragrances a few times, though I had to let her…I stole hers often enough when I was young. I’ve had a couple of friends who wore my fragrances, but I didn’t mind. Other friends smelled delicious in certain orientals that I could never make my own, and at long last I admitted defeat. I’m a florals girl. I’ve never transferred a scent association with one person to another, just never experienced it nor tried it as an experiment. My husband won’t wear fragrance. I suppose I’m scented enough for both of us. I wonder whether anyone in my signature scent wearing past associates a fragrance with me. That’s something I’ve never thought about.

    • I seriously hope that Joy, somewhere, and with someone, does have that effect……..good lord that smell IS Lilybelle…

      I have the strange thing where I am drawn to similar fragrances as Duncan’s mother. She even sent me her signature scent, Magie Noire, as a Christmas present.

      What on earth can all this mean? I daren’t wear it, except on days where I am not meeting Duncan…

      But then again I have sent HER things that Duncan knows intimately on me: Montale Aoud Queen Roses, Bal A Versailles…..I suppose it’s all a bit fucked up but it doesn’t really feel it.

      • Lilybelle

        How nice that you and Duncan’s mother can appreciate similar fragrances! I wouldn’t get too analytical over it. Just enjoy that it is so. If it doesn’t fell fucked up it’s probably not. 😉 And what a lovely thought, that Joy IS me, somewhere in someone’s mind. xo

  2. Are you still after some vintage, incidentally? Which is better: Joy or Eau De Joy? I am still looking out for some Tokyo flea market bargains.

    • Lilybelle

      Any vintage Joy is good Joy. As long as it is pre- Proctor & Gamble. If you run into a sealed black bottle with the red cap – that one is THE one I’m pining for. I’m a bit superstitious, though: when we’re looking for something in particular it seems it never turns up. If the attitude is casual, almost cavalier, then it decides to come forth. 🙂

  3. emmawoolf

    What a lovely story! I can just picture you and Helen (I think I remember her from Italy and Cambridge) lolling around after school, smelling gorgeous! I too have regularly “borrowed” perfumes from my mum – just a spray here and there, you do understand, and I wouldn’t doubt that many of us have started our first fragrance adventures this way. Back in London in the early 90s, one flatmate (you may be able to guess who it is, but she might possibly be reading this) blatantly stole the very idea of wearing Cristalle from me, and purchased her own version which she wore regularly, despite the fact that we lived together for the year (it was gratingly irritating, if not quite at Single White Female levels), but she plumped for the EDT, whereas I was, and still am, firmly in the EDP camp (I know you and I disagree on such matters). I felt that it was in fact a pale imitation x

    • At least they were different enough to not make you plunge in the knife! You smell exquisite in Cristalle (also one of Helen’s, incidentally), although, ultimately, I still think you own Jardins de Bagatelle. Do you still wear that one? Has it been reformulated?

      • emmawoolf

        I do indeed wear more or less it all the time, and do not know of anyone else who does – but am convinced that it must have been reformulated: there’s something metallic in the new version, the older one was softer, more tuberose-y. Haven’t done any homework though, so can’t confirm. Also, I’ve been forced to buy a horrid el cheapo refill bottle because the old 80s cuboid number is only available in EdP. (PS I think Helen and I must share similar tastes in perfume – I also went through an YSL Paris phase in my youth – or did we all? It was terribly fashionable at the time, wasn’t it?)

  4. Clare

    Hello! I followed your trail from the first issue of UDOU, and I’m glad I did, since your blog is lovely (also, great title). I have a related story: My grandmother used to where Hypnotic Poison, which she pronounced like the French for fish, because, I think, the name offended her protestant sensibilities. After she died I bought some, to have the proustian experience of her, whenever I wanted. But then I wore it work one day and one of my colleges (who happened to be French, which seemed to me at the time to give him a some kind of authentic seal of tastefulness) told me I smelt wonderful. So I started wearing it more often, and then a lot, since it was quite a good scent for work. You know where this is going: I killed it’s association with my Grandmother. But I did also learn to love the smell for what it is.

    • You see this is what I think does kind of happen. We actually can ‘kill’ the association, even when that was not the original intention, although I think that some of those similar memories still lurk somewhere in our brains. Possibly if we were not to smell the scent for a very long time then smelled the bottle again, it might remind us of the other original person.

  5. Dearest Ginza
    Such memories and thoughts.
    I do hope this piece of your past has found a home in your present.
    It’s so long since I’ve had a signature or anything approaching it that it would be hard for anyone to steal ‘my scent’. I would, however, be rather annoyed in the unlikely circumstance that Sisley’s Eau de Campagne, Penhaligon’s Hammam Bouquet or most of Caron were to become commonplace scent selections.
    I think I’ll sleep safe in the knowledge that my olfactory identity is unlikely to be the victim of theft.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • Exquisite choices, sir, though one never doubted that they could be. And as you say, there is no way that the lads down All Bar One will be all be sporting French Cancan or Royal Bain De Champagne (though I kind of wish they would….)

      • Dearest Ginza
        I know have an image in my head… one of those grainy photographs of a football match from the seventies, when the players had body hair, talent and a little excess fat. It’s a communal bath and the water is grey, but on the side, picked out in colour.. a bottle of Royal Bain. George Best is reaching out for it mistakenly…
        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy

      • Stop it. I am getting all worked up.

      • Dearest Ginza
        Is it George Best or the Caron that’s doing for you… that’s the question?
        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy

      • The thought of hairy footballers with real bodies ( so much sexier!) and a caressing, soapy fragrance. I love questioning, androgynous scents on men. Ultimately more masculine.

  6. My ex-boyfriend’s best friend stole two signatures from me: Acqua di Parma Colonia and Kiehl’s Original Musk. I wore both better but stopped wearing either all together because my ex kept saying I smelled like Steven. BULLS**T! Steven smelled like me!!

    And that’s why he is an ex.

  7. Reblogged this on The Black Narcissus and commented:

    I’ve been thinking about it long and hard but for some reason this is the only full bottle I am taking with me to Florida. The citric crispness feels right.

  8. I had a non-boyfriend boyfriend once, and he smelled amazing in Laura Biagiotti Roma Uomo. Just loved that scent on his skin – carnal and heavy, just driving me insane with the epitome – in a bottle – of all that our relationship was and wasn’t.

    After I moved to the States (he still lives in Europe, I think) I kept missing him, and one day I bought a bottle of the ETD in an airport on my way home. It stayed in the cupboard for years, literally, when one day I spritzed it on my wrist, aching for something of the past, not even sure what… I was reminded of an afternoon when we were both in the car, and his skin and white shirt, warmed by the sun and the comings and goings of that workday, smelled like everything I wanted and couldn’t, didn’t have and never would… I loved it. And then I start spritzing it again, next day, and next day. And it became my day/work ETD, 20 some years later.

    I don’t even remember how he smelled. Clearly I killed that association (which is a good thing, I am certain.) So yes, we can transfer a memory, although the transfer might yield different things than what we might expect…

    Thank you for this, and all your posts. I love your blog and your writing. Keep it up!

  9. Once as a little girl, I wanted to smell my mother’s Chasse Gardee by Carven. Nomen Est omen. I dropped The bottle but did not break it and nothing was spilled, I thought. I washed the washbasin and my hands thoroughly and was astounded when she turned upon me furiously “You have been At my Perfume.
    She has died a year ago and by chance I came across a vintage offer of The long since gone scent in Ebay. The bottle, almost empty, that arrived in The green-white box together with Ma Griffe and Robe de Soir was opened. Now it was me who had caught her. For good.

    • I am very sorry to hear that she has died, something that I know will happen to us all, but which is something I dread very deeply.

      I know that I will also be trapping my mother’s essence with perfume (vintage First by Van Cleef) and that smelling it will totally break my heart.

  10. It has been The beginning of my voyage with vintage perfumes and toen I came across this mysterious Black Narcissus, who had such a funny name that I pronounced like French, until I recently hit upon the english way of pronouncing .
    Since then I have been an addict and I hope you stay for a long time. When you let out that you are 43, I was reassured. Fly on and linger sometimes, please.

  11. Marina

    My mother brought home Perry Ellis 360 and I fell in love with it started wearing it soon after many of my friends were wearing it as well years later after I had broken up with my boyfriend I found out that he had bought it for his new girlfriend and she was wearing 360 for the longest time. I found this out after I became friends with her. I laughed weirdly when i found out. I recently repurchased it. I still love it…perhaps I will wear it around Duncan and Denise Adams see if they exhibit an olfactory recognizance…


  13. Ann

    “we would listen to Prince with the windows open wide onto her garden; lounge about; talk pompously, and dream.”
    I love this and can just see you both…great writing. I used to talk pompously with my friends as well but wore Vent Vert (very precocious) and listened to the Stones. Funny how we think we can change the world when we are young. When does that ambition change? I guess it hasn’t for some…Greta for instance.

    • It hasn’t entirely changed for me either, in truth. Not on that level, but I am in the throes of writing my next book which I hope will cause a ripple…

      (and how fantastic…….Vent Vert and the Stones…)

  14. Robin

    So glad I read this today. Ric’s friend was clearing out his collection a few months ago and gave Ric a few things. I came home to find bottles of vintage Armani eau pour Homme and vintage Chanel pour Monsieur edp on the table. Ric was blasé, while I was doing cartwheels.

    I’d never smelled the Armani. And what do you know? The Armani is one of the best scents his skin has ever had its way with. It smells the way it must smell on Duncan.

    I wonder what the current formulation is like. Obviously not the same as the original, but perhaps fine it its own de-oakmossed way.

    I’ve never been the victim of fragrance plagiarism. I know a friend or two who own scents in common, but we’ve all been fragrance polygamists for years and it’s never been a case of identity theft. (Or adultery, I suppose.) Back in the day when I was a serial monogamist, perfume-wise, in my twenties and thirties, nobody I knew wore the likes of Cabochard, Shalimar, et al. I don’t know if I would have been bothered by that most sincere form of flattery. Hmm.

    Possibly, I think.

    Yeah, probably.


    • LOVE IT. And love that the Armani (what a divine haul! – as you know I am also obsessed with Chanel Pour Monsieur – they share that gentle mossiness leavened by the beautiful citruses) smells so good on Ric, I have just been writing and put up another post while still smelling gloriously of the Armani I sprayed on my shirt yesterday. For some reason, it is also smelling perfect on me again – all these years later.

      (and you are right: the new version is actually not bad – just de-oaked somewhat).

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