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Coming of Age; the Scents of a Generation

Coming of Age; the Scents of a Generation:To a lesser or greater extent, we can all relate to the awkward vulnerability and emotional minefield that were our high-school years. So too when we catch a whiff of that bygone favourite-fragrance do we find ourselves riding the wave of bittersweet nostalgia.

There’s a reason ‘coming of age’ films are so poignant.

To a lesser or greater extent, we can all relate to the awkward vulnerability and emotional minefield that were our high-school years. So too when we catch a whiff of that bygone favourite-fragrance do we find ourselves riding the wave of bittersweet nostalgia.

These coming of age films allow us to once again witness stereotypes and cliques, although through a fictional window and from the safe distance of passed time. Through the screens, we nostalgically smile at our once favoured, now-embarrassing trends; we reminisce about the hair dos and the way our stomach flipped when we finally got asked by our crush to that long-awaited school dance. We remember each flush of embarrassment or excitement or tension with such acute clarity it were as if we were still a bumbling seventeen year old tripping up on the way to collect an award during the end of year ceremony.

Our fragrance rite of passage

In much the same way, so too do certain scents and smells transport us back to the years of heightened pain and pleasure; a time where everything was both simple and catastrophic all at once. We all recognise the notable aroma that is Lynx Africa and find its scent the start of an involuntary transportation back to locker rooms of spray-happy adolescents.

So, what do these ‘scents from our youth’ mean to us now? Which were the favourites of our misspent summers; the aphrodisiacs of our multi-coloured discos?

Chanel No. 5

A brave and slightly misjudged entrance into the world of perfume, Chanel No. 5 was for some an attempt to exude elegant maturity. We witnessed our mothers gently applying a little behind their ears before dinner parties. We watched them don long dresses and drink from gleaming glasses of rich wines. When they tucked us into bed before descending to their guests, we thought they smelt like heaven and decided we too wanted to seem as quietly confident and full of grace. In reality, when we snuck a daub before the school run, the scent was a little cloying and our helping far too generous. We walked around for the rest of the day feeling a little whoosey, slightly suffocated by the sweet, musky uniformity that our underdeveloped noses were not yet attuned to.

Joop, Jump!

Brought for your brother by his first ‘serious’ girlfriend, and in stark contrast to the infinitely mature Chanel No. 5, this sweet, feisty fragrance symbolised all that was exotic and to be looked-forward to in one’s teenage years. We ground our teeth with envy as our elder brother spritzed himself before heading out to the park, jealous of his cool pose of ‘companions’ and their extra hour before curfew. Whilst the citrusy, fruity top notes are mellowed by middle notes of Rosemary, Thyme and Grapefuit, and rounded with a dry, husky base of Tonka Beans, Musk and Vetiver, we’re hard pushed not to wrinkle our nose when we get a whiff of this throw-back fragrance. For too many, Joop Jump comes hand-in-hand with memories of Vodka enthusiastically swigged behind the school swings and first kisses over-zealously attempted with tongues.

DKNY Be Delicious

This one spread with a velocity faster than the black plague. One second we saw it on TV, the next that popular girl in the year above laced herself with it ahead of the big netball match and then suddenly the school corridors were a twangy, electric cloud of ‘Apple’ scented chaos. It was a little bit sickly but undeniably THE scent to own. Everything from its bottle to its colour screamed ‘juicy’, ‘fresh’ and utterly ‘hip.’

…These were just some of the mothership scentsations of our adolescence. The fragrances which symbolised an era of trial and error; a wonderful adolescence of impulse, indulgence and unadulterated enthusiasm. We love the memories they awaken and smile ruefully at the delicious cluelessness they masked.

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