There’s something oddly sexy about a unisex fragrance. It suggests a freeness in one’s sexuality, perhaps a lack of care for the rules of society. But in a literal sense, a unisex fragrance choice is also usually a pretty olfactorily “nice” one. They never tend to be overly sweet, cloying, or reminiscent of cheap deodorant. Rather, they’ll walk an altogether finer and more sophisticated path. Here are some of the best.
CK One is an all-time classic, one of the first unisex fragrances to come to the mass market. It offers a fresh hit of green and citrus notes, but never veers into the dreaded toilet cleaner territory. To me, it just smells like fresh, clean skin, which is a good look for both boys and girls.
Two which I find similarly refreshing are Clean’s Sel Santal and Book by Commodity. Both have a mouth-wateringly sour note thanks to the sandalwood element. Sel Santal is a subtler take on the vibe, with some soft sweetness to it, while Book has more green notes of cucumber and Eucalyptus, and packs more of a punch.
More erring on the side of masculine, to my nose, are Serge Lutens’ Vetiver Oriental and Bella Freud’s Ginsberg Is God. Vetiver Oriental is freshly woody while having an element of the earthy and carnal about it. It’s undeniably sexy, and the aber and musk notes make it linger in the very best way. Ginsberg Is God is more of a well-rounded, green woody affair, which fades down to a beautifully heady incense-esque scent.
Speaking of heady, let’s talk Kiehl’s Original Musk. As you’d expect, this is a fragrance based predominantly around musk, thus having that inherent sex appeal. It almost smells slightly dirty, but that’s balanced by floral notes like ylang-ylang, lily, orange blossom and rose. It’s slightly sweet, but incredibly complex, and, for me, a total favourite.
Two options which err slightly on the side of “traditionally feminine” are Diptyque’s Eau Duelle and Comme Des Garcons’ Floriental. Eau Duelle is a vanilla scent but it avoids being overly sweet and gourmand by balancing with woody, resin notes and some spicey elements like cardamom and pink pepper. It’s warm and comforting yet never cloying. Floriental is, as you’d expect, fairly floral, but not in a way which is overtly girly. Incense and pink pepper add depth and interest to the plum top note, and it develops into something altogether tougher than you’d expect on first spritz.
A final clever little option is Escentric Molecule’s Molecule 01. It’s a fragrance that’s incredibly hard to describe, as its made from one scent molecule (ISO E Super, for the nerds out there) which adapts and sells different on everyone. It’s lightly powdery and musky, and somehow both subtle and potent. The one downside is that other people tend to be able smell it more than you can – but it does tend to warrant many compliments.
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