Perfume has been around for time immemorial.
From the age of Babylon until today, perfume has been a constant companion of humankind.
But why exactly do people wear perfume? What are the reasons behind our love of smelling good?
People wear perfume and deodorant for a variety of reasons. Personal hygiene is the obvious one, but people also wear perfume for religious purposes, to feel more desirable, and as a stylistic choice, in order to project their individuality in the form of scent.
Curious? Let’s take a deep dive into seven reasons why people might wear perfume.
1. For Personal Hygiene
Perhaps the most obvious reason why people wear perfume and deodorant is, of course, for hygienic purposes.
Let’s face it: humans are a stinky species. In my case, going a day without a shower or without wearing deodorant is enough for my overpowering man-must to leave its own rancid sillage behind me.
In the modern age, with body odor eliminating deodorants and shower gels, wide availability of bathing products and facilities, and a high standard of hygiene, people still stink.
Now just imagine what it was like one hundred years ago, two hundred, a thousand… While our standards of hygiene have evolved considerably over time, our aversion to unpleasant odors has remained remarkably static throughout human history.
No matter how you slice it, people (well, most people) don’t like to smell bad; ancient humans were no different, though they had to put up with a whole lot more stinkiness in their day-to-day life than we do now.
People wear perfume and deodorant in order to mask their body odor and to project a clean aura.
Smelling clean is something innately attractive to humans, and many perfumes capitalize upon that predilection by maintaining that “out of the shower” freshness for hours and hours.
For me, especially in the summertime, perfume goes a long way towards making me feel fresh, clean, and ready for the day, and I suspect that a lot of people feel the same way.
2. Increasing Desirability
Another exceedingly common reason for why people wear perfume is that people feel more desirable when they smell good.
Despite our abstractions, at the end of the day, humans are animals. One major consideration for most of us is finding a potential mate (or mates). What’s a great way to increase your chances (though, and I must stress this, wearing a perfume is far from a guarantee of success in that arena) of finding a potential partner, whether it be for life or just for a night? Smelling delicious and attractive, of course!
Humans are drawn to enticing scents, and bathing yourself in one is definitely one of many ways to get some extra attention and improve your desirability towards a mate. That’s not to say that you won’t get attention if you aren’t perfumed; far from it, and a lot of people actually dislike perfumes as well.
However, wearing perfume is one way to increase one’s own perception of one’s desirability, and hence makes people feel more confident.
3. Expressing Individuality
For many (myself included) perfume is an extension of one’s own individuality.
Of course, I like to wear perfumes to feel more clean and desirable to potential partners. But the whole reason why I got into perfumes in the first place was in order to express myself.
I’m the kind of person who has an interest in fashion and likes to dress well. But when I was working at a job where I had to wear a uniform (and spend most of my waking hours at that job, too), I felt that that part of me was being neglected.
Perfume was the solution to that problem. Though I couldn’t express myself through my clothes, I could express myself with my scent.
For many, perfume is another kind of accessory, an olfactory statement of personhood that represents the wearer’s personality and tastes. Some even limit themselves to one single “signature” scent that they wear constantly, so that everyone can know them by it.
I, of course, am way too far gone down this scented rabbit hole to choose just one fragrance to represent who I am. But, in a sense, the cornucopia of fragrances that I own is a kind of extension of my personality, expressing my love of perfumery and beauty.
Every person is different, of course. Some might select a quiet, demure fragrance to show that such extravagances as fragrance are secondary to other concerns, while others might choose a loud, brash, and playful fragrance to represent their colorful personality.
4. Boosting Confidence
In line with wearing perfume to increase one’s desirability and express one’s individuality is the notion of wearing perfume to increase one’s confidence.
Perfume can have an enormous impact on your confidence levels. Of course, it can boost your confidence before a hot date, making you feel more desirable and putting you in the right headspace. It can make you feel fresh and clean, which is a huge confidence booster for me; nothing makes me feel less confident than knowing I reek.
But it can also boost your confidence in the professional space. Bosses and CEOs might wear perfumes that project a no-nonsense, can-do attitude, both to others and to themselves. And wearing the right perfume to the office just might give you the inner strength to handle that big presentation or meeting with panache.
Regardless of the situation you wear it in, a good perfume can certainly get you in the right mindset to meet the moment.
5. For Aromatherapy
Perfume can also have an aromatherapeutic effect.
In these trying times we live in, we need every opportunity we can get to calm ourselves down and center ourselves in the moment. Some people prefer a good book or music, while others might opt for a therapeutic fragrance.
There are many ingredients used in perfumery which have soothing properties such as lavender, which reduces anxiety, ylang-ylang, which can decrease stress, and citruses, which can have an uplifting, calming effect.
Though perfume has been known to induce headaches and nausea in some, by the same token it can reduce stress, anxiety, and distress in others.
6. To Relive Old Memories
Another reason that some people might decide to wear perfume is in order to relive old memories.
As I’ve written before, scent is memory. Our sense of smell is one of our most powerful senses, and it is directly linked to the region of the brain that governs memory retention. When scent and experience become intertwined, the association can be quite impossible to shake. I can smell a fragrance like Chanel No. 5 and instantly be reminded of my mother and my childhood.
Some people have been wearing the same perfume for decades for just this reason, or might buy a fragrance they wore when they were younger to rekindle that old flame. Regardless, perfume is a powerful mnemonic, and is one of many reasons why people wear fragrances.
7. For Religious Reasons
Finally, in some instances perfume is worn for religious purposes.
We all know that incense has been burned in the places of worship of most major religions for millenia. In ancient times, it was customary in some faiths to be washed and perfumed before entering a temple as a sign of devotion to one’s god or gods.
In the modern day, such requirements are less common, but nevertheless some contemporary faiths do heavily involve perfume. Modern Islam, for example, it is customary to wear perfume at the very least for Friday prayers, just as the prophet Muhammad exhorted, and in Hindu tradition, such practices are also encouraged, and perfumes in the form of attars are offered to the gods during Hindu poojas.
The Final Word
As we’ve seen, people have a whole host of different reasons for wearing perfumes and deodorant. Everyone who wears perfume is bound to do so for at least one of the reasons in this list.
People wear perfume for many different reasons. Personal hygiene, attractiveness towards others, self-expression, aromatherapy, and even spirituality are all factors that might influence each person’s decision to wear perfume.