Why we love old school perfumes

Friday, 11 October 2013

Old-school perfume

There are literally thousands upon thousands of fragrances on the market – from celebrity scents, to the fragrances created by designer fashion houses to the good old perfumes that have been around for ages. But even with the major influx of new fragrances every year, the older, classic scents are still the most popular.

What do we mean by classic? Well, Chanel No. 5 for example, is one of the best-selling fragrances of all time, and it’s been around since 1921! Filled with neroli and ylang ylang, this scent was famously given the number “5” as Chanel approved it on the perfumer’s fifth attempt.

Did you grow up smelling Opium by Yves Saint Laurent in your mother’s room? It’s been a firm favourite since its release in 1977. Guerlain Shalimar is still a popular choice today, and it was first released in 1925.

So why do we keep returning to these old scents? Partly because they take us on a trip down memory lane. Many of our mothers and grandmothers wore scents like Chanel No. 5, and when we smell it today, we are reminded of our childhood, and of them. Studies have shown that we link smells to emotion, so not only do they bring back happy memories, but they also make us feel happier.

Feeling the recession? During difficult financial times, we are more likely to stick to products we know, and associate with good quality, rather than to experiment with new products we’re unfamiliar with. Plus, as consumers we associate age with prestige. Think about the last advert you saw for jewellery, watches, sunglasses or cars… The most prestigious brands (think the Cartier’s and Rolex’s of the world) are proud of their heritage, and often refer to the brand’s age in ad campaigns. After all, if it’s been around for that long, it must be good, right!

Our final thought? Long ago, fragrances were designed to smell feminine and beautiful. Instead of creating bold, unusual or eccentric scents, perfumers used the limited technology and resources they had to create something that would appeal to as many women as possible. Because these scents are simple and still around, they never date, and we know we can turn to them, no matter what the occasion.

What is your favourite classic fragrance, Beauties?

Other articles you may be interested in:
Our top five fragrance balms
The story of perfume
Your perfume personality
How to wear perfume
Fragrances for different ages

Written by

Anien studied English and journalism before heading off into the world of beauty. An undercover "tree hugger" and fashion lover, she's usually found with her nose in a magazine. She has far too many bottles of nail polish and is completely lost without her lip balm. Anien on Google+

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  1. Arlene Beukes

    You don’t get more BEAUTIFULLY old school than Guerlain Shalimar. As James Bond would say: “Sometimes, the old ways are the best.” Can’t argue with Mr Bond. Can we?

    2 years ago •

  1. Linell Nyakutsikwa

    I love timeless perfumes in particular Chanel No.5… its classic, sophisticated and the notes make a statement about an individual. Chanel No. 5 communicates an i have arrived message, a talk to me, do you see me and feel my presence message.

    4 years ago •

  1. Kariwo

    Classic perfumes are classic for a reason…women love them and a lot of the newer fragrances seem to be ‘inspired’ by these timeless ones…

    5 years ago •

  1. K@t

    Classic perfumes are sophisticated and timeless.

    6 years ago •

  1. Adele

    These perfumes are still great, opium etc .

    6 years ago •

  1. MariaMeyer

    My grandmother use to use a perfume – I think it was called 47. We cant seem to find it anymore, was always a struggle to get it when birthdays and christmas came around

    6 years ago •

    1. CherylGD

      My gran also used to use it! its called 4711 and it came in a green and gold bottle; haven’t seen on the shelves for years

      6 years ago •

  1. Humphreys

    Fragrances have the ability to take you to a place in time in your mind…..

    6 years ago •

  1. me

    I have never bought Chanel no 5. Opium is what takes me back to my wedding day. Not as classic, I like Van Cleef of Van Cleef and Arpels.

    6 years ago •

  1. Sue1N

    Chanel No.5 smells great and yes I still remember how my mum used to smell.

    6 years ago •

  1. CherylGD

    As a young girl I clearly remember the allure and intrigue of my mother’s make up cabinet located in her dressing table. And pride of place was always Chanel 5! I saved up like crazy and bought my first bottle at the age of 14 years from our local pharmacist. I’ll never forget the excitement of watching the bottle being lifted from the shelf and placed into a beautiful paper bag and handed over. Since then my love affair with all things Chanel has never died; it epitomises elegance and classic French flair

    6 years ago •

  1. AmyR

    So true! I’m not sure how old it is but Givenchy’s Amarige and Estee Lauder’s Pleasures are fragrances that my mom wore that I just can’t forget.

    6 years ago •

  1. Gervase

    I dont have a favourite classic perfume but my all time favourite is Kaleidoscope LDT by Lentheric. Unfortunately, they have stopped making it :-(

    6 years ago •

    1. Mark Parr

      You can’t beat good old Estee Lauder products. They still the best.

      5 years ago •

  1. Talia

    Opium will never get old… I’m still a fan.

    6 years ago •

  1. Pseudo_kate

    The packaging that came along with some of the older fragrances are also quite beautiful and very luxurious. I admittedly use more of the modern stuff though just because I lean for very light scents for the most part.

    6 years ago •

  1. LayD

    I love Opium. It is truly a classic fragrance that reminds me of my mom’s hugs.

    6 years ago •

  1. Tanusta

    Opium is still one of my favs , I have kept a little bit that I bought in 1993!

    6 years ago •

  1. Mpoyif

    I just find them a bit heavy for daytime

    6 years ago •

  1. Carlene

    I love to try new fragrances, but I always have both Chanel No. 5 and Opium as part of my fragrance collection. Very different fragrances, yet each has become part of my life and if given the choice between taking ONLY one of those two and – for example – Jimmy Choo’s ‘Flash’ fragrance (LOL, difficult choice, I know) with me to a desert island, I fear that the classic fragrances will win (and I love Jimmy Choo’s Flash)!! Oldies, but goodies!

    6 years ago •

  1. DIVA

    Chanel does it for me, I always go back to it after experimenting.

    6 years ago •

  1. Khalisi

    My moms favorite has to be Panache. I’m not sure how old it is but she had me and my sisters hooked, now I’m more of a DKNY kind of girl!

    6 years ago •

  1. Bath Lover

    Guerlain’s Shalimar is stunning….still! I am still experimenting…so many lovely fragrances out there.

    6 years ago •

  1. Claire Wouters

    This is a fantastic article, thank you for sharing it with us!

    6 years ago •

  1. NaturalDiva

    My mother still has an untouched bottle of Opium, when I smell it I automatically think of her. She is also fond of Exclamation by Coty and while I am not a fan, I find it too sweet, that smell also reminds me of her. It is true that we associate smell with memories.

    6 years ago •

  1. ABeauty

    Guerlain Shalimar wins hands down as my classic fragrance

    6 years ago •

  1. foreverGLAM

    My mom loved Exclamation by Coty. I still need to figure out my favourite because I always change my mind.

    6 years ago •

  1. Sammy

    Old scents are a classic as we grew up smelling these from our grandmothers to mothers. I agree some scents do remind us of the people that wore them so we keep wearing them or something similar.

    6 years ago •

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