When you think back on a certain time in your life, quite often there is one overarching scent that defines it. And vice versa, one sniff of a particular smell or fragrance instantly transports you to another place or time.
With that in mind, PerfumeDirect.com set out to define the most iconic perfumes of the past five decades. To do so, they asked 2,000 UK adults to take a trip down memory lane and vote for the top fragrances that defined each decade, many of which are still available (and outselling newer scents) today.
Perfumes in the 1970s
For the 70s, a few clear classics stood out time and again to define the decade of bell-bottoms and disco, including YSL’s Opium, Anais Anais by Cacharel, Chanel No.19, YSL Rive Gauche, Charlie Blue and Estee Lauder’s White Linen.
Perfumes in the 1980s
As fashion got bolder, so did the perfumes: Calvin Klein’s Obsession, Giorgio by Giorgio Beverly Hills, Poison by Dior, YSL’s Kouros and Paris, Coco by Chanel, Beautiful by Estée Lauder, Ysatis by Givenchy, Davidoff’s Cool Water, Calvin Klein’s Eternity and Exclamation by Coty were all voted as the most iconic perfumes of the 80s.
Perfumes in the 1990s
The 90s saw exciting technological advances as well as the emergence of the unisex fragrance. Another Calvin Klein scent, this time CK One, was voted as the most memorable scent of the decade, alongside Jean Paul Gaultier’s Classique (in the infamous body-shaped bottle), Clinique Happy, Hugo by Hugo Boss, Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds, Issey Miyake’s L’eau d’Issy, White Musk and Angel by Thierry Mugler (still one of the world’s bestselling scents today).
Perfumes in the 2000s
While celebrities began to peddle out fragrances with their name slapped on the box for the first time, these aren’t the ones that stuck in our mind the most as the most iconic perfumes of the 00s. Chanel’s super floral Coco Mademoiselle launched in 2001 and was a clear winner as the scent of the 2000s, followed by Mugler’s Alien, J’Adore by Dior, Allure from Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana’s Light Blue, Flowerbomb by Viktor & Rolf and Tom Ford’s Black Orchid.
Perfumes in the 2010s
Meanwhile, the 2010s were apparently dominated by such ‘super fragrances’ as Aventus Creed, Prada Luna Rossa Extreme, Dior Homme, Mon Guerlain, Love by Chloe, Bleu de Chanel, Daisy by Marc Jacobs and Chanel Chance.
Perfume Direct’s Jonny Webber, who carried out the research on the most iconic perfumes, explains why certain scents come to define an era: ‘Sense of smell is linked to the part of the brain that is responsible for emotion and memory, so perhaps more so than music and fashion, perfumes evoke strong feelings of nostalgia.’
He continues: ‘When looking back over the past 50 years, perfume is up there alongside fashion, music and film when it comes to defining the mood of the nation. In fact some fragrances became cult products because they reflected what was going on in the world at the time.
‘Floral based fragrances are said to be popular in times of uncertainty or naivety, whilst those from the Chypre family (warm, mossy scents with citrus top notes) have often emerged following dramatic events or tragedies such as war or recession. In contrast, Oriental fragrances are often seen as feel-good scents which are popular during more light-hearted ‘party’ eras.’
And which fragrances does Perfume Direct predict will be the scents of the 2020s? ‘Mood-boosting scents are big sellers for 2020. Scents containing fragrances that can have a positive effect on your brain, such as ylang-ylang, jasmine, citrus, vanilla and rosemary are all hugely popular right now.’
Current favourites for women includes Marc Jacobs Daisy Eau So Fresh, Chloe Nomade, Gucci Bloom and Jimmy Choo Illicit Flower. For men, it’s Dior’s Farhenheit and Sauvage, Hugo Boss Bottled and Prada L’homme capturing the mood of the nation.