Scented Facts in History: Jicky and Gender

Jicky was created in 1889 by Aimé Guerlain. It is not only considered to be the first modern fragrance through its invention of the now classic 3-tiered structure comprising the head, heart, and base notes, as well as the introduction of the combined use of synthetics and natural essences, it is also a perfume that attempted to reverse a trend that rested on the rigid codification of gender categories...
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 This conservative trend emerged in France after 1820, during the Second Restoration, when the bourgeois mentality imposed its mark more decisively upon society, moralizing the use of perfumes and deriving its ideas about the propriety of certain scents from the triumphant hygienist movement. In this context, Aimé Guerlain is reported to have said that he wanted to create,

"an audacious, vigorous, and quasi revolutionary perfume: the perfume of an amazon, difficult to decipher, of which you wouldn't be really able to tell whether it was meant to be for a man or a woman."

And so it was; disconcerted by the novelty of the concept, women started adopting it en masse only after 1910 while men, meanwhile, decided it would be theirs. Today, despite Aimé Guerlain's efforts at creating a unisex fragrance, Jicky is still not considered to be gender-free and in a new historical twist, has mostly come to be considered a feminine fragrance and marketed as such.

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2 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. Thanks for the bit on Jicky and Gender. I wanted to learn about this scent and someone at BaseNotes directed me here. I'm most greatful. I did think Jicky was a men's frag. and indeed it was at one time. I learned a lot.

    Michael Storer
    designer of Monk, Djin and Il Giardino

    Mike Storer
  2. Hi Mike,

    Thank you very much, glad my notes helped. It's nice to meet you too. I read your interview on Jenny's blog and ever since then have wanted to sniff Monk, and the others too, but the former grabbed my attention I must say. It's on my to-do list:)


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