I Don't Want To Look Like My '90s Self But I'm Happy To Smell Like I Did Then

Plus more contemporary fragrance recommendations from those who aren't stuck in the past like me...
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Publish date:
June 21, 2013
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fragrance, scent, summer perfumes, Gap dream edt, paul smith rose, gorilla perfumes

Wearing perfume in summer is an exciting thing – I think (though I don’t know) that the heat of your skin does something to the scent, adding an extra dimension, warming it through and making it come alive in a way that doesn’t happen in the colder months.

Summertime memories often have a smell associated with them, whether it’s the first teenage party in the park – a mixture of BBQ, Hooch and anticipation, the coconut scent of suntan lotion from that amazing post-exams beach holiday in Greece, or the heavy perfume of roses from your granny’s garden.

You can pretty much find a perfume to recreate each of those olfactory experiences – an eau de toilette that triggers happy thoughts of hot days and freedom. Perfume is such a subjective, personal subject and one person’s ambrosia can be another’s loo cleaner. The worst is being stuck in a lecture theatre, cinema or crowded tube carriage with someone who’s liberally doused in a heavy, cloying, migraine-inducing scent.

I can’t stand anything too artificially sweet or fruity, preferring citrus and grass-based colognes and men’s eau de toilettes which are often crisper and cleaner than their female counterparts. They need to work with all the other things we slather on our skin during the summer - moisturiser, sun tan lotion, bug spray...

Here are some of my favourites, old and new, plus plus because I am boring and my friends are not, some more recommendations from them...

Gap's DreamI first wore this in about 1995 (with my Gap checked shirt and pale denim skirt) and I loved how it stood apart from most of the perfumes that my peers were wearing at the time. With white freesia and orange blossom notes, it’s fresh, grassy and surprisingly complex for something you could pick up with some socks on your way to the till.

I found it again in an outlet mall in Michigan a couple of months ago and it makes me feel just as happy as the first time I spritzed it, 18 years ago! I'm not sure if you can still get it in Gap stores (it's not on the website) but there are plenty of bottles to be found 'on the internet' so go forth and purchase.

Paul Smith's RoseYou know those big, blowsy old fashioned roses that you find in cottage gardens and the rambling grounds of National Trust properties? That’s exactly what Paul Smith’s Rose smells like – an English summer in a bottle. Nostalgic, romantic and feminine without ever feeling dated or twee, it’s like wearing a ditsy-print tea dress with Converse.

S3 cologneMy mum used to douse us in this stuff after school during the summer term and it was the most amazing instant refresher. A properly zingy, citrusy cologne, it makes me think of dusty Mediterranean pharmacies where the air smells of talc and perfumed soap.

I don’t wear it these days because it makes my husband ‘feel sad’ and I think you have to respect the olfactory sensitivities of those closest to you, but I thoroughly recommend it as an amazingly affordable summer scent – decant some into one of those little spritzer bottles and drench yourself with it on any sticky bus ride – you will thank me for it.

Niamh: Flower by KenzoI have been wearing Flower by Kenzo for the last 15 years. It's romantic and powdery and light. A remake of a classic according to our perfume book but the name escapes me. I've worn it so long it now smells nostalgic. I wear it in winter too and occasionally deviate but keep coming back to it. It takes you to somewhere warm and breezy if that doesn't sound like tripe!

Anna-Marie: Gorilla Perfumes' Vanillary, Dirty and Breath of God"Yes I would wear these whatever they smell like just because of their names! Gorilla - who make perfumes for Lush - are scent-concocting rebels and risk-takers and their anti-grownup fragrances are light, contrary and fun. Vanillary is cakey and yummy but with unsettling undertones of ammonia, Dirty's actually very clean, manly and minty and Breath of God - their critically-acclaimed classic - is complicated and divisive.

There are enough perfumes to choose from in the vast and oddly-named Gorilla range for you never to clash with a friend and definitely never get bored. gorillaperfume.com"

Alexia: I Hate Perfume's Tea/Rose Water perfume"This summer I will mostly be wearing, Tea Rose Water Perfume by I Hate Perfume. Born out of perfumer Christopher Brosius’ hatred of some of the terrible scents his customers left behind in his cab when he was a New York taxi driver, it's a one man crusade against sickly, suffocating fragrances. Tea Rose is a mix of Indian Black Tea and sweet Moroccan Rose Absolute. It's feminine, but infused with the smoky bitterness of tea to balance the aromatic rose.

When I close my eyes and smell it I'm transported to my grandmother's rose garden on a summer evening, I can literally see the blooming petals. The I hate Perfume scents are so sophisticated in their formulation that they work like a time machine, enhancing and reuniting you with great memories… Well unless you have a bad memory falling into a rose bush and having tea pored on you, in which case don't buy this one!"

So tell me, which perfume sums up summer for you?