What's the Deal With Body Spray, Anyway?

Neither a deodorant nor a perfume, body spray occupies a pre-teen hinterland of strange new bodily functions and half-understood urges.
Publish date:
October 3, 2012
fragrance, teens, body spray

Body spray! mean, what is it? I assumed they were extinct, lost somewhere in the 90s, until the other week when a girl opposite me on the train finished her rather elaborate handbag beauty makeover by spritzing herself/gassing me with one. So yes, it appears they are indeed still lingering around and smelling just as I remember -- of first cheeky un-inhaled fags, first white cotton triangular bras and first heart-crushing loves.

Once upon a time, many years ago, back in the days before Frizz-Ease and hair straighteners, I bought body spray, too. Even then I remember not really understanding its purpose, not being able to lay my finger on its USP. Neither a deodorant nor a perfume, body spray occupies a preteen hinterland of strange new bodily functions and half-understood urges.

I knew I had to have one though, because all the scary, popular, unwise-beyond-their-years girls had them –- I think primarily in an attempt to cover up the smell of lunchtime fags, which they never did. Instead, the sweet scent of chemically engineered honeysuckle merely caressed the acrid stench of Benson & Hedges to create a new sweet and sour smell, which to this day still takes me back to those carefree school days.

There are other body sprays, cheaper body sprays, but none of them has anything on Impulse. It always had to be Impulse. Still does. Impulse manage to perfectly capture the preteen image of what grown-up smells like, and their scents have names like (and these are their actual names, not me-taking-the-piss names), "Very Very Pink," "Loving Words" and "Love Puzzle."

For teenage girls, body sprays are about more than simply smelling good -- they’re a rite of passage, something to put in your very first handbag, and to impress the boys, who have suddenly gone from gross to Gosling. I even had a limited edition Spice Girls Impulse, which I treasured too much to spray. In fact, I thought I still had it stashed away somewhere in the back of a cupboard, but it seems to have been the one thing I’ve thrown out in the past 15 years. Typical.

So, apart from wishing (as I always do) to indulge in a little reminiscing, I was wondering this: Are Impulse body sprays due a great big Hipster-endorsed super-ironic renaissance? Is it time to ditch the costs-its-weight-in-gold Diptyque and instead start dousing ourselves in £1.99 Alesha Dixon-flavoured (she’s the face of their new "Sweet Smile" scent) Impulse?

Answers on a postcard 90s style.