Business Etiquette and the Rules of Wearing Fragrance

I recently read an article in the Brisbane Times entitled “The Scent of Success” where the author Natasha Hughes starts with the statement, “Perfume is power and the higher up the corporate rung, the more likely you are to utilise it to its best advantage.”

Fragrance just like your wardrobe needs to be chosen carefully. Just like business dress and accessories, fragrance is a definite part of business etiquette. Top perfume evaluators emphasize that:

“Men and women who have reached high status in their career don’t need fragrance to say something about themselves,” perfume evaluator Erica Moore says.

“They’ve narrowed down their sense of style and are secure with one or two sophisticated scents.” But be warned: it takes more than a big pay packet and safe dose of Chanel No.5 or Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio to wear fragrance well.

“I’ve walked into an office and thought ‘am I in a nightclub’ and that’s been the men’s fragrance choice of the day,” says Charlotte Turner, of prestige brands distributor Trimex. “Sometimes men are very hedonistic with things like that.”

Both sexes “over spray”, according to the national sales director of fragrance distributor Cosmax, Nicholas Gorick – who wears his in his hair. “If you spray your arm, your neck, your clothes, any fragrance is going to be too much.”

And don’t get the business etiquette experts started. “Most women are walking fruit salads and the men are using half a bucket of aftershave that makes you cry and sneeze,” Lizzie Wagner says. “If you’re going to wear it to work, make it subtle.”

People no longer have just one fragrance on their dresser, worn only on special occasions. It has become an everyday staple and, Gorick says, “they’re creating products for everybody. So many different walks of life are buying it, tapping into some affordable luxury.”

Did you know that in 1990 there were 76 leading fragrance releases, in the year 2011 there were over a 1000, and this year has already seen 500 new launches in just under 4 months!

“Fragrance has become so commonplace, so acceptable now,” Moore says. “You don’t comment on or make assumptions about a man wearing fragrance. So many men are interested in it … It’s another form of self-expression and makes them feel more powerful and more liberated in the workplace.”

She says younger men are more experimental in their choice of fragrance while their mature colleagues often wear something that makes them feel younger, a fragrance they might have worn in their mid-20s. Women’s tastes tend to mature from their initial sweet, girly and fruity choices. They find a classic scent – for the office at least – and make it their signature. Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle and Dior’s J’Adore have remained among the top five bestsellers for years.

“The prestige fragrances are non-polarising with an element of luxury,” Moore says. “They make a woman feel like she’s gone to a bit of extra effort.” Chanel No.5 is consistently the No.1 fragrance in Australia, not only because of the brand association, Moore says, but because it’s cleverly composed. “The top, heart and base transit through the stages of development seamlessly.”

When it comes to choosing a fragrance for work while conforming to proper business etiquette rules, what should be the top criteria men and women should focus on:

Turner says that the one in two men who are now choosing their own fragrances are making better informed decisions – “thinking of the occasion as well as the smell”.

“Woody but fresh is a good choice for corporate men, nothing too musky,” she says.

Women are more likely to wear a lighter fragrance – something “chic, fresh, citrusy to keep their energy levels up” – and bring another fragrance to wear out after work.

Fragrance, just like your wardrobe and make-up, can say a lot about who you are and what you’re about – if you do it right you could infuse “prestige, power and purpose” all from one bottle.  Personally, I love J’Adore because I can’t smell it on me.  I am often complimented about my fragrance and then remember that I sprayed some eau de toilette before leaving for work.  Some perfumes, like Chanel no.5,  for me just don’t work.  Too strong.  When I have to present, I usually don’t wear any fragrance.  The last thing I want is have someone leave the room because they are allergic to my perfume or feel noxious because of my fragrance.  Of course, when I go to the doctor, a hospital or health clinic, I abstain from wearing fragrances of any sort.

Diane Craig is owner and director of Corporate Class Inc. She helps leading executives and top employees hone the right business etiquette skills they need to stand out and get ahead.


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