I discovered Axe Body Spray my freshman year of high school and quickly became convinced the scent was crucial in my attempts to attract girls. I had just begun going out on actual dates with members of the opposite sex, and I truly believed that my choice of Axe Apollo as opposed to Axe Phoenix allowed me to maintain eye contact and talk to a girl at the same time, a simultaneous action before thought impossible. It wasn’t until much later that I realized they were probably just putting up with my generous use of the aforementioned body spray, and that the girls who were truly turned on by Axe were not likely the girls I was attracting in the first place.
Who could blame thirteen-year-old Peter for becoming enamored with Axe? The ease of applying body spray fit perfectly into my morning routine, which consisted of falling asleep in the shower and leaving myself five minutes to eat and get dressed before the mad dash to the school bus. The media campaign all but insured my underdeveloped teenaged body considerable female attention. I really didn’t stand a chance. Fortunately, I grew out of my obsession with pheromones, although I may have compensated too much. Once I found an adequate unscented anti-perspirant, my search for scents ceased. I still have and use the Gap cologne I bought before I entered college, though I use it so infrequently it’s quite literally collecting dust.
So when I opened up this year’s GQ Style Bible to find an article entitled “Reinvent Your Scent,” I took it as a cue to take a little more interest in a certain sense I’ve been neglecting. The colognes they suggested left me wanting more, yet a quick blurb about not wanting to smell like your girlfriend’s ex gave me a four-word declaration I could get behind: Find your own scent. I was off to the races.
With only some cursory Yelping, I discovered Fragrance Shop New York, which allows both men and women to make their own colognes and perfumes. The glowing reviews went on and on about the owner Lolita, who appeared to be a one-of-a-kind fragrance savant. The pictures I saw online made the shop out to be the antithesis of my manly pursuit (especially when compared with a New York Shaving Company, for example), but there is something undeniably exotic and masculine about wearing a cologne that is solely mine. I shook off any fears of femininity and made an appointment for the end of the week.
The shop itself is a tiny place in the East Village you might walk right past without giving a second look. With its lavender trim and bubble-lettered signs, manly isn’t the first word you’d use to describe it (or the second, or third, or fourth…). But I’m confident that inside the shop lies a singular experience that will help me proceed in my journey to manhood. I may just have to accept a bit of feminine energy to go along with my masculine pursuit this time. Frankly, it’s never been an issue in the past.
Inside the shop, Lolita is already helping a customer, so Q and I check out some of the store’s offerings. The men’s colognes, aftershaves, and soaps are tucked away on a single shelf, but that’s not what we came for. Indeed, the colognes and scents that Lolita has curated all appear to be of high quality, most having a nautical or woodsman theme. I feel as though the Brawny Paper Towel Man would approve, and it gives me strength to continue on my journey.
Towards the back of the shop lies row after row of oils, reminding me of the Yankee Candle Factory in my college town. The Yankee Candle Factory Shop contained every single candle they’ve ever produced, and on weekends, Q and I would go and smell all of the candles, getting a bit of a high from inhaling a surfeit of scents. Do I need to mention that there wasn’t much to do where I went to school?
We tell Lolita, who is now finished with her customer, that we would like to make our own perfume and cologne. She asks us to pick four to six oils we like from the multitude of samplers in front of us, and then she’ll do the rest. Q and I, both old hands at the scent-smelling game, go one by one through each sampler, setting aside oils we like and those we don’t until we get to our magic four.
We show Lolita our selections, and she takes out the apothecary jars behind her that hold the main supply of each oil. She sets them out on her glass display case and starts using a pipette to squeeze out tiny droplets of each oil into a vial. Lolita works silently and with great precision – taking a sniff here and there like a master chef tasting his creation. Indeed, after she wipes first batch of cologne on my arm, she scolds me for smelling it right away because “my body needs time to cook.”
I ask Lolita how long she’s been making custom scents, and she excitedly tells me that she’s been at it for thirty years. Before owning this shop, she worked as a nurse and has always had a sixth sense for scents from a very young age. Well, I guess it can’t be a sixth sense if it’s already one of the five, but you get the picture. After the preliminary batch of our perfume and cologne, Lolita returns to her great wall of oils to pick out supplementary scents to compliment our creations. These new oils have names like “cigar” and “I Can Be Impossible,” and they appear to be Lolita’s secret recipes for taking our creations to the next level. I really feel as though I’m in the presence of a magician, like Ollivander making Harry Potter’s wand, though this is more, like, you know, manly.
Once Lolita alchemizes a new version of my cologne, she uses her pipette to drip some of the oil onto an index card, which she then wipes on a different place on my arm. Lolita reminds me again to wait before I smell, but the anticipation rises like a balloon about to burst. I sneak a whiff when she’s not looking, and I’m disappointed to find out it doesn’t smell as good as I hoped. In fact, it doesn’t even smell as good as the first batch. I wonder if I truly did smell prematurely, but even after waiting a couple minutes, I’m still underwhelmed. But Lolita is still hard at work and something tells me it will be okay.
When she returns to check on me, Lolita also realizes that the second attempt is far off the mark. It’s truly a sight to behold – somehow she knows exactly what oils need to be added to achieve my perfect cologne. She’s working on some higher plane, a universe built on smells that doesn’t require verbal communication. She mixes together some final scents, writing each one down on the tiny index card she also uses to apply the cologne to my arms. When she returns with the final batch, I notice that the list of oils stretches to the bottom of the card, with little secret markings next to each item. I start to think that my scent could be more complicated than the Colonel’s Secret Recipe. When she applies this final version, I don’t sneak a smell and heed her advice to let my body cook.
When Lolita says I can smell, we take a whiff together and simultaneously agree as if we were a two-headed Goldilocks: it’s juuust right. The Persian musk gives way to the citron and the green tea ties it all together until the afterglow is uniquely, undeniably mine. Not to turn this into an overlong, flattering Yelp review, but Lolita really knows what she’s doing. Q and I leave the store with our own personal scents, determined to bring more people to Lolita’s magical workshop.
I’ve worn the cologne a few times since, and though I’m not sure if anyone besides Q notices, it really does make my confidence soar a little higher than normal. My history with a certain body spray has made me less convinced about that whole pheromone thing, but it doesn’t really matter because the cologne helps me to feel more complete, just like that precisely tied Pratt knot. It’s that small touch that adds a lot.
So, in an effort to raise some revenue for the website, I’ve decided to sell my own cologne. I haven’t had any takers yet, but I’ve begun the advertising and I really can see it going places.
This wouldn’t look out of place in a Macy’s, non? Available while supplies last!
ON THE MAN SCALE…
3.75. I really love having my own personal scent, and I can wholeheartedly recommend it to other Axe Body Spray survivors. It’s a part of my grooming routine that is so easy to neglect, yet so satisfying when done properly. Soyez homme, people. Soyez homme.
NEXT WEEK: A second chance at a former fiasco.