I am outgoing, but not exactly the genre of person who normally speaks to random people on the street; nor have I ever been the type of woman who is so beautiful or alluring that strangers feel utterly compelled to speak to me. But in the past few months, more randos have approached me than they ever have in my life, with a specific topic of substance to discuss: they would like to talk about my perfume.
Yes, my people, it’s true: I smell fucking amazing. There was a man in a bar last week, apropos of nothing, who leaned in and inquired, quite sensually, if I was wearing sandalwood. A week before that, the clerk at a housewares store. Over the weekend, my friend Effie, a fashionable fuschia-headed musician, lamenting that she hadn’t yet purchased the same fragrance. This morning, the barista at my local coffee shop, a man I see almost every weekday but with whom I have never exchanged more than pleasantries, engaged me in a conversation about the luscious vapors I was emitting, explaining that he knew how I smelled because he has been experimenting with essential oils and perfume-mixing. “You’re wearing Le Labo, aren’t you,” he said with certainty, looking deep into my eyes. Have I mentioned that basically everyone who has spoken to me about my delicious perfume is hot?
It’s Le Labo’s Santal 33, a wildly expensive small-batch scent from a New York perfumier, and when I first heard of it I was sort-of mocking it: the rapper Future, on his tour rider, requests that every dressing room is filled with candles in the scent, which seemed vaguely precious, the kind of picky affinity one develops after having become a rock star. Curious, though, and in the spirit of journalistic research, I ordered a baby vial from Surrender to Chance, one of those websites where you can purchase perfume samples for very reasonable fees. (Mostly, though, I bought it because the Le Labo store near my office closes daily at seven. Who the hell in New York gets out of work before seven?)
When it finally arrived, I was done for, and as I began to wear it, I realized I was becoming indoctrinated into a cult.
Nishat’s prediction came true, because it’s not specific to me, it’s a phenomenon. And then, as I began to wear Santal 33, I realized the cult was over, and that even the New York Times had written a piece about it, snottily, as though smelling aspirational and like the worn-in leather couch of the Marlboro man wasn’t cool anymore. Who doesn’t want to smell rich and leathery? Actual rich people?
I’ve been thinking about richness since I’ve been wearing this—about wealth and accumulation—in part because Santal 33 is the most expensive perfume I’ve ever worn. (I finally bought a full bottle last month, cringed at the price tag, around $175—much more than my other normal fragrance, which I spent months coercing myself to purchase. I love fashion, but I grew up with a working-class single mom in Wyoming—expenditure doesn’t come lightly to me.) And Santal 33 smells rich—it’s kind of like wearing a fancy, unlit cigar—so each time I get a whiff of it I feel luxurious. Rich people must feel this fantastic all the time, awash in buttery leathers and the types of well-made shoes that don’t have a lot of give at the sole.
But the fact that everyone can recognize my bougie scent—and that it even provokes random people to want to discuss it with me, and with you—brings it down to earth, something that unites me with strangers. And so I don’t care who says it’s over, because I smell fucking awesome, my dudes. It’s true.
Image via Le Labo