It’s odd the relationship a man can have with his fragrance. I have known Geoffrey Beene’s Grey Flannel, for example, longer than I have known most of my friends or my partner. It has been my favourite fragrance for nearly 30 years and has been there on my skin when I have laughed, cried, worked, travelled and fallen in love. It was there when I went to University, when I secured my first job and when I tied the knot. Acquaintances have come and gone but Grey Flannel, like the most steadfast of friends, has stuck by me through thick and thin.
I’ll admit there have been times when I’ve been unfaithful: other fragrances have entered my life and caused me to stray. What can I say? I write about fragrance for a living so the temptation is there on a plate – and in a bottle. But though I do have a fondness for Givenchy Gentleman, Helmut Lang Cologne and Lagerfeld Classic, Grey Flannel is the fragrance I always come home to.
Although launched in the mid Seventies, I first discovered it though an ad in Eighties’ style bible Blitz magazine and instantly fell in love with its quirky grey flannel pouch and intoxicating (if polarising) mix of galbanum, geranium, rose, tonka bean and violet. And especially the violet. People who smell it on me often say it reminds them of the Parma Violet sweets they sucked on as kids. It’s a lot more complex than that, of course, but I get where they’re coming from and it’s a smell I find strangely comforting. So much so, in fact, that it’s my lucky scent when I need a little good fortune and in times of crisis I’ve been known to spray a little of it on my pillow. Linus from Charlie Brown has his security blanket and I have my bottle of Grey Flannel. But that’s how it is with a fragrance that you fall in love with: it’s always there for you.
The truth is, Grey Flannel is not the trendiest of fragrances to wear, nor one of the easiest to find in the UK, and I live in constant fear that one day it’ll be discontinued so I have a small, nuclear holocaust-style stockpile, but it must be doing something right to be here 40 years after it launched – not to mention to still be in my life after all these years. So if you find a fragrance that means as much to you as Grey Flannel means to me enjoy it, cherish it and keep it close: it really can be your very best friend.