Do you care who wears it better?

I came late to the Le Labo Santal 33 party, almost a decade after its launch in 2011 and without the urban knowledge that it was the bona fide scent of New York City. I genuinely liked it for what it was, and remember exiting the Le Labo boutique (one of the smaller ones) I first visited in 2019 truly believing that their fragrances were meant to be layered, if so desired.

Flash forward several months later and I became the proud owner of a travel spray of said perfume (the full bottle prize went to Ylang 49, still my favorite from the brand to this day). By this time I’d printed myself a perfumista card and was wearing a different perfume each day, at least no longer wearing the same fragrance two days in a row. Who knew—I didn’t—the associations that it would form in others: one of my coworkers at the time recognized Santal 33 on me one day and told me that she loved it but could never wear it anymore because she would always associate it with me. I felt a little bad, because it wasn’t my “signature,” just one in my rotation.

Recently, I recognized Santal 33 on a coworker I met for the first time in person, and she seemed impressed, saying I was the second person to do so (the first being outside of work). I got all excited and told her it was famous and that it was known as the smell of New York City at one point… and then regretted doing so, in case that wasn’t what she wanted to hear.

I’ve long felt that I shouldn’t be smelled wearing Santal 33 because it’s been so ubiquitous. However, I braved it today in the privacy of my apartment, and remembered why I liked it in the first place—the astringent wood, the raw side of leather, the papyrus… in fact, it could be a signature of sorts if it weren’t already so darn popular. It’s such a modern classic for good reason.

Still, I probably won’t replace it once I’ve finished my travel spray, though…

What about you? Do you find yourself affected by the popularity of a fragrance, or the idea that someone else wears it better?

8 thoughts on “Do you care who wears it better?

  1. Since these days I don’t own any current mass-popular perfumes, I’m not too worried about it. I remember though how at one point I was upset because a friend of mine decided to buy Angel because she liked how it smelled on me. She didn’t do it in the end, but I was quite upset by the idea of her wearing “my” perfume to the same parties and friends gatherings.

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  2. I am influenced by the popularity of certain perfumes. However for me, I want to wear the opposite of what everyone is wearing. Something unique. Having said that, I also enjoy Santal 33. For mine, a must try alongside things like Diptyque, Tam Dao and Santal Majuscule from Serge Lutens for sandalwood lovers. Ylang 49 is one of my favourites from the house too. Certainly an overlooked one.


    1. Same here. Although that reminds me, when I visited Brisbane once in 2015, I noticed a particular fresh cologne that many people seemed to be wearing—I encountered wafts of it from random people so frequently that I thought I could associate the city with that scent. I wonder what it was.

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      1. Ah that’s interesting. Due to the year-round warm climate, we do tend to wear a lot of lighter scents. I remember back around that time Aesop released a fresh scent called Tacit. I recall it being very popular. Possibly it was that one. A few years ago one of the museums here did an exhibition showcasing the defining scents of Brisbane. They included mangroves (salty marine pungent scent), sunshine (humid air), afternoon thunderstorms and frangipani trees.

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    1. I wouldn’t mind perfume twinning with anyone, but I tend to avoid wearing perfumes that I know are very popular when going out into the public. It’s a shame chypres are so uncommon—I’m not sure I’d recognize one if I encountered it on the street, but I’d like the chance.


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