If you have ever been in a locker room post-workout, you will likely know the smell of sweat and musk.
It is not, per se, a bad smell, but for thousands of years, dating back to ancient Egypt, people have been looking for ways to mask it. After all, it is pretty warm in Egypt!
Indeed, the word ‘perfume' that is used in modern language today is actually derived from the Latin word ‘per fume,' which means through smoke. So yes, perfume was designed as a smoke screen for humans against bad odors that the body makes.
Through the centuries, however, and even today, perfume is linked to class, and here, you will be walked through a brief history of perfume and its role in society.
Uses of Perfume
In 2023, most people know about the use of perfume. If you are going on a night out with friends, to a job interview, or if you want to smell nice, you will spray yourself with perfume. You can get perfume from a fragrance wholesaler online, from a specialized store, or even from a pharmacy. So, this is something that is more ingrained into the modern culture than you may think, with the most expensive perfumes being sold for thousands of dollars due to links to brands, celebrities, and the aromas themselves.
Historically, as mentioned earlier, perfume came from countries with warmer climates, such as Egypt, China, India, and Italy. The Egyptians, however, seem to have linked perfume to class, as there is evidence of perfume bottles being used as far back as 1000 BC. So, you can thank the ancient Egyptians for the perfume spray bottle design. When Christianity became more prevalent over pagan and Muslim religions, the use of perfume faded until about the 16th Century in Europe.
The Tudors and Perfume
Many people wouldn't be surprised to learn that with all the extravagance of the Renaissance period, perfume became more popular among the nobility and the royals of Europe during this time. World-famous king Henry VIII was noted to have preferred his clothes to be sprayed with scents of lavender and orange peel. So, the famous king would have preferred floral and citrus scents. His daughter, Elizabeth I, seemingly differing from her father's footsteps, was reported to prefer rose scents and musky aromas. It's not surprising, considering how hot she must have been in those huge dresses! Perfume for the Tudors, as for most people in the 16th Century, was linked to luxury and wealth and was often mixed with ambergris, or whale oil, to help it bond better to clothing.
Following the Tudors, other royal families of Europe and cooler continents seemingly didn't use perfume as much.
However, perfume rose to the top of the class chain again thanks to Louis XV of France. This eccentric royal was an enormous fan of perfume and had his clothing, furniture, gloves, and even his pets sprayed with perfume. The French monarch preferred orange blossom perfume and used it more than the floral or musky options that were also available at the time.