I have a feeling that the answers perfumistas give me are going to differ from your average perfume-wearer, and will probably fall somewhere between the self/other extreme I've offered up here. I was inspired to ask the question because I realized that my perfume-wearing habits have changed since I began to collect and think about perfume as a connoisseur a few years ago.
First of all, I don't often wear perfume. Strange to say it, but it's become an almost private experience for me. Before I began collecting vintage perfume, my perfume tastes were pretty conventional. I wore Gucci Rush, Angel, Poison, Black Orchid, Bulgari Au Parfumée Au Thé Vert and the odd and little talked about Bulagari Au Parfumée Au Thé Rouge.
I chose a new perfume every few years or so. (Really hard to imagine now, when a day hardly goes by when I don't get something aromatic in the mail.) And like most people, perfumista or not, I wore perfume so that I would smell good to others. Of course I enjoyed them immensely, too...
But now, I wear perfume to experience it, to attempt to figure out what I think about it, to express what it makes me feel. Perfume as solipsism, in a way.
And because I don't have to love a scent to wear it, admire it, take it seriously, and give it consideration, this means that I may sit for a while redolent of a scent I wouldn't be caught dead wearing in public, mostly because it's not my style, but sometimes, because it would annoy the people around me.
Usually, I'll put something on and sit with it for a long time. That could be hours, as I experience it develop and dry down, making its journey from top notes to base notes and every snaking, nonlinear, shape-shifting form in between. Sometimes, I put it away and it might take days — or years — to figure out what I think/feel about it.
This kind of perfume navel-gazing looks odd in public, too, which certainly hasn't stopped me from doing it. I prefer, however, to loll about like an addict in an opium den, supine on my couch or bed, inhaling, huffing, holding in the scent the way your average stoner holds in smoke, staring up at the ceiling in a reverie.
Perfume's a wonderful, legal intoxicant.
Should I have these two levels of perfume-wearing, though, one public, one private? Is it outdated to wear only perfumes that you think will please others? Should I start wearing more of the stinkier, easily misunderstood fragrances that smell like armpits, oft-worn undergarments and rutting animals, taking the risk more often that someone will tell me that I smell like a hamster cage or an old lady? (Both things I've heard.)
We're past that in fashion. Take the fashion blog The Man Repeller. Its writer takes seriously the idea that some women dress for themselves and other women — and not necessarily to reel in the dudes. (In fact, as her name humorously proclaims, she's into fashion that is proudly dude-unfriendly.) A lot of us who love perfume are already kind of doing that, wearing perfume like Muscs Kublai Khan, ouds, or "old lady" vintage perfumes nonconnoisseurs may not appreciate. (And please, dudes who are reading this, pardon the female-centricity of the question. This applies to you, too!)
I'm sure you all have a lot to say. I want to hear it! (Please note — I'm so happy that this post has gotten lots of comments. To read all of them, be sure to click on "Next" when you get to the bottom of the page.)