Have you ever felt like a person of the night?
At its most complex, it means feeling an optimal energy, productivity, sociability and wit past the hour of 11 p.m.; at its simplest, it implies insomnia. Both extremes encourage behaviour that swells – amplified emotions, gestures, cadence, sexuality. Being awake in the period from twilight to dawn – especially in summer, and especially a city – is living a saturated existence. We are quicker to err, more impulsive, more forgiving. Everything has a trim of surrealism.
The cultural distinction is clear, idiomatic, polarizing. What is one cannot belong in the other, lest you risk being inappropriate for both. Night people are not morning people, although there are always the ones who fall in the overlap, managing to sleep four hours and preserve their pep.
I’ve always been interested in this pairing, especially in the taxonomic division that it represents for perfumes. Night scents are, generally, recommended for fall/winter; day perfumes are light, airy, for sundresses and spring strolls. When the seasons change for the warmer, many ascribe an excess ‘heaviness’ to their fragrance, sensing the need to replace it with something more fitting. It feels intuitive, but it’s intriguing; after all, the weight of scent can only exist linguistically.
As such, a perfume’s chronological categorization is rather specific. Woody, animalistic, amber and oriental scents are almost always nocturnal – consider Tom Ford’s Black Orchid or Robert Piguet’s Bandit. Fruity, citrusy, and floral scents are primarily considered day perfumes – try Dolce & Gabbana’s Light Blue, or Dior Addict 2. Their bottles are often coloured respectively – light and clean for day, dark and opaque for night. It reminds me of film noirs, and the way that these dichotomies were coded: when a female character appeared onscreen and what she was wearing tells you everything. Femme fatales and antagonists – always brunettes – rarely wore light clothing and appeared mostly in shadowy scenes; innocent heroines and/or victims wore white or neutrals, had golden hair, and saw sunlight frequently.
Now, consider Armani Code for Women – one of my favorites. I wear it day and night, summer and fall, without much of an objection from anyone who detects it. It was launched as a sexy fragrance – one of the most frequently-used words in reviews on Code. Most people consider it a night and winter scent. But take a look at the notes! Oranges, jasmine, honey, vanilla. Does that suggest seductiveness?
I enjoy thinking about Code because I think it’s one of those fragrances that fall in the middle of the night/day dissociation. It has nocturnal elements – mainly, I think, in a blend between the jasmine and the ‘Precious Wood Complex’ that only Sephora seems to identify in its description – but it’s also lively. In certain mindsets, sexuality and excessive femininity (sexuality:night :: femininity:day) are still at odds, and I think this is still true in perfume vocabulary and marketing. On the bottle, a Sephora writer notes:
The clean, sleek silhouette of the glass bottle is decorated with an oriental-inspired motif and transparently embroidered with a shadowing effect. The color and lace represent the feminine spirit of Mr. Armani’s couture designs. Together, glamour and mystery combine to create this mesmerizing composition.
Together. Even the act of describing a union reveals one’s belief in the heterogenous parts. Strength and femininity are still not synonymous, finding themselves united when the conditions are right. It’s an oddly regressive thought, for an industry that is heavily driven and supported by women. I wonder what others find in Code. I often wonder why I like it myself.