Scent Memory – Grey Flannel – Geoffrey Beane – 1975 – l’élégance est un rituel

Grey Flannel helped to bring about a reconciliation because after asking him what scent he was wearing we went for a talk outside, as the feuding family members stood about, glaring. Perfume as a bridge, an arbitrator.
The Black Narcissus


Quite obscure now but still available, I didn’t smell this scent for twenty years until my grandfather’s funeral, when my cousin Dominic, who was sitting in the pew in front, had a gentle soap/wood scent that was unusual, beautiful. He told me later that it was Grey Flannel. The happiness I felt at what it brought back to me made me feel almost guilty.
The Black Narcissus

Guest Post from Brie in New York

There has been a bit of talk in the fragrant stratosphere lately about one of my absolute favorite fragrances. I am referring to the bracing violet leaf men’s cologne known as Grey Flannel. I have my own personal story to tell regarding this groundbreaking fragrance. Will you travel back in time with me once again?

grey flannel the fragrant man

It was the summer of 1983 in New York City. I had just graduated from high school and was working part-time in an office in the garment district of Manhattan.

Stefan Falke Garment District New York

Garment District, New York. Photo: Stefan Falke

I had always subscribed to the idea that I was surely permitted to wear any fragrance that I truly adored no matter who it was marketed to. One day I chose to wear to work a massive dosage of my newly acquired bottle of Grey Flannel despite the fact that I was a petite blonde haired green-eyed eighteen year old ingénue.

Bear in mind that the atmosphere in this office was downright impersonal, professional and stifling. No one spoke on a personal level, everyone flitted about doing their job until the end of the day when all disbursed and went on with their private lives.

I was at the copier machine when standing behind me a middle-aged family man with a wife and two children suddenly whispered, “Are you wearing Grey Flannel?” I am sure that I turned fifty shades of red and sensing my embarrassment he glanced around first and then responded with, “No big deal. I actually wear Sweet Honesty at home. It makes me feel happy after a long day of crunching numbers”. (For those of you who don’t know Sweet Honesty was made by an American beauty company called Avon and was a sickly sweet scent very popular with the female preteen crowd).


Grey Flannel posing in a garden on a balcony in Japan
Photo: Neil Chapman, The Black Narcissus

At first I was shocked at his revelation, but then a smile crept to my face. What then ensued was a conversation about all of our favorite fragrances from the past to the present.

Needless to say I stopped wearing Grey Flannel to work but my newly acquired acquaintance and I would often plan our meetings at the copier where we would stealthily exchange samples and converse on the subject of perfume.

There were two lessons I learned that day. For one, fragrance should never be relegated to gender stereotypes. Over the years some of my most adored bottles were Paul Sebastian for Men, Vera Wang for Men, Carolina Herrera for Men, Joop for Men and A*Men (owned by my 11-year-old son but he generously shares with me).

The second and more important lesson I learned was that perfume is indeed “a bridge” bringing together the most unlikely of individuals in conversation and comradeship.

Although I have not a drop left of Grey Flannel I would like to offer up two samples from my son’s collection of fragrance:


Photo: Brittany

1 ml of A*Men
1 ml of Banana Republic Classic

Leave a comment as to whether or not you share or discuss perfume at your place of employment.

Gift Recipients announced April month end.

Grey Flannel
Perfumer: André Fromentin
Classification: Oriental Woody (does anyone wish to re-classify this?)
Reclassification: (Courtesy of The Black Narcissus) Violet Green Aromatic
Launched: 1975

Violet Leaf Lemon Orange
Heart Oakmoss Sage
Drydown Sandalwood (maybe a whisper of) Grey Flannel Geoffrey Beane

From Pygros 2011 History and Review         
From Pygros 2012
Reformulation Review
Video Impressions 
From Pygros 2013
Corporate Distribution History of Geoffrey Beene’s Grey Flannel: From Epocha to EA Fragrances, 1977 – Present
Jacqueline Cochran Formula
French Fragrances Formula
The Perfume Chronicles then and now
Now Smell This review by Marlen

Strolling around
Stefan Falke photographs New York’s Garment District

Brie in Love
Brie on Autism and Fragrance
Brie in The Fragrant Stratosphere
Brie in Sydney
Brie in Vienna
Brie in New York

34 responses to “Scent Memory – Grey Flannel – Geoffrey Beane – 1975 – l’élégance est un rituel

  1. Brie, my first girlfriend gave me a bottle of this. It was unique in it’s time but I did not wear it often therefore I have a bottle of vintage Grey Flannel which I would have liked to offer you for the giveaways on this post but I cannot find it. A visit to my parents may or may not result in a ‘find”.

    • An original bottle of Grey? Now there is a treasure! (and if you do indeed find it I expect a little sample, s’il vous plait!)

  2. There are a few people at work who know about my perfume habit so it does come up in conversation at times. I haven’t found anyone with a strong interest in it like I have. I think the few people that know are more fascinated by my habit than interested in fragrance. No need to enter me in the draw. Hubby has those scents.

    • Poodle-
      You have all of us perfumaniacs to converse with 😀 !!! and may I say yours must be a great smelling house as it seems as though your hubby takes an interest in fragrance as well!

  3. Great article Brie. Grey Flannel is classic. It always reminds me of winter in upstate New York, wearing gray rag wool sweaters and sipping coffee from a Styrofoam cup inside the “warming room” at the local hockey arena.

  4. I love this review, Brie. Grey Flannel was one of my first fragrance purchases, and I still wear it to this day. Also, I am thankful that I was influenced by others to look past gender expectations in the wearing of fragrance. There are many “feminine” fragrnaces I love to wear.

    • thank you James! From the time I was a little girl I wore what I liked regardless of whether or not it was appropriate (and quite often got me in trouble…imagine a chypre on an eight year old!) I would love to know which of the feminines are your favorite!

      • You were ahead of your time 😉

        Feminines I love include: Guerlain Shalimar and Jicky. I’m trying to acquire a taste for Mitsouko, but I’m not there yet. I love Chanel #5, 19, and 22. Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely is another one.

        Also, many of my most worn masculines are frequently worn by women: Dior Eau Sauvage, Chanel Pour Monsieur and Caron Pour un Homme, for instance.

        • James- I love your perfume style! Shalimar and 22 resonate with me on so many levels. Same here with Mitsouko..perhaps because I never tried vintage.

          • What I meant to convey was that Mitsouko doesn’t quite suit my taste as well…but I never tried vintage and perhaps if I had I might think differently.

            • James- Aside from the ones mentioned I also have a soft spot for Givenchy for Men, Drakkar Noir and Cool Waters (but after the Grey Flannel debacle would not have worn the latter in public, lest it be identified as projecting from my tiny non-male body!)

  5. I work on my own. And yes, I discuss perfume all the time. I have so many voices in my head …………………..

    • Oh goodness CQ…anyone that can make me laugh as hard as you can will surely be a friend for life! I DON’T work on my own and when it is not perfume despising co-worker’s voice nagging me about my perfume choices I also have my own “inner voices” chattering away!

  6. Great story, brie! I smiled reading it.

    Not only I talk about perfumes in the office (we have at least several people who are somewhat interested in perfumes), I can proudly report that I’ve “converted” at least two people: one went from no perfumes at all to three or four bottles in her rotation; another one’s collection grew from 3-4 scents to about 20 (not all FB butstill). I’m working on a couple co-workers now 😉

    Do not enter me into the giveaway – I have this perfume. But once again, great story!

    • thanks, Undina! How I envy you! there are a few individuals at work who enjoy essential oils and some of my blends but no one really talks “perfume”. and I may add that you have had a tremendously positive influence on me as well in terms of new loves/lemmins’ 😀 !!

  7. Pingback: April gift recipients | The Fragrant Man·

  8. I Did read this great review Brie and neglected to tell you how much I liked it. And I do like it so very, very much!! We both can agree that Grey Flannel is something special.

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