17 March 2022
The History of Fragrances
The English gentleman can be recognised as much by his faultless grooming as his impeccable tailoring. Scrupulous neatness was one of the tenets laid down at the beginning of the nineteenth century by the most famous dandy of them all, George ‘Beau’ Brummell. It’s surely no coincidence that his contemporary, William Francis Truefitt, set up shop in 1805. Like Brummell, he appreciated that elegance wasn’t merely a matter of boots and breeches but of haircare, skincare and fragrance too.
Eighteenth century London had been a malodorous place in which personal hygiene was a hit-and-miss affair. The advent of Truefitt changed all that. Working out of premises at No. 2, Cross Lane, William scored the greatest of coups when he was appointed Court Hairdresser to King George III himself. Where royalty led, high society followed. Patronised by successive monarchs, as well as by innumerable celebrities and members of the aristocracy, Truefitt’s grooming services were considered indispensable to all who aspired to the appellation of ‘gentleman’.
The principles of classic English style may have been crystallised early on, but Truefitt, which absorbed the younger but no less prestigious hairdressing firm of Edwin S. Hill in 1935, has always reflected the evolving tastes of its ultra-discerning clientele. That’s especially true when it comes to its extensive array of scents which have, from the outset, been among the most sought-after of its products.
When blending a new fragrance, Truefitt derived inspiration from a variety of imaginative sources: places, personalities, clubs, regiments, and even current events. Elaboration was the order of the day in the mid-nineteenth century, and some sense of the heady aromas popular in Victorian England can be derived from the pages of William Thackeray’s popular novel The Newcomes, in which fashionable man-about-town slumbers in a chamber ‘redolent of the richest perfumes of Macassar, essences from Truefitt’s or Delcroix’s, into which a thousand flowers have expressed their sweetest breath, await his meek head on rising, and infuse the pocket-handkerchief with which he dries and draws so many tears.’ Other scents of that era revelled in such whimsical names as ‘Knickerbocker Nosegay’, ‘Aldershot Bouquet’ and even ‘The Choice of the Rifle Brigade’: references surely not lost on the dashing young officers who poured through Truefitt’s doors.
Today, those who seek to access that most colourful chapter in Truefitt & Hill’s story are recommended to try ‘1805’. Based on ‘Palmerston Bouquet’, it was first blended in the 1850s, when it was christened after the Liberal Prime Minister. Fusing top notes of bergamot and lemon with heart notes of lily and rose and base notes of moss and amber, it is at once classic and ultra-contemporary.
Just as evocative is ‘Clubman’, which traces its origins to ‘Exhibition (1851) Bouquet’, a scent released in the year in which the Crystal Palace showcased the cultural and industrial might of the British Empire in Hyde Park. With aromas of lavender, leather, cinnamon and musk, it’s a deep, rich and intensely characterful tribute to the prestigious gentlemen’s clubs of St James’s from which Truefitt & Hill has always drawn so many of its clients.
‘Freshman’, on the other hand, is as light and youthful as its name suggests. In a sense, this is delightfully counter-intuitive, for its pedigree is even longer than those of other Truefitt & Hill fragrances. Dating back to 1805, its notes of rosemary, mint, orange blossom and cedar fuse Regency elegance with modern style in a manner symbolic of Truefitt & Hill’s ever-green appeal to rising generations of gentlemen.
When it comes to scent, heritage is as important as innovation. Thanks to its illustrious history, Truefitt & Hill is uniquely placed to draw upon a deep pool of classic fragrances blended over the course of more than two centuries. The connection between scent, cleanliness and high style is even closer now than it was at the beginning: for where else is it possible to find one’s signature scent, not just in a bottle, but in a comprehensive range of grooming products, from shaving creams, aftershave balms to soaps and bath gels, too?
The world has changed a lot since 1805. At Truefitt & Hill, you will discover that the best is as good as it ever was.
11 April 2022