Originally Posted by DeSense @crdb
Not dissing your post in the slightest, I for one am re-discovering scents at this stage and enjoying myself in the process of widening the scope and variety.
When you say "association" and then give respective examples, I don't think you mean this in a generalisation, almost prejudice kind of way, do you?
I did not see anything harsh or brutal or war related in CdR, or thought of cancer when wearing CdG Black. Far from it.
Associations are a very personal, individual thing.
When I was a kid we had a nanny. She was a lovely older lady and smelled exactly like that, very flowery. Nonetheless, that's a scent I wouldn't want to exude myself, under any circumstances. Not because I fear for my manlihood, or social pressure, just because of the association (old lady smell) it would induce on me.
CdG Black smells a lot like bike tube rubber to me. It reminds me of my teens when I had to regularly fix my bike. Which I would often just take out, day or night, for a joy ride on empty country roads, through forests and fields. There you have my associations with it. Nothing harsh or sinister.
Well, my take on art (and many other things, culture, life, etc.) - and this is a very engineer-y answer - is that it is high-dimensional. That is, everything we do is a form of finding a local minimum in a space with loads of variables, and often there is no single true simple "100% of cases" answer.
This does not mean that there are no objective realities; it does mean there are many subjective interpretations of whatever is objectively there. And indeed we are constantly trying to do a bit of dimensional reduction as we interact with the world and other people, trying to find a local optimum faster by not having to compute everything from scratch; this is where what you might call prejudices or generalizations might come in or be helpful. So in a way my approach to learning is to expose myself to many points of view, preferably starting with more generally accepted ones, and derive a truth from a large number of sometimes contradictory data points, to find a better local minimum.
As a simple example, I worked in India for a few months and was told by everybody at work (an Indian company with not a single foreigner in sight, except a couple Bengali and Pakistani) that I had a Britisher accent and couldn't I speak English normally. It suddenly dawned on me that "Indian English" was a language in itself, perfectly normal for whatever percent of 1.2 billion people speak it, and actually, the tiny number of people for whom the Queen's English is "proper" is becoming increasingly irrelevant. In some ways they had more of a right to claim that they spoke English since they are more numerous. I guess that's sort of true of American English globally, by headcount, but most foreign countries teach British English in schools. What then is "proper" English? Context-dependent. There's personal context - your nanny - and regional and cultural context - like masculine rose in the Middle East. And there's global context, such as how most of the world goes to business meetings wearing the same lounge suits.
All this to say, that my thoughts are just that - thoughts coming on the way of discovery, trying to explain or at least dimensionally reduce (simplify the model at the cost of some added error) whatever I've encountered on the way. Rose in my traditional French family would be a feminine scent. Rose with my friends in Dubai is a perfectly acceptable masculine. Oakmoss and tweed go wonderfully with the European autumn. They are hell in Singapore.
There come associations. Within certain cultural backgrounds - rapidly becoming a minority, numerically, in the world, even if they still command respect as the Greeks did under the Romans - there are reasons for certain smells to be associated with certain things. Tabac Blond was not objectively offensive on a lady in 1919, but associatively so in the way the bob haircut was, (amusingly itself a very feminine, somewhat classic signal today) because both were accessories of the flappers, who themselves were offensive to the traditional idea of the woman at the time.
Similarly, there is a hilarious clip in the recent show Silicon Valley where one of the developers in the company that stars in the show torpedoes a VC deal by being seen to smoke; imagine having a tobacco "soliflore" or tobacco-centric perfume when meeting such a VC! But there are many of us who love a tobacco note and will happily buy up Sultan Pasha's work heralding it.
Or what about the abrasive qualities of a very sharp, salty citrus as I find to be in Eau de Guerlain? Someone who has never been exposed to colognes, and for whom citrus fruits are not native, might more readily make that association than one of conservatism and professionalism as say an East Coast white collar professional might.
And so my little paragraph was a passing thought on trying to understand why people expect me to wear certain categories of scent (although as David Rose's Quora answer pointed out, today you are expected to wear none in most settings). Not a prescriptive set of generalisations. Just an attempt at thinking out loud. And thinking out loud now, I can't help but think that unlike the global rules for business dress, there is no accepted standard of fragrances, and so everything IS at least regionally/culturally context dependent.
I could say much more on the subject, particularly on the degree and quality of artistic appreciation that can be derived from better contextual understanding, but a very anonymous and typographically annoying blogger did so much better than me. I really, really recommend this article: http://birthmoviesdeath.com/2013/06/05/film-crit-hulk-smash-hulk-vs.-spoilers-and-the-4-levels-of-how-we-consume-a. It ties in and expands on what Roudnitska was saying about quality vs. pleasantness.
FWIW I'd say the real reason CdR would tick off some people would be the civet and musk!