Originally created 09/21/00

His & Hers

Pass that perfume bottle, baby.

Don't be surprised if your significant other starts stealing your eau de toilette - it doesn't matter whether you're a boy or a girl to some cologne manufacturers these days.

Unisex scents - designed to be worn by men or women - aren't a new idea. They first hit the market six years ago when Calvin Klein launched CK One, followed by CK Be two years later. But since then, no one else has capitalized on the idea, even though some women have been buying men's cologne for their own use, say those who sell the scents. Even stores such as Bath & Body Works that don't specifically label their scented lotions and body washes for women tend to carry a separate line for men.

That's changing. Parfums Xan Kim has just released Merge, a scent that combines the fragrances of ginger and tangerine, iris and honeysuckle, sandalwood and vanilla. It's sold in trendy specialty shops and small department stores.

American Eagle Outfitters has created Alive, using grapefruit and tangerine with touches of anise, patchouli and sandalwood. The scent is available in lotions, perfumes and body washes.

"We're marketing this as a fragrance for everyone because our store is very open to both men and women," said Lisa Downham, senior buyer for personal care for American Eagle. "When you walk into the store, you can see that our clothes are about 50-50 men's and women's. We didn't want to turn anyone away with the fragrance.

"We didn't want guys to come in, see a fragrance for women and think the store was too girly, and we didn't want women thinking it was too masculine."

The new scents are spicy, sometimes sharp and almost invariably citrus. What guy wants to smell like flowers, after all? Citrus also is trendy at the moment, Ms. Downham said. Alive capitalized on that by including the grapefruit touches.

"Most men's scents are citrus, and a lot of ladies are looking at those now," said Tracey Berridge, who works at the fragrance counter in Dillard's department store, where CK One and CK Be are sold.

The new scents are following in their forebears' footsteps: CK One used a lemony fragrance to attract both men and women, while CK Be was a milder form of its predecessor.

The scents contain chemicals that react to a person's unique body chemistry, which also helps make them appropriate for men or women, Ms. Berridge said.

"If I put it on, it smells totally different from when my husband wears it," she said. "Once it's been on your skin for a little while, and combines with your chemistry - that's what changes the fragrance."

The Augusta Chronicle asked customers at Dillard's in Augusta Mall to sample CK One, a unisex scent carried by the store, and Merge, a new scent by Parfums Xan Kim that's sold in specialty stores.

The five people who tested the scents agreed that Merge was too feminine for men, although it's supposed to be used by both sexes.

"I know no guy is going to wear that," said 34-year-old Donna Conner of North Augusta. "I don't think that smells like a man."

"It's not bad," said Joshua Haynes Sr., 29, of Augusta. "But I think it's more for a woman."

Of CK One, he said: "I'd wear it. This one equals out between a man and a woman. This one can go both ways."

Some people thought CK One could be worn by both men and women, while others thought it was more masculine or more feminine.

And the winner is ...

Calvin Klein's on the right track, but Xan Kim needs to go back to the drawing board.

That was the judgment of almost everyone who took a sniff test of colognes designed for both men and women.

The paper asked lunchtime customers at Dillard's department store in Augusta Mall to take a whiff of both CK One, a unisex scent carried by the store, and Merge, a new scent by Parfums Xan Kim that's sold in specialty stores.

Here are their responses:


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