Scents are a powerful thing. There are certain iconic '80s perfumes, for instance, that will immediately make me think of big hair, big shoulders, and big, big personalities. When I was a little kid, I had this one aunt who was totally different from the rest. She would never tell me to eat all the blintzes on my plate or keep my dress on my lap and not over my head. She was the type who would come into my room, sprawl out on my bed, and ask me about the latest drama between Barbie and Ken.
My aunt was brazen, brash, and so perfectly '80s. When she would bend down to wrap me up in a hug, she'd smell like apricots, hairspray, and sandalwood. She was the coolest person I have ever known, and I needed to be her. Whenever I smell a mixture of apricots and sandalwood these days, I get thrown back a couple of decades, to me sitting in her lap, head against one of her shoulder pads, listening to her laugh at the dinner table: The epitome of cool.
Whether you grew up in the '80s or are a '90s kid through and through, there are a few smells that will throw you back into the age of scrunchies and big-banged women. I dedicate this list of popular '80s throwback perfumes to all the woman who killed it in their leg warmers and rouged cheeks.
1. Opium By Yves Saint Laurent
Spicy and lingering, a spritz of this is sexual, dangerous, and meant to illicit long, hard stares in power suits inside dance clubs. If things went according to plan, those stares would even lead to intense wrist sniffs, as the commercial promises. This was for the women who didn't need to sneak out of their parents' houses, but just tossed a goodbye over their shoulder as they ran out with their silver dance-suits and matching silver headbands.
2. Poison By Christian Dior
Just like its name suggests, this stuff is for the boldest of '80s babes. With top notes like coriander, rosewood, and plum, the scent was a sort of exotic grape bubblegum. Heavy and air-stealing, this smell goes off like a bomb and takes no prisoners. At least, according to my mom.
3. Love's Baby Soft
If you were a teenage girl — gum-smacking and lip gloss-wearing your way through the '80s — then you'd have a bottle of this somewhere on your dresser or in your locker. It's basically baby powder turned to liquid. Any knee-high wearing, horse-poster-taping girl would have loved this.
4. Obsession By Calvin Klein
This scent blasts you with powder and spices that simmer down to a very wearable scent after about 30 minutes of use, which means it's perfect for either a late night date with a college boyfriend or a spontaneous guest appearance at Bingo night.
5. Malibu Musk By Parfums De Coeur
Meant to smell like "Instant California Sun," this was a scent reserved only for cool kids who had their teased bang game on point and could kiss boys in cars without turning a violent shade of red first. Probably inspired by 90210, this was perfection for middle school dances and locker pit stop spray downs. And it came in a spray bottle.
6. Beautiful By Estee Lauder
Smelling like a churchgoing, lace-gloved lady in Texas, this was for the girl with the serious boyfriend on her arm since the beginning of sophomore year. It was all about romance and being moon-eyed and dotting your I's with hearts, and it had a potent mix of 300 (give or take) different flora that was sure to bring your Prince Charming running to you.
7. Debbie Gibson’s Electric Youth
Named after Ms. Gibson's wildly popular album, we arguably have her to thank for all the J.Lo and Britney Spears perfumes of today. It smells like cotton candy and teenage angst, which is not so different from what we Millennials spritzed on the back of our wrists when we were 14 and awkward and scrunchie-less.
8. Exclamation! By Coty
Chances are you got into this by ripping out a sample from your pre-teen magazine. You thought you were so cool and "making a statement," feeling like your older sister as you spritzed it on before CCD classes and threw it back into your caboodle.
9. Aqua-net Hairspray
Last but not least: This, all day and all night. How else were you supposed to keep your hair from succumbing to gravity? When a boy would nuzzle his face into your locks, this sweetness was all he'd smell. Note that this wasn't perfume, but still an iconic smell of the era.
Oh, the '80s. Now, excuse me while I find an old shoulder-padded blouse and douse on some Opium. The moment has come.
Images: Marlen Komar