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The Periodic Table of the Middle Class
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    Maslow’s hierarchy of scented candles  

    We Brits spend roughly £40m a year on scented candles, a figure that has been steadily growing, and now we demand more from them than simply making a room smell nice. They’ve become a go-to for enhancing our mood or helping us wind down after a hard day. And, of course, they are yet another way of subtly displaying our cultural values. Here’s how to make sense of the scents:

    Self-actualisation – Cire Trudon

    Burning a scented candle is essentially a decadent act, and nothing smells of decadence like a French luxury brand once favoured by Marie-Antoinette.

    Esteem – Jonathan Adler

    Adler’s edgier scents in funky pots – ‘Tomato’, ‘Pepper’, ‘Earl Grey’, ‘Bubblegum’, ‘Hashish’ – have a slight frisson of ‘will this work?’ And of course, like salted chocolate or strawberries with basil, they do, and in the most satisfying of ways. They let visitors know that we have already done the nursery slopes of ‘Fig’ and ‘Moroccan Rose’ and are ready for the thrills of some olfactory black runs. See also Malin+Goetz’s ‘Mojito’, ‘Black Rum’ and ‘Tobacco’ candles.

    Love/Belonging – True Grace

    This quintessentially English candlemaker allows us to express key parts of our personalities with fragrances that sound like Farrow & Ball paint colours – ‘Library’, ‘Curious’, ‘Seashore’ – but makes them seem unpretentious (no one’s fooled) by putting them in tins. For example, ‘Parlour’ supposedly evokes ‘Walking into the cottage, welcomed by the scents of wood fires, a jar of flowers on the table, a fresh pot of tea and fruitcake from the familiar tin in the pantry.’ They know us too well.

    Safety – Diptyque 

    It is impossible not to love Diptyque’s classic candles. Or to fail to recognise them in someone else’s home. Trademark fragrances such as ‘Figuier’, ‘Baies’, ‘Feu de Bois’ and ‘Roses’ are the sorts of things you can confidently buy as a present for someone you don’t know that well. See also Jo Malone.

    Physiological –'own brand' and/or Glade

    Supermarket own brand or brands more readily associated with plug-in air fresheners. Especially if they are poorly sealed with a plastic lid or cellophane. These tend to come in unexciting fragrances such as jasmine, rose, winter spice, or vanilla, or fragrances that echo air-freshener/fabric-softener scents – sea breeze, cotton fresh. These candles emit smells that are mildly more pleasant than those they are trying to mask (damp, cigarettes, pets, fried food) but which do not necessarily enhance one’s sensory pleasure. If someone gives you a Glade ‘Garden Sunshine’ scented candle as a gift, they are trying to tell you something.

    Bubbling under – Price’s

    Could there be a scented-candle backlash on the horizon with a return to plain candles made by a no-nonsense firm with form? Tall, tapering candles in actual candlesticks on the dinner table or short fat altar candles used en masse to bathe a room in a warm glow rather than overpower it with scent, perhaps? A candle that smells of wax? It’s a revolution waiting to happen.

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      Superb page, Keep up the very good work. Thanks for your time.
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      The Middle Class Handbook - Blog (Home) - Maslow’s hierarchy of scented candles
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