Chicago -- Flower power has trickled down from tie racks to fragrance counters.
A number of new men's scents showing up in department and specialty stores now feature floral notes typically associated with women's fragrances.
"Men are trying to soften their image," says Annette Green, executive director of the Fragrance Foundation, a New York-based industry research firm.
Among new scents with a floral flavor already out and on some retailers' best-seller list are Davidoff Cool Water and Bucheron for Men. Davidoff uses essences of orange blossom, lily of the valley, jasmine, honeysuckle, geranium and iris among other ingredients, while Bucheron has touches of ylang-ylang, rose, geranium, iris and cistus.
A couple of men's scents with floral notes making their debut this fall are Joop! Homme (with orange blossom and jasmine notes) and Feeling Man by fashion designer Jil Sander (with jasmine, lavender and geranium).
Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan plans to market his own signature fragrance next year, according to a spokeswoman for his licensing ventures. There's no word on whether Jordan will jump on the floral trend. (But since we think Jordan is a sensitive kind of guy, we wouldn't be surprised.)
Flower power doesn't mean men are going to start smelling like rose gardens. Floral notes are meant to lighten heavy men's scents, say fragrance folks.
Men's fragrance sales grew 5 percent in 1991 as compared to the 3 percent rise in women's fragrance sales for the same period, according to a Fragrance Foundation report.
This growth spurt may not sound earth-shattering, but in 1991 -- a bleak period in retail history -- any sales increase made &L merchants smile.
When buying fragrance, "the most-often asked question from men is 'What's new?' " reports Allen Burke, divisional merchandise manager at Dayton Hudson Department Store Co., parent of Marshall Field & Co. stores.
Roy Cohen, a producer/director of commercial and industrial films, has worn Obsession since its 1986 introduction. But this doesn't stop him from sampling new scents: "If I'm out shopping with my wife, I can't resist taking a couple of shots in the air."
Men's fragrance business may also be growing for another reason. "Women are buying and wearing men's fragrance for themselves," says Allan Mottus, publisher of the Informationist, a health-care and beauty industry newsletter.
While men are turning to more romantic scents, female patrons of men's fragrance gravitate to the more conventional leather-citrus-tobacco aromas. Many women are trying to move to more middle ground -- away from sensual to asexual scents, says the Fragrance Foundation's Ms. Green.
And, while women prefer to buy fragrances in spray forms, men overwhelmingly opt for splash-on fragrances, say retailers.
"I get compliments at the post office, in stores, at my dentist's office," Glenn Griffith, director of catering at Chicago's Four Seasons Hotel, says of strangers' reactions to him when he wears Fahrenheit splash-on, his favorite scent. "I tried it in the spray once, but didn't get the same kind of comments."
Indeed, when it comes to fragrance, flattery seems to keep men loyal.