A couple of weeks ago I was surprised to hear a colleague describe several perfumes as “sophisticated”. My surprise was due to the fact that I personally perceived these compositions as being random mash-ups of common materials without regard to balance or overall wearability, and not very enjoyable. I’m sure we all have our own definitions of “sophisticated”, but the first ones I found in a Goggle search are as follows:
1) having, revealing, or proceding from a great deal of worldly experience and knowledge of fashion and culture;
2) (of a machine, system, or technique) developed to a high degree of complexity.
Did the perfumes in question fit either of these definitions? Not in my book. The first definition would imply that they fit into some highly developed socio-cultural schema that is the result of everything that has preceded them, and that each makes a coherent additional and novel statement based on that body of knowledge. The second would imply that they were technically well put-together in such a way as to intentionally evoke complex thoughts, emotions, and other states. After all, a perfume could be thought of as a “machine” designed to influence out physical, mental, and emotional state in a pleasurable way. The term can even be applied to the natural world. When I searched for images epitomizing the term “sophisticated”, these wings of an African beetle kept popping up as an example of a sophisticated design for flight.
I know this is an unanswerable question given that we cannot really even define “sophistication”, but to me it’s an interesting issue to think about. Readers, how do you define “sophisticated”? Can a perfume be “sophisticated”? If so, what would make it that way? If not, why not?
[First cartoon by Rube Goldberg; beetle wings from Wikimedia; fashion photo one of the first that I found when opening catwalk images on Vogue - it's good enough to make the point]