Saturday, December 6, 2008

Collegiate fragrances? Please not the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

A small fragrances company recently started selling perfume and cologne inspired by Pennsylvania State University’s blue and white colors and its campus vegetation.
Masik Collegiate Fragrances says the perfume for Penn State smells of vanilla, lilac, rose and white patchouli. The cologne smells of blue cypress and cracked pepper.
Masik is selling 3.4-ounce bottles of the fragrance for $60. The Harrisburg, Pa., company also sells cologne and perfume that it says captures the smell of the University of North Carolina. And it plans to offer scents for six other universities next year.
That got me thinking about the smells of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I earned my undergraduate degree. After attending an Illini men’s basketball game today at the United Center in Chicago with three other U of I graduates, I asked them what they thought our alma mater’s scent should be.
“South Farms,” they all replied. My thoughts exactly.
Living in the dorms on the south end of campus I can still remember the smell of manure in the air from the nearby South Farms. Covering 1,000 acres in southern Champaign and Urbana, Illinois, the South Farms are where the university conducts agricultural research. That research involves livestock production, crop production, weed science and soil fertility.
That’s great for agricultural science, but not so great for an official University of Illinois scent.
The notion of an official campus scent is pretty bogus. The real smells of a college campus, even the good ones, wouldn’t make a good perfume or cologne. I loved the smell of Papa Del’s Pizza in Champaign, but I wouldn’t want to splash it on my face. Same for the smell of beer wafting from the Illini Inn.
Masik, founded in 2007, says it formulates different “signature scents” for each university. The fragrances are licensed products. A percentage of sales will go to each university’s scholarship and athletic fund.
Masik has a list of distinctive characteristics that it uses “as inspiration” for each university’s scent. They include school colors, mascot spirit, traditions and history, landmarks and architectural style, campus trees and flowers, mission statements, college town charter, and themes in the alma mater and fight songs.
Based on those factors, I’d say U of I’s fragrance would smell like Orange Crush soda, sweaty unwashed Indian chief and cow pies.
Wear it with pride.

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