My First Gender-Bending Perfume Fling: Givenchy Pi

In the nineties, my perfume adventures were limited to what mass market ladies’ counters had to offer. But since there were much less new mainstream releases back then, usually after getting familiar with everything available for the appropriate gender I would entertain myself sniffing what was offered to gentlemen telling myself that my vSO might need one more bottle (as if he was running out of those four or five I’d previously persuaded him he would love).

One day, while smelling new masculine releases, I suddenly found myself drawn to one perfume.

Pi by Givanchy

π (Pi) by Givenchy – created in 1998 by Alberto Morillas, notes (according to Fragrantica) include basil, rosemary, tarragon, mandarin, neroli, geranium, lily of the valley, anise, vanilla, tonka, cedar, benzoin, almond and yellow sugar.

I liked it. Not for my vSO – for myself. I kept going back to the counter to try it again and again. It felt strange because, in my mind, there was supposed to be a strict distinction: feminine perfumes, masculine colognes and some new trendy creations called unisex (but those that I’d come across then were neither fish nor fowl). Finally, an SA struck a conversation with me and I admitted that I was thinking about buying it for myself. I don’t think she whispered but she definitely lowered her voice when she told me, in confidence, as if it was something about what people do not talk out loud, that many women like masculine perfumes. What was more important, she gave me a couple of samples of Pi.

When the samples were gone I bought a bottle. I think it was my way of breaking out of the habitual floral perfumes I used to favor (and probably still do). I wore Pi Eau de Toilette pour Homme reveling in my eccentricity and fearlessness. I think I liked not as much the perfume itself but that feeling of dare. And then we just grew apart. I didn’t suddenly start disliking Pi – I just didn’t feel like wearing it anymore.

Last year, a friend of mine whose birthday is today, March 14th (M., if you’re reading this – Happy Birthday!), told me about that day being known as a Pi-Day. I’ve never heard about it before: having grown up with the European date system I’ve never seen the connection between 14/03/YY and number Pi. It was too late to do anything last year but I told her that if I would still be blogging in a year I’d write a story about this perfume, since I kept this bottle for the last ten years. And I would have missed it again if it weren’t for her reminding me.

So, here’s my Pi-Day story about Pi – the first masculine perfume I bought for myself. Now it goes into the Retirement Box.

I haven’t found any real reviews. Either it was really that bad or at least it wasn’t good enough for anybody to contradict Luca Turin’s disparaging comment in the Guide.


Do you remember your first perfume that crossed the gender line?


Image: my own


25 thoughts on “My First Gender-Bending Perfume Fling: Givenchy Pi

  1. I wore a lot of girly scents when I was young, like Calyx, Aromatics Elixir, Anais Anais, CK Eternity. Recently, I stumbled upon Le Labo, where all of the scents are unisex, and realized that there is no good reason why I need to smell like flowers all the time, and picked up a bottle of Patchouli 24. I’ve never gone back since. Actually, I find many men’s fragrances to be TOO girly for me–too sweet, too cloying. My tastes stay pretty much in the woody-floral-oriental category these days. Although I’m probably the only who knows that I am wearing a “man’s” perfume, it makes me feel very confident and sexy to smell it on myself, so I reserve those scents for power meetings, and more girly ones for social outings when I want to seduce.


    • Modern unisex perfumes are a slightly different animal: in my mind they are truly “genderless”, anyone can wear them. But there are perfumes, which bear a distinct gender identity: they are strikingly either feminine or masculine. And wearing those perfumes probably speaks for one’s character.

      I completely understand choosing “man’s” perfume for the confidence: I remember choosing Le Labo’s Rose 31 to wear to the meeting just because I know that it’s considered masculine (well, of course, in addition to me liking it as a scent).


  2. Pi is a scent I think I hovered around when I first got into fumeheadonism, and was looking for suitable things for my brother to try. I am pretty sure I got a sample – or maybe even a mini – on Ebay, but I am blowed if I can remember what it smelt like now. I am also struggling to recall my own first gender bending scent, though it would also be one from the early months of my hobby. Habit Rouge, maybe… Anyway, I enjoyed hearing about your own links with this scent. And that is a pleasingly quirky bottle, isn’t it?


    • I recently (on the Vegas trip) smelled Habit Rouge and liked it but dismissed it as being too masculine for the purposes of finding my new Guerlain love. But I plan to go back to it one day: I might enjoy wearing it.

      I did not read The Guide from A to Z, I usually look for a particular perfume once I formed my own opinion. So when I saw one star for this perfume I was a little surprised but since I do not know what other perfumes were put into the same category, it’s hard for me to compare (though I still keep thinking: Really?! Do you really think it’s one of the worst? Because I smelled a LOT of perfumes that I’ve considered a LOT worse). But I was even more surprised that he critisized the bottle. I think it looks nice – on its own and especially compared to the majority of the bottles out there.


  3. My better half received a bottle of Pi for Christmas from a friend. You have just prompted me to do a review as I haven’t really paid attention to it! As for my first gender bender, I don’t recall, but I remember in the early 80s (yes, I know I’m old) that a girlfriend of mine wore Lauren, by Ralph Lauren and I could not get enough of scent. If I would have been brave enough I probably would have worn it myself. I haven’t smell that scent in year and would be curious if it would have the same affect! As for today, I like the fact that scents are unisex. If you like it, you should wear it!


    • I would be curious to know what you think about Pi if you happen to try/review it.

      Hm… I think I have somewhere a mini of Lauren. I need to smell it!

      Nowadays I can care less what it says on the bottle – a scent is a scent is a scent. If I like it, I’ll wear it.


  4. I seem to remember liking Pi when I smelled it, although I don’t remember more than that! I like the bottle, too.

    I don’t think I’ve encountered a perfume yet that has truly been my gender bending perfume. I wear some masculines, but none of them feel like “me.” Even the ones I really, really love that express some part of my life that really means a lot to me. They are not what I would reach for to express myself – more what I would reach for to reminisce or even be comforted with a memory.


    • Just in case you still like it, I’ll save you a decant of it before I put the bottle away.

      I consider most perfumes to be either feminine or unisex. It’s so rare that I smell something and think that it’s a masculine perfume… I’m not talking about those sports/aqua mainstream nonsenses, of course – real perfumes.


  5. Lovely post!
    My story with masculines is quite similar, the first I wore (and that was long before Perfumista-madness hit) was Dior Fahrenheit. I felt very daring and reckless. ;)
    Like so many good ones, Fahrenheit is reformulated almost into unrecognizability today. :(


    • Thank you, Birgit!

      I have a story about Fahrenheit!

      I smelled it in early 90s and liked it a lot. But back then I couldn’t afford to buy it (I already had 2 or 3 bottles! ;)). Later, after we moved to the U.S., at some point I tried it again and it smelled nothing like what I remembered. Since I had no idea about reformulations (in general, not just about that perfume’s fate) I just decided that my memory played tricks on me or my tastes had changed significantly. Now, of course, it makes a perfect sense – thank you :)


  6. An elderly nearly-full tester that was being retired from the pharmacy counter of a big supermarket – Carven Vetiver. I bought it immediately after sniffing it, for the grand sum of £5. (Around 1996, probably.)

    I loved the smell on me, on OH and just in the room.

    The glass bottle was fashioned in a hip-flask shape, if you are familiar with the style, and had no lid or box. I suspect that the version around now won’t be the same but it was great while it lasted.

    We’ve used up another Vetiver since (by Florame) and are now on Guerlain’s Vetiver. OH isn’t crazy about fragrance but tolerates my tastes when I pounce and squirt him with something that I like to smell on him!


    • For whatever reason I’ve never even considered putting Pi on my vSO. Not even once. I don’t think he would have minded but in my mind it was always my perfume. I’m slightly better with sharing these days, though. For example, I share Vetiver Tonka (Hermes) that I bought as a present for my vSO for the New Year – see how generous I am? ;) Btw, have you tried this one? I really enjoy it! (thanks to Natalie from APB who introduced it to me).

      I smelled Guerlain Vetiver only once on paper and thought it was lovely but since then I haven’t had a chance to revisit it. I will one day since I’ve realized recently that I like vetiver.


  7. My first gender-crossing was Tommy Bahama.
    I was at a professional conference, about to speak before an audience, when another speaker (with whom I’d discussed perfumes the day before) came right up to me and spritzed me for good luck. A very happy memory!

    [Your post reminds me that once at a dinner party, hearing that I was into perfume, the host ran from the table to get his bottle of Pi, which I’d never tried or heard. We all spritzed and chatted at this ‘Pi dinner.” Thanks for reviving two very pleasant scent memories!]


  8. I must admit I was late to jump into the gender bending train but I did it with a bang! Sarrasins….
    π is a lovely fragrance and for some strange reason it is a perfume everybody loves to hate. It’s supposed to be too sweet, or too synthetic or too whatever… I think it is an interesting bittersweet composition that tried to bring something new into the mainstream masculine market. It failed but your appreciation in today’s post is so lovely.


    • I’m testing Sarrasins now. I want to love it – the color is so cool and I love the name but I’m not sure… But I agree on the “bang” part :)

      For me Pi, if anything “too”, it’s too simple compared to all the perfumes I test or wear now. But it earned its spot in my Retirement box: it’ll stay there to remind me about the past – even if I never wear it again.


      • If I may suggest something, are you spraying Sarrasins or dabbing? Please do not spray this, as with all SL’s but especially with this, and apply very gently. The effect of catching clouds of this is much different than having it imposed every moment.

        I agree that Pi is too full but not complicated enough but in the context of its release date it was different.


  9. I think Pi sounds a lot more interesting than your average masculine. I’ll have to read LT’s review now, just out of interest. I don’t think you can be a true perfumista without loving a 1 star! I’m not too adventurous when it comes to masculines. I own Bois d’Argent which was men’s cologne but no longer “segregated”. Very much liked Dior Homme but no idea what it’s like now it’s been reformulated.


    • I’m curious to find now if there is any other 1-star perfumes that I [used to] like.

      I didn’t find Bois d’Argent to be too masculine… or maybe my perception has changed. And I’ve never tried Dior Homme… because I didn’t like the name!


  10. I’m not familiar with Pi the fragrance at all, but I do enjoy doing the gender-bending thing with fragrances. I think the first bottle that I crossed the gender divide with was Calvin Klein Obsession for Men, but then my tastes changed and I gave that bottle away. The ones I enjoy now are Pascal Morabito Or Black, Caron Yatagan, Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel and Oscar de la Renta Oscar for Men. There are a number of masculine-leaning scents in the niche sector too, but I tend to think of them as unisex so names don’t easily spring to mind. I guess I’d have to say that I find Parfum d’Empire Cuir Ottoman rather masculine-leaning (at least initially), and I really love it! Masculines don’t make me feel daring, so much as they make me feel like I’m being accompanied by a handsome gentleman. That’s really why I wear them. :)


    • Obsession is CK’s equivalent of Pi: it is kind of masculine but can be easily worn by a woman.
      I tried Cuir Ottoman only twice but I didn’t think of it as of a masculine perfume. I like it and can see a full bottle in my future.


  11. Hi Undina! First time reading your blog and enjoying it! Got here through the Unseen Censer.
    Forgot about Pi the fragrance, even though my son had Pi day at his Math, Science, Technology school where the math classes eat pie during class time!
    Got a sample of Pi at Macy’s when it first came out and hubby actually liked it. It was the first fragrance I ever bought him (to replace his Royal Copenhagen Musk :) !!!) He still wears it off and on. Last year I spritzed some on myself and it smelled good but was weird because I associate it with hubby! Didn’t know Luca gave it 1 star. Of course he gave Tommy Girl 5 stars so I bought it blind and couldn’t tolerate it!
    My first gender-bending thing was Eau Savage in the 80’s (showing my age here) and I no longer own it or even remember what it smells like. Currently the only masculine (or more unisex even though it’s sold in the men’s section) fragrance I have is Bulgari Black.


    • Hi Barbara! Nice to see you here.

      I didn’t know (or care) about 1 star while I was wearing Pi. I just got curious now when I couldn’t find almost any reviews for the perfume on blogs. 5 stars to Tommy Girl? Wow… I’ve never even considered it to be a real perfume (so I’m not even sure if I’ve ever smelled it).

      In my internal classification there are some (very few) unmistakenly masculine perfumes with everything else being feminine ones ;) (including Bvlgari Black)


  12. Pingback: Four Stories for the Fourth Anniversary | Undina's Looking Glass

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