Cigarettes have the elegance of a plastic cup of warm Coors. Chewing tobacco has the panache of an hour long farting session. And, cigars, well, they appeal to the same sort of people who crave a Cadillac, but it is an acquired taste that I don't come from the right place to appreciate.
Pipes, however, are an entirely different ball of tobacco. As I was growing up, men I respected in the small college communities where I grew up, mostly with beards, professorial jackets and fancy curved wooden masterpieces, smoked pipes. I still savor the sweat, complex herbal smell of pipe smoke in appropriate quantities. I caught a whiff of that smoke walking past the shop on South Gaylord street today and it all came back in a rush.
Pipes are rare now. Pipe smokers, perhaps because they were more middle class and more succeptible to pressure from middle class health professionals, were among the first to quit when the campaign to quit smoking really took hold as I was growing up. My high school's student smoking lounge was shut down only a few years before I entered high school, it was illegal in Ohio for minor's to buy tobacco, not to smoke it. Maybe, they were concerned about their health and not quite as addicted to niccotine. Maybe, they didn't want to be a bad example. But, for whatever reason, the pipe smoking culture is a shadow of what it once was, which is a shame, even if it was probably the right thing to do.
It is acceptable for women in our society to indulge their sense of smell. Aromatherapy, scented candles, fragrant flowers, perfumes, scented lotions and shampoos, and poupouri, as well as kitchen smells and tricks like my wife's favortie of this season -- boiling away cinnamon and cloves simply because of the nice smell that fills our open dining-living room-kitchen, are all, despite our formally equal sex roles, firmly culturally branded as women's pursuits.
Meanwhile, the old smells associated with men seem to have vanished under the pressure to assimilate into an office environment, which is now the dominant workplace for men. Real leather that you can smell has almost vanished from the wardrobes of your average man. Aftershaves and colongnes are less common than they were a few decades ago. And, pipe smoke has been banished from office buildings and has all but vanished from the scene. Perhaps it is simply a function of better hygenine. Middle class American men are shaved clean and shower and deordorize every morning, and wear the clothing next to their skin no more than once. A middle class man now strives to be ordorless, not to have a distinctively manly smell.
If there were a way to bring back the wonderful scents of pipe smoke, however, without the harm to your lungs that comes from the act of smoking, and the fierce addition that comes from the niccotine in the tobacco, I'd be interested. Because, in our newly liberated world, men could use a few scents to call their own as well.