If there’s one thing Boy Smells does best, it’s a limited-edition collection. In addition to their permanent line—filled with classic scents like Kush ($32) that have gained their own cult following—the team behind the beloved fragrances put love and care into every drop. It’s clear from thoughtful packaging updates to above-and-beyond product shots that putting together a new collection is their bread and butter.
And for a queer-owned candle company, there’s no passing June without a Pride collection. The five-piece candle collection titled Pride Radiance drops today, June 3, at Boy Smells and select retailers. Throughout June and July, the collection will help fund the important work done at The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ youth—the company has already committed to a $100,000 minimum donation.
The collection’s campaign stars five contemporary icons in queer pop culture and history today, each representing one of the five scents.
Ambrosia, a blend of herbaceous, floral, fruity, and woody scents is embodied by actor Brandon Flynn; Dynasty, an earthy candle rounded out with rhubarb, cyclamen, and pink peppercorn, is inspired by drag star Symone; Rosalita, a floral, rosy scent backed with leather and amber, is modeled after supermodel Leyna Bloom; Extra Vert, an herby candle grounded by mint and tarragon, is depicted by actor Tommy Dorfman; and Philia, a floral mix of ambrette seed, citrus, and musk, is portrayed by drag performer and makeup artist GottMik.
The collection theme, according to a press release, is tied to “radical self-liberation,” which queer and trans people are finding new ways to embody and fight for in an age of heightened LGBTQ+ visibility. Examining the ways everything around us is gendered—smell included—and flipping that on its head is how Boy Smells is entering the conversation.
“Having grown up in the '80s and '90s during a time when being queer came with fear and shame, I have been moved to see our community step into its power with a wider representation and meaningful shows of solidarity,” Matthew Herman, co-founder of Boy Smells, tells Byrdie. “I often refer to Boy Smells as a love letter to a younger and more vulnerable version of myself. It is permission to explore masculinity and femininity simultaneously."
“There is the subtle sense of defiance implied in our brand,” Herman adds. “By calling ourselves ‘Boy’ but packaging ourselves in pink, we mess with the expectation of scent and gender. Girls can smell like boys and boys can smell like girls, if they want to. I have always loved rose and tulip, but only in my 30s allowed myself to fully embrace that side of my identity with compassion and pride.”
What Pride Means Today
The company's ethos celebrates the vast world of scents year-round beyond a gendered approach—in their words, ”genderful.” What does that mean, you ask? The Boy Smells co-founder says it’s about “embracing the spectrum of power within ourselves as well as the spectrum of gender in the world. Why be genderless when you could be genderful? Genderful is a post-binary form of neo-inclusivity, one that includes respecting others for who they are but also allowing yourself to explore the full potential of who you are.”
A variation to the original Boy Smells vessel; the 2021 Pride candles will be housed in a reusable ecru-colored frosted glass tumbler. The scent will have a different colored glaze lining the inside, a subtle celebration of the Pride rainbow. The subtlety is intentional. Herman said they wanted to celebrate Pride with a collection “devoid of rainbow flags or the traditional pitfalls and gimmicks of Pride merchandise. But, they are painted on the inside with a color that only radiates up when the candle is lit. It represents internalizing our values, rather than putting them on parade.”