How to Smell: Walk of Shame




First, can we talk about the name?

The phrase “walk of shame” is slang, so there are generations that will get it and generations that won’t. For those unfamiliar with the phrase, here’s the deal: When you exit someone else’s dwelling early in the morning to walk home after a night out that ended in naughtiness, hair disheveled, outfit totally inappropriate for the time of day—that is the walk of shame. It’s knowing that everyone you pass knows what you did you last night because you’re practically advertising it. As you can imagine, “walk of shame” is a term that gets plenty of use on college campuses. And despite the Puritanical implications, calling someone out for a walk of shame is a playful teasing, not a judgmental shaming. 

Brent Leonesio’s Walk of Shame also teases, and like many of the scents in his Smell Bent line, it's full of humor. Just look at the crazy pink platform heels on the bottle and imagine seeing those stumbling down the street at 7 a.m. on a Sunday. How could you not laugh?

"Brent, at Smell Bent, is so great at capturing the honest side of humanity," says Saskia Wilson-Brown, founder of the Institute for Art and Olfaction and the guest curator who selected Walk of Shame as an Olfactif featured scent. "I felt like that somewhat naughty feeling that comes along with the first blush of love is so integral to the whole experience [of a love affair]. Walk of Shame seemed like a very appropriate perfume for [this collection]." 

Now, let’s dig in and relish all the ways in which this little marvel of a scent manages to embody everything we just described—and much more.

First impressions: Top notes

The first thing you might notice about Walk of Shame is that it lacks the bubbly, effervescent top notes that you often experience in perfumes. There's a slightly peppery tingle and an unusual blast of smoky vinyl that has an almost mentholated smell and captures just the right amount of bizarreness and confusion that you might be feeling on your 7 a.m. shuffle home. But it’s as though Leonesio has turned the volume on these top notes down to a whisper. It's like striking a big, unusual chord on the piano while holding down the damper pedal.

And that's as it should be. After all, if you’re walking home the morning after, chances are that you haven’t showered. Last night’s perfume is gone, save a few stubborn base notes. You’re basically a musky little creature smelling like lived-in skin—yours and perhaps someone else’s. So Walk of Shame is, appropriately, a subtle skin scent right from the start. 

Sensations and scenery: Middle notes

The official list of notes starts with “overcast skies,” and you can thank iris for that impression. The iris note found in perfumery comes from the root, called orris root, and it often has a powdery, earthy scent. (It's also a costly ingredient because orris butter comes from a root that has been aged for as many as five years.) Iris–focused compositions often come across as elegant, but the note also can have a heaviness or density. Just like humidity, it can add an almost palpable texture and weight to the air, and that’s the effect in Walk of Shame. It’s how Leonesio invokes the gloominess of an early morning under overcast skies. 

At the heart of Walk of Shame, you’ll also find what the official notes list calls “a waft of bodega blossoms.” This light, abstract floral accord is barely there, like the miscellaneous cut flowers sitting in plastic buckets outside the flower bodegas that line the sidewalks on your early-morning walk home. (On that note, perhaps we can thank those plastic buckets for the cold, plasticky blast that persists for a few minutes on the skin before the base revs up.)  

Integration: Base notes

The notes list mentions “a bit of morning-after musk,” and that’s what you get in the dry down of Walk of Shame. This isn’t an overly animalic musk; instead, it’s a comforting concoction of musk with hints of mint and sweet cream. 

Sound strange? It is, in the best possible way. Much like the love affair it’s meant to represent, Walk of Shame starts out a little wild and gradually evolves into something gentler and calmer. (After all, the affairs that stay wild never last, do they?)


Read more How to Smell guides or get your full bottle of Walk of Shame.