How it works

  1. We send you a t-shirt
  2. You wear the shirt for three days and three nights without deodorant.
  3. You return the shirt to us in a prepaid envelope.
  4. We send you swatches of t-shirts worn by a selection of other individuals.
  5. You smell the samples and tell us who you like.
  6. If someone whose smell you like likes the smell of you too, we'll facilitate an exchange of contact information.
  7. The rest is up to you.

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The first round of Smell Dating is now closed for registration. Sign up to be notified about our next round!


Q: What is smell?

A: Smell is one of the most poignant and evocative experiences afforded by the human sensory apparatus. Also known as olfaction, it is our physical capacity for detecting and perceiving the molecules around us. It is mediated by specialized sensory cells of the nasal cavity, which can be considered analogous to sensory cells of the antennae of invertebrates. In humans, olfaction occurs when odorant molecules bind to specific sites in the olfactory receptors inside the nose. These come together at the glomerulus, a structure which transmits signals to the olfactory bulb, a part of the brain directly above the nasal cavity and below the frontal lobe. From here, the signals are fed into the limbic system, where emotion and memory are processed, before finally passing into the language-processing frontal cortex. This particular neural pathway means that, unlike sight and sound, smell is interpreted first in terms of memory and emotion before being mapped to language. Although much remains unknown about smell perception, this cognitive process may be the reason that smell is so hard to describe in words, and often thought to be subjective. As researchers Nadia Wagner and Adam Jasper observe, the difficulty with communicating smell is not due to the subjectivity of perception but in describing it in language. This is evident in the English language, which has no specific vocabulary to describe smell and approximates olfactory experience using adjectives borrowed from the other senses.

Q: Why should I chose matches via smell?

A: At Smell Dating we understand the metrics of compatibility are chemical; connection is a matter of intercourse not interface. The Internet has replaced fleshy experience with flat apparitions, avatars and painstakingly curated profile pics. Smell Dating closes digital distance by restoring your molecular intuition. Our members make connections via deeply intuitive cues, perfected in the ancient laboratory of human evolution. Surrender yourself to a poignant experience of body odor.

Q: I'm looking for a serious relationship, is this service for me?

A: The olfactory apparatus is a nontrivial source of information and the extent of its impact on our social lives is currently unknown. However when it comes to long-term romantic partnership it may actually be riskier to ignore the powerful signal of scent than to rely on it. Smell researchers even speculate that high contemporary divorce rates may be related to the overuse of deodorants and the underuse of our natural olfactory intelligence.

Q: Why don't you ask participants about sexual orientation or gender?

A: Smell dating delivers you from prejudicial cultural images that interfere with the ancient cues of attraction. At the same time, a growing body of research suggests that a person's genetic compatibility, gender, age, and predisposition to illness are reflected in their "smell signature." Even in blinded experiments, subjects' smell preferences align broadly with their sexual desires.

Q: Should I wear deodorant or perfume during Smell Dating?

A: We recommend you refrain from wearing deodorant or perfume as it aggressively masks body odor. Embrace the musky possibilities.

Q: Should I refrain from participating in smelly activities, such as smoking or barbeques during the course of the experience?

A: These sorts of activities will imbue odors to your sample. However notes of your habits and lifestyle also provide rich cues to your potential matches.

Q: Why does this cost $25?

A: Our fee covers the cost of our service, including t-shirt and shipping costs. The Smell Dating pilot program is not-for-profit. Our finances are available upon request.

Q: What will happen after I return my sample?

A: You will be sent 10 samples from which to select matches. After smelling them carefully, you'll be asked to enter your preferred matches into our database. Mutual matches will receive one another's phone numbers.

Q: Is my genetic data safe?

A: We really don't know. Rest assured we are committed to an intuitive experience of the world rather than an analytical one. For now, we will only share your anonymized genetic sample with our members. Our terms and conditions may change in the future based on our capricious whims.

Q: What if I match with someone who's not "my type"?

A: Don't worry, social stratification may well be legible in odor cues. Trust yourself, your nose knows.

Reading List

Buck, Linda B. "Unraveling the sense of smell (Nobel lecture)." Angewandte Chemie International Edition 44, no. 38 (2005): 6128-6140.

Dani, Sergio Ulhoa, Winfried Marz, Paulo Mauricio Serrano Neves, and Gerhard Franz Walter. "Pairomics, the omics way to mate choice." Journal of human genetics 58, no. 10 (2013): 643-656.

Immanuel Kant. Reflexionen zur Anthropologie (Rice land,1882).

Jasper, Adam, and Nadia Wagner. "Notes on Scent."(2008).

Roberts, Thomas, and Jonathan P. Roiser. "In the nose of the beholder: are olfactory influences on human mate choice driven by variation in immune system genes or sex hormone levels?." Experimental Biology and Medicine 235, no. 11 (2010): 1277-1281.

Sibley, Frank. "Tastes, smells, and aesthetics." Approach to Aesthetics: Collected Papers on Philosophical Aesthetics (2001): 207-55.

Wedekind, Claus, Thomas Seebeck, Florence Bettens, and Alexander J. Paepke. "MHC-dependent mate preferences in humans." Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 260, no. 1359 (1995): 245-249.


Project by Tega Brain in collaboration with Sam Lavigne and Useless Press. Concept by Tega Brain. Website by Sam Lavigne. Graphic design by Imp Kerr. Video by Tega Brain. Noses owned by the wonderful students of ITP, NYU.