If you thought Tinder was a sign of a dating apocalypse in the digital age, just wait until you hear about Smell Dating. The company claims that it will send you a t-shirt that you wear for three days straight before returning it, and in exchange you’ll receive assorted swatches of t-shirts worn by other Smell Daters just like you. If your nose and someone else’s nose agree that you’re a match, Smell Dating will facilitate an introduction.
It’s not clear whether Smell Dating is a legitimate dating service or more of an artistic experiment. Artist Tega Brain and editor and researcher Sam Lavigne produced the project with Useless Press, which describes itself as “a publishing collective that creates eclectic Internet things.” But according to the Smell Dating website and some enthusiastic reviewers, it looks like the romantic t-shirt exchange has already completed its first round of matchmaking. Legitimate or not, the project is centered around the idea that smell is one of our most evocative, intimate senses.
Supposedly, using your nose to assess potential partners is a more natural, intuitive process than other contemporary dating options. “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.” The company urges Smell Daters to forego deodorant and perfumes during the three days and nights of infusing the t-shirt with natural body odor.
Participating in Smell Dating costs $25 to help cover the company’s costs like t-shirts and shipping, since the project is not-for-profit during this “pilot program” period. When daters receive the shipment of 10 stinky t-shirt swatches, the only information to go on will be what you can surmise using your olfactory function. No personal information is included with the samples, including the absence of gender identifiers. Once you’ve chosen the odorous samples you like most, you enter your preferences in the Smell Dating database. If your smelly suitor likes your stench back, each of you will receive the other’s phone number. “Trust yourself,” goes the Smell Dating mantra, “your nose knows.”