I’m a candle girl. I’m gifted candles for nearly every major holiday. I love any kind, from the fat three-wick, pumpkin spice-flavored tubs of wax you buy for $8 at TJ Maxx to the fancy little French ones that go for $70 each. Hell, I even love the plain white, unscented ones meant for church. I feel as though this is one of my more womanly interests.
The thing is, candles are among the many gender-neutral objects that continue to be coded as feminine. Sure, they’ve been a source of light for over 5,000 years — and many of the biggest candle companies in the world like Yankee Candle and Trudon were created by men — but fuck it, they’re for the girls. At the same time, if you Google “candles for women,” your search will yield options that don’t seem particularly gendered. There’s a candle scent designed by Kasey Musgraves, an extremely neutral-looking candle sold at J.Crew and, unfortunately, Gwyneth Paltrow’s “This Smells Like My Vagina” candle. And yes, “candles for women” are sometimes pink or floral-themed, but for the most part, they’re really just little tubes of wax with flames on the end, gender be damned.
“Candles for men,” however, are weirdly hyper-masculine. There are “man cave” scents, candles called “Suit and Tie” and candles with literal pictures of men on the labels. The message here is clear: Candles are so obviously female that so-called “male” candles need to be explicitly identified as such. Luckily, there are a few men attempting to change this.
On both TikTok and Instagram, male “candle influencers” share recommendations for candles to buy, tips for properly maintaining them and even how to make your own. One creator, SirCandleMan, shares videos with titles like “3 Perfect Candles for When Y’all Sneaky Links Are Coming Over” and “You Are Lighting Your Candles Wrong, I’ll Show You the Proper Way.” Currently, he has more than 100,000 followers on TikTok and just under 30,000 on Instagram. His recommendations have even been featured in New York magazine. Notably, none of his picks are outwardly “masculine” in their branding.
Taking things one step further, there surprisingly appears to be a larger community of men who actually make candles themselves. One creator, ArdentCandle, has several videos on TikTok with millions of views each. (His most popular candles look like bowls of cereal.) Often, people who place orders for his candles request that he make a TikTok filming the entire process of creating the candles. One person even bought every single candle he offers online for this purpose.
Another creator, TheWinCandle, specializes in candles that are created much like perfumes, with base, middle and top notes packaged in chic, minimalist jars. “I’m sooo happy I found a male candle-maker,” one person commented in a video of him showing off his products. Meanwhile at the end of January, a creator named Freddy Arteaga made a video demonstrating his batch-candle making process with the caption, “Crush: I’m a slut for candles.” The video then shows him whipping up a few waxy boys to appeal to said crush.
For all of these guys, branding themselves as men who make candles is seemingly part of their marketing process. Given that it’s still a unique niche, it certainly allows them to stand out (at least for now). And as a fan of candles myself, thank goodness. Having a nice-smelling space illuminated by a warm flame is a universally enjoyable experience! One that humanity has been experiencing for thousands of years!
When you look at it that way, the span of history in which candles have been considered feminine has barely been a blink of the eye. And maybe, thanks in large part to the male candle aficionados of Instagram and TikTok, it will be over soon enough anyway.