Choosing a New Fragrance: An Introduction to Colognes

Whether you are a one-fragrance man in search for his next signature scent or a beginner collector looking to add a new bottle to the rotation, choosing a new fragrance can be a daunting task. With so many options, it can be hard to pick out what you want to spend your hard-earned cash on. Much like an investment, fragrance shopping should be done with thought and care.

To make sure that your investment doesn’t become a waste, here are key factors to be aware off when choosing a new scent for yourself.

Your Preference

When choosing a new fragrance, get a general idea about what kind of smells you like, then choose a fragrance that has those ingredients in its composition. Sites like fragrantica.com and basenotes.com give you a detailed note break-down of almost every fragrance in the world.  Woods in general, musk, citrus, tobacco (not the burnt cigarette kind), leather, patchouli, vetiver, and spices like cinnamon are classically masculine notes.

 

The most Important, however, is your personal taste. You are buying this expensive concoction of oils and alcohol for your enjoyment. The fact that many people tout a fragrance as a “must-own” masterpiece in a bottle, does not mean that you should get it without trying it out. That’s what’s referred to as a “blind buy”. You may end up not even liking it.  Also, keep in mind that there are no such things as  a “straight-man’s” cologne  or a “gay-man’s” perfume. Scents do not discriminate, it’s people that needlessly label. You should smell the way that you want to smell, if you want to smell like a delicate little powdery flower (Kenzo Power by Kenzo) or a scrumptious dessert (A*Men by Thierry Mugler), go for it. It’s better than smelling like a sweaty old man, unless you are, that is. And if you are one, take a shower and splash on some Brut.  Fragrance, like designer clothing, is a luxury. As such, spend your disposable income in a way that pleases you.

 

Price

Price is secondary to enjoyment,  so long as the price is within reason. There’s no point in being stingy and ending up with a mediocre product, but there’s no point in emptying your wallet for something that leaves you with buyer’s remorse, either. In my experience, the majority of fragrances in Canada range from $15-$400+. $60 should be enough to get something decent, $40 if you Google around.  More on buying fragrances here.  Not all expensive fragrances are worth the price tag (I’m pointing the finger at most of Tom Ford’s private collection and some Creeds), and some cheap fragrances are surprisingly well made. Like the ones on my “Cheapies but goodies” article. With that said, if the product is worth your while, invest in the bottle and love the fact that you’ll smell amazing.

Appropriate Gender

Fragrance knows no gender, what matters is what you associate to it. Naturally, I wouldn’t recommend that you beeline towards the lady frags next time you go shopping, but  know that with the advent of many modern men’s fragrances, the line between masculine and feminine scents has been blurred. Such grey-area fragrances are Vancleef and Arpels’ Midnight in Paris, Dior Homme, and the two I mentioned before. On top of that, there are some women that actually pull off fragrances marketed towards men, and do it well. If you’re like me, stick to manly classics with manly notes like Dior Fahrenheit, Terre d’Hermes, and my personal favorite, WD40. You can get that last one for a steal if you look in the right place. 

 

Uniqueness of the Scent

Certain fragrances can be found and smelt everywhere and on everyone. Some of you may not care that Bob, his uncle, his brother, his buddy, and even his grampa wear the same Armani Acqua di Gio or Cool Water by Davidoff that you want to wear. You just want to smell good and that’s all that matters.  I get it.  Some colognes are popular for good reason, because they get the job done. You spray it, you like it, she likes it, and you get complemented on it.  “Easy”.  Still, hear me out on this, that Eau de Conformity could be hurting your game rather than helping it. Like your clothes, your smell is part of your identity, and it’s how others perceive you. You don’t want to be perceived as generic , and I’ll wager that you don’t want to smell like someone’s ex. And I know  that you definitely don’t want her to remember you as the guy that smells like her ex or her brother. To be memorable, you have to be different. No need to go into super expensive niche territory, just steer clear of the herd musk. Spend a little more time searching for something awesome that’s under the general public’s radar. The fragrance community is your best friend for that.

Your Compatibility with the Scent

Like a fingerprint, we all have a different scent signature due to our individual biochemistry. Finding a cologne that works with you is not always as easy as picking up the first bottle you like or choosing based on others’ words. Don’t trust how it smells on paper or directly from the sprayer nozzle, either. Fragrances are finicky things that can noticeably vary from person to person. What smells great on your buddy, may not smell good on your body. Know what works on you.

Longevity

The staying power of a fragrance. Longevity generally ranges from 1-12 hours. 6-8 hours would be a decent average to expect. Some extreme fragrances have beast-mode longevity and will stick to you long after tomorrow’s shower, while others fizzle out and leave you before you leave the house. How long a fragrance is perceptible after the initial spritz depends on three main things: the weather; the ingredients in the sauce; and your skin chemistry.

Projectionprojection

Projection is how far from the skin the fragrance can be notived.Think of projection as a scented force-field;the scent-field.

Something with high projection can be smelt a few feet away, and something with low projection would be a more tamed skin-scent, only noticeable in close quarters. I recommend to err on the side of caution so you don’t choke people out when you enter a room.

Sillage

Sillage is the scent trail that lingers on after you’re gone. Personally, when I leave a room, I like that everything about me leaves with me. If you watched Pepe le Pew, you’ll know what I mean.

Seasonal Relevance

Most fragrances fall into two categories,” warm weather” and “cool weather”.Four_seasons

A fragrance shows its true potential when used in its appropriate season. Stay relevant with the seasons.  Cool weather fragrances in the high-heat can nauseate. Warm weather fragrances in the low-cold will disappear.

Warm weather calls for fresh and energizing scents to cut through the heat. Spring and summer are a good time to wear aquatic and citrus fragrances like Versace’s Man Eau Fraiche and Perry Ellis’ 360 Red. These kinds of scents tend to be light scents that don’t overpower, especially good on stifling, humid Canadian summer days.

When the temperature drops, it’s time to bust out some cool weather frag grenades, the fall/winter seasons call for rich and comforting scents with high projection and resilience to weather through the cold. Warm spicy and woody fragrances like Victor and Rolf’s Spicebomb and Burberry’s London for Men are proper.

A few fragrances along the lines of Bleu de Chanel by Chanel and L’Homme by YSL are great all season scents.

Occasion & Purpose

Scents can be casual or formal.

Generally speaking, for work or something formal you will want something pleasant and inoffensive. Chances are that you will be inside a climate controlled environment so L’Homme and Bleu will fit the bill.

Casual scents can be just about anything you want. Fun and clubby scents like Carolina Herrera’s CH for Men, or something sexy like The One by Dolce & Gabanna, whatever works.

If you can get past iris/make-up notes,  Dior Homme works great for just about any occasion.

Compliment factor

While this really should not be the deciding factor, for many of us, it is. As men, we buy fragrances with the intention of attracting our mates. We want to hear that we smell sexy, and we want the object of our desire to be so intoxicated by our scent that they can’t get themselves off of us. As straight men, women are the reason that we shower and change our underwear, in the first place. It’s only natural to want to smell good to the fairer sex, whichever sex is fair to you. Again, not always will the most complimented fragrance be your favorite. You are buying the juice for yourself, so stay true to yourself.

Age

Age is another grey-area when it comes to fragrances. The smell of some frags may have a clear-cut age range to some, but there are ageless ones available. Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille (one of TF’s greats) and Yves Saint Laurent’s Rive Gauche, are fairly mature scents that would not fit into a teenager’s budget or style. As for an adult, fragrances along the lines of Pacco Rabanne’s 1 Million or Tommy Hilfiger by Tommy Hilfiger should have no place in a grown man’s wardrobe. Hugo Boss’s Boss Bottled No.6, Versace pour Homme by Versace, Dolce & Gabanna’s Pour homme, and Allure Homme Sport by Chanel are some fragrances that work for  both young and mature.

Don’t take the age bracket too seriously, though, age is just a number.

Thank you for reading Principles of Style. I hope you enjoy this post and found the blog useful. If you have any questions, feedback, or want to share some of your style and scent tips, tricks, and insights, please leave your input in the comments section below, or send me a PM.

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