A Man’s Guide to Cologne: How to Find the Perfect Scent

Cologne is an essential part of any man’s medicine cabinet, but there are some dos and donts. Here are some tips on your cologne usage.

Don’t Be a Cheapskate!

Listen, cologne isn’t cheap. Cologne comes in different sized bottles (1 fl. oz.; 1.7 fl. oz. and 3.3 fl. oz.). Depending on the size, a good bottle of cologne can cost anywhere from $30 to $70, but it’s worth it. Women (probably the main reason you’re wearing the stuff) can tell the difference between the cheap stuff and the real deal. Cheap cologne smells synthetic and unpleasant. It doesn’t last very long, either.

So, pass up the guy on the street in Chinatown selling the stuff for five bucks a pop. You want to go to the fragrance counter at a department store. Ask the sales clerk some questions and try a few samples. Find something that fits you.

If you’re concerned about the price, go to a place such as Marshall’s or T.J. Maxx, which sell surplus, designer merchandise at discount prices. Usually, you can find a bottle of good cologne for half its normal price.

Moderation is the Key

As with most things in life, moderation is the key with cologne. If someone can smell your cologne from five feet away, you’re wearing too much. In fact, you’re wearing way too much. Your cologne should help you create a sense of intimacy. The point is to get someone close enough to notice it. A couple of sprays is all you need.

That being said, spray it directly on to your skin (on the neck and/or wrist), instead of your shirt. The scent will last much longer, ensuring it will last through out the day.

Finding Your Scent

With so many fragrances to choose from, picking one can be daunting. First, consider its purpose. Are you looking for a cologne for everyday wear or for going out? Some work for both, but for the most part, what you wear to the office and what you where to the club is going to be different.

Second, take into account how the scent will change over the course of a day. Colognes are composed of different “notes,” or the different individual scents that make up the cologne as a whole. The top notes are what you smell right away. The middle notes are what you smell after a couple hours of wear. The base notes are what’s left at the end of the day. Also, consider the strength of the cologne. Some will go strong for up to six or seven hours, others will start fading after a couple hours.

Third, colognes generally fall into three different fragrance families: fresh, aromatic and woody. Fresh colognes have notes such as green leaves, sea breeze accord and moss. Fresh colognes have a great clean, just-out-of-the-shower smell and are great for casual wear.

Aromatic colognes have notes such as ginger, citrus and vanilla. Aromatic colognes can vary greatly but often have a citrus or spicy scent. They’re usually subtle to moderate scents that can make the transition from the office to the club.

Woody colognes, as the name suggests, have notes such as sandalwood, cedar and suede. Woody colognes have a musky, masculine sent. They’re typically moderate to strong scents that will last all day and are perfect for special events or a night out.

Finally, variety is the spice of life. It’s good to have a “signature scent,” but wearing the same cologne day in and day out is boring. Find two or three colognes you really like and rotate them.

Some Recommendations

Nautica makes some great fresh colognes, especially Blue, Regatta and Oceans. You also can’t go wrong with Burberry or Kenneth Cole colognes. Guess also makes two very good colognes: Suede and Man.