Too Many Perfume Choices: What Appeals to You, Guys?
December 23, 2004 1:02 PM   Subscribe

I need to get opinions on perfume, specifically from men, but women's experiences will help as well. (MI)

About 5 years ago I stopped wearing perfume and started just splashing on a fruit or flower scented body splash after showers. (Did I lose the men already?)

I'd really like to start wearing perfume again but my problem is that a) i'm totally overwhelmed when I go into Dillards and i'm faced with 6000 to choose from and b) I want something that actually appeals to men because a lot of colognes that men wear make me go into convulsions. Ladies, is there one you've come across that always gets compliments from men? Men, do you even prefer for women to wear perfume? Any suggestions of ones to try would be greatly appreciated.
posted by Ugh to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (51 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A friend of mine just started wearing Armani Mania and it's quite nice without being too pungent. However, I prefer no perfume or just the smallest amount.
posted by FlamingBore at 1:15 PM on December 23, 2004

I'm also not a big fan of perfume on women, but I'm not a fan of women wearing makeup either. Also, I think I've heard rumors of perfume negating effects of pheremones, but I might just be making that up.
posted by spaghetti at 1:26 PM on December 23, 2004

However, I prefer no perfume or just the smallest amount.

I'm not a guy, but I agree with this. And remember - when you first start wearing the perfume, it's the only thing that you'll smell because you're not used to it. Over time (it may be as short as a couple days, or as long as a couple months), you may not be able to smell it anymore once a little while passes after you put it on. Don't reapply! Other people can smell it, but you've tuned it out. This is how a lot of people go overboard - they're kind of desensitized to it, but lots of other people are overwhelmed.

I wore, up until recently, the same perfume, and I would get compliments on it. I'd sniff my wrist (where I normally spray), and I'd smell nothing. But other people noticed it, so I knew that it was "getting out there," so to speak. BTW, it was Ralph Lauren's Romance.

Now, I've switched to D&G's Feminine. I didn't like it when I first tried it on at Sephora. But after about an hour, I really started to like it. It's a very soft, warm scent. If you're looking for something a little cleaner, D&G also makes a perfume called "Light Blue" that my friend wears, and it's incredible. I'd get it myself, but I wanted to try something I normally wouldn't wear.

Of course, I'm a girl. Who knows - maybe guys want me to smell like beer.
posted by AlisonM at 1:28 PM on December 23, 2004 [1 favorite]

I'm not a big fan of commercial colognes and perfume, because they always seem to have a little bit of a chemical after-smell to me. I usually go with not-too-sweet rose oil mixed with not-too-sweet sandalwood oil. However, I am a big fan of Guerlain's Imperiale (wow, I love that sale price) for men or women. Very cirtrusy, fresh, and complex. Right now my favorite scent is Premier Figuier, a greeny, herby fresh fig smell. Yum.
posted by Specklet at 1:32 PM on December 23, 2004

I have a terrible sense of smell, and probably wear some kind of scent about 3 or 4 times a year, but I would definitely recommend sticking with products that are made from natural oils and essences, instead of the chemical approximations most mass-market stuff uses.

I use stuff from L'Occitane, which I like, but my wife has a perfume she picked up in Hawaii that's basically "Essence of Gardenia", and it smells amazing. It just takes a few drops, at most, and the effect is not some kind of weird concoction dreamed up in a lab--just a really nice, natural flower scent. (She also has a small vial of "Shalimar" that she uses when we go out on the town--that's one of those "investment" perfumes, that costs an arm and a leg for a teeny amount, but lasts forever since you only use a few drops of that, as well.)
posted by LairBob at 1:33 PM on December 23, 2004

Perfume is almost completely subjective. Perfume I didn't like became magical due to a relationship. And vice, versa.

That said, from a marketing perspective, I'd check out Channel. The French do "subtle" amazingly well.
posted by ParisParamus at 1:37 PM on December 23, 2004

(FYI, the scent of a woman!)
posted by ParisParamus at 1:40 PM on December 23, 2004

Man here. Obsession (for women) is irrestibale.

Chanel No. 5 is a classic, too.

Like a lot of things in life, however, less is more.
posted by fixedgear at 1:41 PM on December 23, 2004

Err, irresistible.
posted by fixedgear at 1:42 PM on December 23, 2004

I don't have druthers towards particular perfume. The absolute best is thinking I smelled something and then having to get a little closer to make sure. Even then, it's when I can't tell if it is her or the perfume, boy howdy. Ergo, I think the best smelling women are the ones where I happen into their personal space—invited or by serendipity. The scent becomes them and not the other way around.
posted by pedantic at 1:42 PM on December 23, 2004

This boy thinks that the most important thing about perfume is context. Heavy, musky scents are good for evenings out on the town but not everyday use around the office. Lighter scents are better for daily use. Like clothes, its not just how they smell, its how appropriate it is for the situation.
posted by googly at 1:45 PM on December 23, 2004

Anytime my wife wears Liz Taylor's Passion, I, um, get excited.

But be careful though. Anytime I catch a whiff of CK One, I immediately think of my ex-girlfriend, and then get depressed. You may trigger that same effect on others.

'Til I met my wife, of course. Ahem.
posted by icontemplate at 1:49 PM on December 23, 2004

My last boyfriend loved the smell of L'Eau D'Issey by Issey Miyake.
posted by Julnyes at 1:54 PM on December 23, 2004

I'm with many others here on the chemical non-natural ingredients. I find myself having allergic reactions to a lot of men's so-called perfumes (I've come to think of them as stink-bombs). I'm not a wildly allergic sorta person either, but there is something being used in these scents that triggers a headache and scratchy throat.
That said, I don't wear any scent anymore, my husband cannot tolerate them, and I find so much is overdone that I prefer to remember what I smell like.
posted by dbmcd at 1:56 PM on December 23, 2004

Straight fellow here. My opinions are, you should know, objective fact. Truth--philosophers and ontologists calibrate entire schemas of thought based on my reaction to them.

The entire perfume industry could fold up and die, and there would be no tragedy in my eyes (or nose!).

Also, you don't need to wear anywhere near as much makeup as you do.

Mind you, I'm also baffled as to why women in general don't rise up en masse and demand their clothes be sized by actual units of measure instead of the more prevalent random-number-generator approach.

But, see the important first note of the overwhelming majestic truth of my viewpoints.

So mote it be!
posted by Drastic at 1:59 PM on December 23, 2004


start here: sephora

think about what smells you like; generally, you want two perfumes - one for every day, one for special occasions. regarding scents, no, we don't want you to smell like beer. i say do your research, then march into dillards and say to the lady behind the counter "i want a scent with these notes." there's no real way to do research online since smellovision isn't quite here yet.

as far as names, you can never go wrong with cartier. betsey johnson is also good, and i have a thing for sandalwood, so i dig cavalli.

(i wear john varvatos now that dkny is no longer in production; take that for what it's worth and however you may feel that colors my advice.)
posted by sachinag at 2:10 PM on December 23, 2004

Please, please avoid "powdery" smelling varieties. Reminding us of changing diapers isn't sexy.
posted by Tubes at 2:22 PM on December 23, 2004

"My last boyfriend loved the smell of L'Eau D'Issey by Issey Miyake."

I second that; somewhat sickening at first exposure, but soon-enough irresistible.

On the other hand, worst perfume ever: Fendi, circa 1988. That chick in Environmental Law class--oy!
posted by ParisParamus at 2:24 PM on December 23, 2004

one thing i'm not that keen on are flowery perfumes. and another vote for not too strong.

to be honest, though, i think i particular perfumes get their power from association with people. i don't ever remember falling in love with a person because of their perfume, but, having fallen for someone, their perfume soon becomes a recognisable "trigger".
posted by andrew cooke at 2:28 PM on December 23, 2004

This prior thread had valuable information on favorite perfumes. It was a request for a younger-smelling scent, but quickly digressed into very general perfume recommendations.
posted by naxosaxur at 2:32 PM on December 23, 2004

Dillards? March into Saks or Bloomingdales!
posted by ParisParamus at 2:37 PM on December 23, 2004

As others have said, just use a tiny bit of the stuff. I'm not much into perfumes or colognes (I prefer to smell like nothing) but when a woman wears just a little bit of something, it's a big turn on. I rather like it when I can't smell a thing until I lean in close to whisper something or to talk in a loud, crowded place. Then, when it hits me, I'm kinda already there next to her hair, etc and it's . . . um . . .

Oh man, now I gotta take a cold shower.

How about the flip-side? How does it work for women and men's fragrances? I had a girlfriend who'd flip out when I used an off the shelf brand of after-shave, but have never experimented with anything beyond that. Perhaps it's something I should be looking into?
posted by aladfar at 2:43 PM on December 23, 2004

Yet another male voting for barely any if at all. A clean or mostly-clean girl smells better than any flowery shit anyhow, y'know?
posted by squidlarkin at 3:07 PM on December 23, 2004

I live in Little Rock so the nearest Saks or Bloomingdales is hundreds of miles away. Apparently, I know even less than I thought I did: I had no idea you should wear different scents for days and nights.
posted by Ugh at 3:27 PM on December 23, 2004

Mmm. Clean Girl Smell.
posted by exlotuseater at 3:36 PM on December 23, 2004

There is a classic survey, often referred to in the beauty industry, in which men expressed strong preferences for vanilla, ginger, and lavender scents. I am too lazy to find a linky to it now, though.

In theory, one should have a "casual" perfume and a "special occasions" perfume. If you're going out for a dinner of pizza and beer in your jeans and sweater, wear the "casual" perfume; if you're dressed up in heels and hose, the "special occasions" perfume is the one. It's not exactly a day/night dichotomy--you probably want to wear the fancy perfume to a fancy daytime wedding, for example.

As far as I'm concerned, the best perfumes in the world right now are from Jo Malone. They're incredible. If that's too pricey or hard to find for you, try Demeter .

Cheap perfumes and colognes are very, very bad. Invariably, the oils oxidize and start to smell rancid. Also, perfume/cologne isn't something you can buy in bulk to save money--you need to buy it in small increments so you don't wind up throwing away (or, worse, using) half a bottle that's gone bad.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:43 PM on December 23, 2004

Honestly, I prefer no perfume, it's distracting and it makes me sneeze. And the actual scent of a woman is far more erotic than any fragrance.
posted by jonmc at 3:43 PM on December 23, 2004

For aladfar: I think that women want men's cologne to be sparingly applied and neither floral nor musky in scent. Above all, avoid the dreaded patchouli oil and sandalwood.

"Citrus" and "green" are the scent spectrums that surveys show women prefer in men's cologne. ("Green" smells include pine needles, freshly cut grass, and other green things like those).

Dior's Eau Sauvage, CKOne, and Hugo by Hugo Boss (not Boss by Hugo Boss, which smells like a bad accident in an apple-pie factory) are some favorites of mine.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:49 PM on December 23, 2004

I'm a fan of the Demeter line of fragrances. I haven't found any of them to be too strong or overwhelming, and the scents available (Sephora doesn't have the entire line, unfortunately) are eerily accurate. My favorites are Ginger Ale, Dirt and Sugar Cookie. I love body products that smell like food. I'd buy mashed potato soap if someone made it.
posted by makonan at 3:57 PM on December 23, 2004

Demeter Ginger Ale is incredible on everyone. Sugar Cookie is good on most people. Dirt smells horrible on me and wonderful on other people (by "Dirt" here, they mean the fantastic smell of clean dirt after a gentle rain--warm and spicy). I also love Rain, Earl Grey Tea, and Gin and Tonic in the Demeter line.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:14 PM on December 23, 2004 [1 favorite]

Another recommendation for Demeter. I wear Wet Garden, which smells exactly like it sounds.

posted by sugarfish at 5:31 PM on December 23, 2004 [1 favorite]

If you must wear perfume, wear it in small amounts (walk into the spray, don't spray it on), and only for special occasions. Please, please don't asphixiate the poor saps in the surrounding cubes all day at work!

Additionally, no one will take you seriously in business if you smell like a flower.
posted by rushmc at 5:38 PM on December 23, 2004

I'm a guy with a particular sensitivity to scent, and here's my general advice:

The overall category of coconut/mily/vanilla/sugar sort of sweet scent says "hoochie mama" to me, since that seems to be what all the Fly Girls with the Ugly Hats are wearing gallons of. That's not to say that a little sweetness isn't pleasant, or that it should be all flower all the time, but that if there's enough of the stuff to notice, it's not a good thing. Or at least, not a good thing if you don't want to inadvertently associate you with the girls who are swimming in vanilla.

The "less is more" principle is actually far more important than what scent you choose. The effect you should be going for is that of subliminal suggestion. The best of all would be to wear about as much stinkum as a mildly scented soap would leave behind. More than that is excessive, and likely to make my eyes turn red and watery. Ideally, nobody will notice you've got perfume on unless they're undressing you.

Go around and sniff bottles. It's an overwhelming selection, but you'll get a sense for what sort of thing suits your taste and what you might want to sample more carefully.
posted by majick at 5:38 PM on December 23, 2004

I'm in the camp of "very small amounts" that leans towards "none at all". Just about every product a woman or man can buy is already loaded with fake fragrance of some sort. You shampoo/condition your hair, and there's one scent. Body wash, there's another scent. It's in our laundry detergent, deodorant, lotion, even in makeup. Add a cologne or perfume to all of that mess and it just becomes overwhelming.

If you go with the perfume approach, you might consider removing the scents from your other products so that they're not fighting with each other all day long. Or, conversely, you could opt for perfume-free products save for a lightly scented lotion or an essential oil that was mentioned upthread.
posted by erisfree at 6:06 PM on December 23, 2004

I hate heavy perfume. For a while I wore Cristalle, and I've been wearing Clinique Happy for several years now -- both are light and citrus-y. You can buy low-key scent at the Gap, any bath&body store, etc. Ideally you'll find something that makes you feel like a super-goddess when you wear it (and other people will think so too).
posted by oldtimey at 7:06 PM on December 23, 2004

I'm with the other like perfume boys. A great scent out of no where is enough to drive this fella crazy. Seriously, the reptillian areas of my brain just takes over. Unfortunately my partner is allergic to just about everything.
posted by jmgorman at 7:07 PM on December 23, 2004

A French x-gf turned me on the the joys of fragrance. Previously I had been of the "I like the natural scent of a woman" school. Now perfume has become an important part of my life. I love to help choose a new fragrance for a new relationship; the new scent becomes like an ongoing reminder that we are together. I find that both comforting and exciting.

The x-gf was a perfume genius. She knew exactly what would smell great on her for any particular occassion. Two of my favorites that she wore were Kenzo, and Le B. Both are very complex and rich without being heavy or cloying. Of course scent is very much an individual thing but I heartily recommend that you check those out.

I just bought Curve by Liz Claiborne for a niece for XMas. It's very citrusy with some woodsiness. It's very young and sporty.
posted by TimeFactor at 7:42 PM on December 23, 2004

Oh, and I love to hear recommendations for men's fragrance. I've never found one that is really right for me. Most are too heavy and intrusive. Too much tobacco/musk/wood smell. I'd ideally like something lighter but still masculine.
posted by TimeFactor at 7:48 PM on December 23, 2004

The Demeter Fragrances sound pretty good, but i'm a little confused. I looked them up here:

and they have Turpentine, Rubber, Earthworm? Do they smell exactly like all these things or am I missing something?
posted by Ugh at 8:44 PM on December 23, 2004

They probably do smell like those things, and they probably don't sell a lot of them (although the scent of rubber is a sexual fetish for some people).

Some of the Demeter scents are mostly for a joke, I think. There's an ice-cream place here in Cambridge (MA, USA) that has "clam chowder" ice cream on the menu for much the same reason. If you ask for a taste, they give you a little spoonful of frozen clam chowder. Yes, it tastes like ass.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:48 PM on December 23, 2004

Other men's fragrances I like:

Kenzo L'Eau par Kenzo; Issey Miyake L'Eau d'Issey pour Homme.

Try the Sephora Fragrance Finder.

My lovely husband, alas, hates fragrance on himself or on me, so I almost never wear any and find myself sniffing my fragranced male friends longingly.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:52 PM on December 23, 2004

She's married! ; (
posted by ParisParamus at 9:15 PM on December 23, 2004

I used to like White Linen--until I notice that my brother-in-law's mom started wearing it...
posted by ParisParamus at 9:20 PM on December 23, 2004

also remember that perfume is the most concentrated form of fragrance (generally between 20-40% scent), and that there's a range that heads down to eau de parfum and then eau de toilette (generally under 8%, sometimes called a "splash" also). personally, i wear an eau de toilette that is simply the scent of linden blossom (tilleul in french) and find that's the right level of subtlety for me.
posted by judith at 10:42 PM on December 23, 2004

I saw this tread and had hoped to be the only one to mention Demeter! Dammit!

Ugh, they always smell like whatever the name of the scent is. "Dirt" magically smells like dirt. Ditto "riding crop" or "snow" or whatever. "Gin and tonic" basically smells like my breath some nights, so I don't bother buying any. A couple of the alcohol-related scents could get you fired.

4711 is a very old French cologne for men--Napoleon used it--and perhaps too citrusy for many, but is very refreshing, and quite inexpensive. On the other end of that scale, "Havana" was a discontinued scent with a lovely tobacco element, but it was an old favorite of mine.
posted by lackutrol at 1:23 AM on December 24, 2004

Couldn't find an actual study, but this article mentions a Dr. Alan Hirsch that studied scents and male arousal. From the article:

... pumpkin pie-lavender mixture increased male arousal -- as measured by penile blood flow -- an average of 40 percent. The black licorice-doughnuts mixture increased male arousal an average of 32 percent. The pumpkin pie-doughnuts combination increased male arousal an average of 20 percent. The smell of buttered popcorn increased male arousal an average of 9 percent; cheese pizza, an average of 5 percent; baked cinnamon buns, an average of 4 percent; and women's perfume an average of 3 percent.

Take with a grain of salt! Or some buttered popcorn.
posted by brool at 1:24 AM on December 24, 2004

"thread." And Paris, be nice to the non-NYC people, please?
posted by lackutrol at 1:28 AM on December 24, 2004

Pumpkin pie and lavender? You men are odd little creatures. I can see it now, "Why do you smell like pumpkin pie and lavender, and where did this woody come from?"
posted by Ugh at 1:42 AM on December 24, 2004

Another man agreeing with the "less is more" philosophy. I expecially like it when a woman chooses a perfume that goes well with who she is. Some athletic blondes can get away with flowery scents, while intense, dark-haired women can wear amber, wood, or spices that would smell overpowering on another woman. I personally hate powdery or vanilla odors -- they remind me of my grandmother.

After I've been with a woman a few times, there's often a moment when I see her and recognize her immediately by her smell. It's a reminder of intimacy and an instant turn-on.

Also, if you're trying perfume in the store, don't buy it just from sniffing the testers. Put some on the inside of your wrist and wait a few minutes for the alcohol to evaporate a bit. The perfume reacts with your natural smell and you'll find it smells different on you than on a piece of paper.

My favorites, although they're expensive, not sold in stores, and only ship within Europe, are from Shiseido's collection at the Jardins du Palais Royal.
posted by fuzz at 3:48 AM on December 24, 2004

I don't wear perfume 99.99% of the time, simply because of all the people who overpower the world with their scent of choice.

That .01% of the time I might wear a scent I prefer #5.
posted by kamylyon at 8:04 AM on December 24, 2004

Lackutrol, the reference to NY dept. stores was a complete JOKE. A Joke!!!!!!!!
posted by ParisParamus at 8:34 AM on December 24, 2004

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