Cologne picking tips
August 26, 2007 12:33 AM   Subscribe

Cologne picking advice: it can't be as simple as "just pick what your like" or "bring a girl with you and buy what she likes"... can it?
posted by joshuaconner to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (30 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It's even easier: don't buy any at all. I am not exactly an expert on fashion, but I think that cologne for men is out of style. I honestly don't remember the last time I noticed a man wearing it.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:46 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yes, actually it can.

That being said... men should generally have two colognes: one that is fairly light, for more casual and daily wear, and one that is a bit darker/more sophisticated for more formal occasions. The exact flavours are up to you, but I am a huge fan of: Christian Dior Higher, Acqua di Gio, Lacoste, and Kenneth Cole Reaction (all in the lighter column), and Polo Black in the darker.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:56 AM on August 26, 2007

On non-preview:

Steven, once again you don't know what you're talking about. Most men that I know--gay and straight--wear some sort of scent. When done subtly, it's a lovely thing.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:57 AM on August 26, 2007

Most men that I know don't wear any cologne for daily use. In a business type environment it's just too much and generally overpowering, even at light levels.

It's an odd thing to pick a scent out at random and go with it, but thats generally what it is. You pick out a cologne you like, and you put it on. Go out, have some drinks, talk to some ladies etc...

I'm sure married men like me have that favorite scent they wore way back when stashed away in the back of the medicine cabinet. My wife particularly likes two colognes, but thats a trade secret, sorry.
posted by sanka at 1:07 AM on August 26, 2007

It can be as simple as "just pick what you like" but it is advisable, to ensure you really do like what you pick, to try a sample on your skin, and to sniff this at intervals over a period of time: almost all colognes are 'layered' so that the smell will be considerably different after a few hours on your skin, than after a few minutes. It would also be good to have a ladyfriend tag along to give a second opinion--your ideal is a scent that both you & she think suits you. And if you don't find any you like, don't buy any just for the sake of it.
posted by misteraitch at 1:07 AM on August 26, 2007

I don't really think its an in or out of style thing, its a personal style thing. Some men don't, some do, I think its only a faux pas when you can smell it from farther than arm's length away.

That said, go to Sephora, smell some stuff, pick your two faves and spray one on each wrist. Go out and do the rest of your shopping or whatever, and then smell them both again, because scents change over time and depending on the body chemistry of the person wearing them. If you want the easy way out, most guys like Acqua di Gio and its a safe, if boring, scent. Additionally, if there's a designer you like, you might want to smell his cologne if he has one, because they're generally trying to evoke the same feel with their cologne as they are their clothes. You can also ask a sales person for their help picking one out, if you're at Sephora or a similar place where the people who work there aren't invested in a particular brand, they can help steer you towards some nice scents.

But over all, remember, you have to like it, you're going to smell like it all day, so don't end up buying something because of the name or the packaging or because the pretty girl said she liked it. Good luck!
posted by wuzandfuzz at 1:10 AM on August 26, 2007

I think BPAL is made for guys like you: you can order lots of little samples, sell them on eBay if you don't like them, and the descriptions provided are as informative or moreso than designers' are. Personal recommendations: Dee, Antony, Cathode.

I love a man's natural scent (and can differentiate them easily my smell!) but I like cologne too. In small doses. Never overdo it.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:16 AM on August 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

I've always worked on the principal that if a girlfriend or female friend doesn't like the smell, then there is a reasonable chance other women won't like it either.

Second the leaving it for a bit to see how the smell changes. I've got funny skin so what smelled nice at first can turn into something not so nice after an hour.

Cologne isn't out of style for men in the UK.
posted by mr_silver at 1:25 AM on August 26, 2007

Yes, it's that simple. Don't let some "expert" talk you into something you don't like. I also want to Nth that none of my male friends wear scents at work or play. In truth, when a guy does wear something, the odor tends to reek and hang around. We usually end up making jokes about Polo or Hai-Karate all day.

Just say no. If anything, look into scented soaps or conditioners.
posted by chairface at 1:34 AM on August 26, 2007

I say cologne, like certain clothes, should be used with discretion and style.
posted by artdrectr at 2:05 AM on August 26, 2007

When I picked my last cologne I asked a couple of ladies at work for help. Every other day I visited the perfumerie on my lunch-break and asked for a new scent (sprayed on my vrist). After lunch the women got to grade the scent.

I don't know how close you're with your co-workers, but I made it into a scientific experiment with five different "testers". it was great fun - we used a simple grading-sheet with variables for "strenght", "freshness", "headache-inducing" etc.

One thing I could conclude was that lemon-citrus-scents suits me for day-to-day-use.

(Regarding use or dis-use of cologne - I have a sensitive skin and can't use perfumed soaps/schampoo. A moderate splash of cologne around the neckline is the best way for me to add scent.)
posted by Rabarberofficer at 2:39 AM on August 26, 2007

Pick what you like. Do you really think walking around all day choking on your own cologne, that you don't like but are wearing because someone else told you they like it, is an acceptable situation? That you will appear comfortable and confident? Try and a few and pick the one that you are attracted to - as long as it doesn't smell like total sh*t there will always be some who like it, some who don't.

And cologne will never be out of style. There may be a fad for people not wearing it, but it will probably pass. Cologne will always be worn.
posted by fire&wings at 3:04 AM on August 26, 2007

How diluted are the BPAL mixtures, or are they the pure oils?

I've been making my own cologne. It's sandalwood & cucumber oils in a base ingredient that I keep secret. I like it a lot. I've tried to make a few other scents, but only that one has turned out really well. I wear pure frankincense sometimes -- it's a good one because it lasts really well. And I have a habit of stealing bits of lavender, fennel, or blue spruce to crush in my fingers as I walk around.
posted by lastobelus at 4:06 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

You really shouldn't be wearing so much cologne that people can smell it from very far away. I have had a pleased reaction from a woman realizing that I was wearing a scent.

I picked my current cologne after I was walking through a department store and sprayed a cologne on each of my wrists. Later that day, I noticed that my left wrist smelled really good.

I went back and bought the cologne.
posted by Comrade_robot at 4:09 AM on August 26, 2007

Sure, take a person of the appropriate gender and pick something that you both think is good. That's a the end of the decision process; the start is (hopefully) to do some research into it :)

I highly recommend you read the blog of Luca Turin (download the big PDF); even though it's stopped, it is so full of good information you mustn't miss it if you have the slightest interest. At least you'll learn about top/middle/base notes, the elements of composition and the basic groupings of scents (fresh/woody/spicy/sweet/musk/etc); reading that blog was the beginning of a not-quite-obsession for me.

Then have a browse of some of the online scent boards, eg BaseNotes. Such boards are full of pompous asses who are into utterly expensive things (it is the nature of the scene) but you will find a lot of excellent information from people who both care and know a lot about this. Looking through their "most popular" lists can be informative, particularly the reasoning behind why particular scents are popular.

Buying samples (and whole bottles under half price) on eBay is awesome - I wouldn't have been able to try Ormonde Jayne without that... and at the prices they charge, you definitely want to try first.

Samples are where it's at; once you have some ideas about what you might like or have tried a few candidates at a dept store, use each sample for a day or two to see how it reacts with your skin: the scent WILL change with time, and by design.
posted by polyglot at 4:14 AM on August 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

yep, go with what you like, although it is advisable to get it vetted by someone who knows about such things. in the reverse situation, my sister, a scent neophyte, wore a perfume her boyfriend, also a neophyte, picked out. it was coty wild musk, which is a drugstore perfume and smells like it.

it's like wine--yes, you should drink what you like, but when you share it with others, it should come up to their standards too. perfume and cologne, ipso facto, are shared with others.

whatever you choose, though, wear it very, very lightly. more than one spritz on a man, i find, is too much. it shouldn't be as perceptible as perfume on a woman.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:20 AM on August 26, 2007

If you insist on wearing fragrance, be considerate of those--like me--who can't tolerate many scents. Don't wear much. I pay $3 an RX dose to fight off migraines from many fragrances I encounter.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:45 AM on August 26, 2007

There isn't a single male in my life (husband, brothers, father, brother-in-law, friends, husbands of friends, nephews, cousins, neighbors, co-workers) who wears cologne. I am not exaggerating. I wonder if this is a cultural/geographical thing? At any rate, I don't like scent on a man. It always feels like they're trying to cover something up when I smell cologne on a man.

The thing is, if you like it, wear it. But if you have a partner (female or male), make sure your partner likes/doesn't mind the scent. And for everyone's sake, don't douse yourself it. A little goes a very long way.
posted by cooker girl at 6:30 AM on August 26, 2007

Americans and some northern Europeans are, according to Hall, 'scent impaired' and balk at smell. So you do have to be careful that whatever you smell like isn't obvious until people enter your personal space (arm's length, 18 inches) and your social and conversational space (about 3 feet) isn't permeated with smell.

That being said, I love it when I smell something long as it isn't axe or whatever the club kids are wearing.

The old, traditional scents are still made for a reason - they're piney, slightly resiny, or on the slightly bitter end of citrus. You can safely wear the same cologne that your grandfather, or Frank Sinatra, would have.

If you do want to try new ones, I'm also a BPAL junkie - pretty cheap samples, and there's a list (scroll down) of recommended 'masculine' scents. The warning is that they are indeed concentrated perfume oils - you use a drop here and there unless you dilute and atomize yourself.

As for preference, you should like it (I'd never be with someone who wanted me to smell like vanilla, for instance) and, like I said before, get some women, who are a little more sensitive to scent, to make sure you don't smell like a teenaged boy or a club kid.
posted by cobaltnine at 6:59 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

You really need to get some of it on your skin -- not only are scents layered, but they can change (sometimes dramatically) on the skin of different people.

And yeah, bring a person of the gender you like to vouch for the colognes.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 7:03 AM on August 26, 2007

As a woman, I love pressing my face into my husband's neck and smelling a very light cologne. I can't smell it if I'm not hugging him. It's a wonderful thing.
posted by jeanmari at 7:34 AM on August 26, 2007

Echoing what's been said above, please be considerate of the amount of cologne (and perfume, for any ladies reading) you wear. My partner has terrible migraines whenever people drench themselves in these scents, it absolutely ruins our evenings at times.
posted by Meagan at 8:11 AM on August 26, 2007

Nthing the advice to have light touch. The best advice I've heard for cologne is that your work colleagues or general acquaintances should not be able to smell that you are wearing cologne, but a lady leaning in for a hug or a close flirt should. Do you know how we sometimes tell children to use their 12-inch voice indoors? Well a gentlemen applies the same rule to his cologne.
posted by warble at 8:40 AM on August 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

As jeanmari said, the whole pleasure of cologne is often based on intimacy, at least for me. If you wear just the tiniest bit on a daily basis, that scent will become tied to close moments by the people who love you. Which is delightful.
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:19 AM on August 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

One more piece of advice that I don't see mentioned above--if you're wearing cologne, for the love of god, make sure the rest of things you put on your body are UNSCENTED. Particularly deodorant--no Old Spice, please. While there's nothing sexier than catching a whiff of really nice scent when you get very very close to a guy, there's nothing unsexier than the mix of cologne, scented deodorant, and scented body wash mixing together. Blech.

(I have no idea why deodorant makers have decided that women really want to walk through life smelling like a baby's diaper, and men want to smell like they dropped an entire spice cabinet in their armpit. I love scent, and the travesty that is the scents you are practically forced to buy for personal grooming products makes me weep.)
posted by iminurmefi at 9:24 AM on August 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

If you have a steady girlfriend remember to ask her again how she likes it after a month or so, hormones can mess with your sense of smell and I've dated guys who's normal cologne smelled great at certain times and made me want to throw up at other times. The wanting to throw up was a pretty serious turn off.
posted by anaelith at 9:57 AM on August 26, 2007

A spritz = way too much cologne! Don't buy any kind of sprayers. Guys only need a drop on the fingertip rubbed into both sides of the jaw line.
posted by artdrectr at 11:16 AM on August 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

As a woman, I love pressing my face into my husband's neck and smelling a very light cologne. I can't smell it if I'm not hugging him. It's a wonderful thing.

Nthing this. Male cologne makes a definite impression; some 10 years later I'll get a waft of a fragrance and instantly be transported back to the office where I used to work, and a male co-worker whom I hadn't thought of in years, but I remembered his cologne.

My husband chose his scent based on what I liked (I don't like floral, soapy fragrances; I prefer spicy, musky scents), so if you do have a woman in your life, ask her opinion. Otherwise, go with what you like. If women that you come in contact with regularly (co-workers, etc) comment on it negatively, you might want to re-think your choice.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:27 AM on August 26, 2007

Nthing the "no spritzing" rule. Whenever I walk past a man wearing heavy cologne I exhale deeply, walk fast and hold my breath to miss the stinky wake, thinking "this poor sap has no idea he's a toxic waste dump." Please don't be that guy.
posted by Scram at 12:32 PM on August 26, 2007

BPAL are oils, which make them harder to overdo, imo.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:03 PM on August 26, 2007

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