A splash of good quality fragrance is the final flourish on a gentleman’s outfit. But which one to choose? There’s a massive range of perfumes, colognes and aftershaves on the market.
Still wearing your 20th Century cologne? Then it’s time for a rethink, and we’re here to help. Here’s our guide to finding the best scent for you, and applying it like a savvy gent, whatever your style.
What are your options?
Male fragrance has come a long way since the 1970s and 80s. Huffington Post’s Darren Kennedy reminds us that there were just two main camps back then, Brut or Old Spice:
It was all in the name really – the word Brut, simply add an ‘e’ and you’ve got a big lump of a lad. Or the nautically themed Old Spice for the slightly more conservative, mature guy.
In more modern times, men are now encouraged to take their scent as seriously as women do. But what are your options, and how do you make the right choice?
There are four main categories of fragrance and they’re categorised by their dilution – how much of the aromatic compounds they contain.
Eau de Parfum: 10–20%
Eau de Toilette: 5–15%
Eau de Cologne: 3–8%
The higher the percentage of pure fragrance your scent contains, the longer it lasts on your skin. So Eau de Parfum will last much longer than cologne or aftershave.
Notes aren’t just for musicians. Every fragrance, no matter how much pure perfume it contains, is made up of three main components. These work together to give the scent appeal and staying power. Jim Atkinson at Ethendra writes about the different elements of fragrance which are categorised like this:
Top notes are the aromas that hit you immediately after you apply. They disperse quickly, but are the part of the perfume that will form your initial impression as to whether you’ll be able to wear it. Typical top notes include citrus, oriental or woody aromas.
Middle notes comprise the main body of the fragrance. These emerge a few minutes after the top notes subside, and work with both the top and base notes. They might be sweeter or floral, like vanilla, tuberose or even patchouli.
Base notes come into their own around 30 minutes after application. They add depth and resonance to the fragrance, and are the element that will last the longest. Common base notes include musk and amber.
The how, where and when of fragrance
How do you get the most from your fragrance? It isn’t a case of splashing out, spraying on, and hoping for the best. Getting the application right means you’ll have a scent that lasts all day and on into the evening.
Bluebeard’s Revenge say the most important thing is to wear “…enough that it becomes your scent, while not fumigating the room around you”. Apply enough so that it lasts all day, but doesn’t overpower everybody. This is something Emily Fitzgibbons at The Idle Man agrees with, saying that too much fragrance will be off putting to those around you.
According to James Uden at Murdock London the right amount of any fragrance is three sprays:
A common mistake made by many guys is to assume that nobody else can smell it anymore and then go to town with how much they put on, not realising that this is really overbearing.
The reason for this is that after 30 minutes or so, the wearer gets used to the smell of any particular fragrance. Stick to the ‘three squirts’ rule and you’ll never overdo it.
Where are the best places to spray fragrance? It’s best to find a couple of “hot-spots” on your body to apply it to. Your wrists, behind your ears, or your neck are where the heat from your body will best help the fragrance to release steadily over a few hours.
Emily Fitzgibbons gives a great tip for how to time your application. She says when you apply your chosen fragrance you should “wait as long as possible after shaving” before you do it. The longer you wait, the less likely you are to get irritated skin. If you’re going out for the evening, make it the last thing you apply as you head out of the door.
There are just a couple of “eau-no’s” when it comes to scent. Lee Kynaston at The Telegraph gives two sage pieces of advice about putting on fragrance. The first is to avoid applying it to your clothes. Certain scents can stain fabric and damage fibres over time. Secondly, never use a fragrance to mask uncleanliness. People around you will know you’re definitely trying to disguise something.
How to choose your signature scent
“Everyone knows men get better with age. It’s time for sharp suits, tailored sweats, cigars, country walks, broadsheets, Radio 4 and the corner office”, comments Alex Harris at FashionBeans. So be your own man, be bold and experiment with fragrance. But we have another couple of tips to bear in mind before you choose.
Nick Gibbens at Bluebeard’s Revenge says “Wearing men’s fragrance is about wearing a scent that’s going to go well with your body chemistry”. Smelling it in a bottle is one thing, but the way it reacts with your skin is quite another. Men’s Health’s Lee also comments:
It’s all very well hearing that a fragrance smells fantastic on your sister’s boyfriend, chances are it’ll smell totally different on you
For instance, skin that’s oily will make any type of scent much more intense.
Writing at ChilliSauce, ‘Staggered’ says it’s worth putting time and effort into finding a fragrance as “sense of smell is tied to memory”. Your wife will remember how good you smelled on your wedding day long after she’s forgotten how sharp your suit was.
Take time over your purchase. If you’re shopping from a department store, visit in the morning. Your senses are more alert, and the air isn’t too full of other aromas. Try one or two and give each an hour or more to dry down. This allows the perfume to develop on your skin and reveal its different notes. Only then make the decision on which to buy.
Think about the seasons when you’re choosing your new scent. You don’t have to wear the same cologne all year round. Michael84 offers clear advice: “Spring and Summer require light citrus, floral and fresh notes – they can be pungent and subtle, but not overpowering”. In Autumn and Winter as the weather gets colder, he suggests you turn up the heat with dark, musks and notes of warm, woody oud, a popular middle eastern scent derived from tree resin.
Still stuck for inspiration? Take inspiration from what celebrities choose to wear as their signature scent. Teo Van Den Broeke at Esquire writes that dapper stars like Colin Firth opt for citrus-rich fragrances like Grey Vetiver by Tom Ford, whilst David Beckham chooses to wear the unusual Aventus by Creed, which has “masculine patchouli and cedar” to make a scent-sational statement.
New fragrance innovations for 2016
Just as each new season brings a raft of new fashion ideas for men, the world of fragrance constantly evolves too. There are one or two surprising developments for 2016.
While you should avoid spraying any sort of fragrance on your clothes, Grooming Guru admit that there’ll still be blokes who want to do it. For this group, they recommend cult brand Byredo, who’ve formulated a gent’s perfume which is textile friendly and can be sprayed directly onto fabric. It apparently imparts“…a clean, fresh, slightly metallic fragrance that’s reminiscent of sun-dried sheets, hairspray and static electricity”. Perfect for making sparks fly.
If you’re someone who struggles to get aftershaves to last on your skin, then Manface have got an idea for a nifty alternative that doubles up as a smart accessory. The Lockstone is a clever pendant, designed from porous gemstone that absorbs any fragrance sprayed onto it. Worn around the neck it releases your scent steadily during the day. They’ve also made cufflinks in the same material, creating a clever and aromatic addition to smart men’s suits.
You’ve read our tips and advice and now it’s over to you. Which fragrances tickle your fancy? Or do you have your own signature scent you’d like to tell us about? Do let us know on our Facebook page.