How You Should (and Shouldn't) Wear Men's Cologne
Accessorize with Cologne
Smell Like a Man's Man, Man.
There seem to be far fewer ways for men to accessorize than for women. However a quality men's fragrance or cologne, correctly applied, is a relatively inexpensive and effective way to take your fashion game up a notch.
The different flavors in a cologne are called notes, and may include some pretty interesting ingredients like seaweed, peppercorn, fig, or… sperm whale vomit. No joke, it's called ambergris. Don't let that deter you though; it's a traditional occasional ingredient that's been replaced by synthetic approximations in most modern colognes.
The ratio of alcohol to oil in a cologne changes the evaporation rate of the different notes. Notes that evaporate quickly are called top notes, notes that last a bit longer a called middle notes, and notes that appear last are called base notes . The trajectory of the notes through the evaporation process gives each cologne it's particular character.
Choosing A Cologne
When choosing a cologne, you should ultimately look for a fragrance that appeals to you personally, instead of one that you imagine will appeal to women. You shouldn't end up wearing someone else's opinion, after all. Your objective is to have a signature scent which is unique yet tasteful, and which hasn't become so massively popular that you end up smelling like every other guy.
When you test colognes, it's a good idea to walk in with a list of several fragrances so you've got a starting point. If you already own a cologne that you really like, you can look up the name of the perfumer online to see what else they've done. Check out basenotes.net to look up a fragrance by house.
You can check online reviews just to generate a list of names to investigate further. You can also ask a few lady friends what they like, though the final decision should be yours. Now that you've got a starting point, it's time to find a store. I recommend that you check out a Sephora, or the men's department at Macy's. Both are good places to test colognes, as both have a good selection and will provide paper testing strips and coffee beans (Sephora is also a great place to meet women, I hear).
Choosing Light vs. Dark Fragrances
If you're going to own several colognes you should diversify between light and dark. A "light" cologne is recommendable for day wear and will be unobtrusive, perhaps containing brighter notes like citrus or other fruits. This should be something you could wear to work and still maintain a professional demeanor. Check out the eponymous Marc Jacobs by Marc Jacobs for example. It's a unique and tasteful fragrance, excellent for day wear.
A "dark" cologne is a little bit bolder and may contain notes like mocha, mint, and cedar. This kind of scent is something you would wear for an evening out on the town. Check out Very Irrésistable for Men by Givenchy (2005). The chocolate in the mocha note provides you with a familiar and comforting aura that will make you smell mysteriously delicious to women.
Testing Out the Cologne
Take a paper testing strip and the bottle of cologne you want to test. Spray the cologne away from you, and wave the paper strip through the cloud. You don't want to spray the cologne on your hand by accident, because this will afflict your ability to accurately smell any other fragrances.
Wave the paper strip back and forth to air it out. Waft it by your nose and see what you think. If you're there with another person, have them do the same. It's nice to bring a lady friend along just to get a second opinion. Fold up the strip, and put it in your pocket; you'll smell it again later to see how the scent changes over time.
A perfume counter should always provide a can of coffee beans for you to smell between colognes. For some reason, the smell of coffee cleanses your nasal palate, as it were. If you don't sniff the coffee between testing, the colognes will all start to smell the same. If you've got more colognes to check out, sniff the coffee and test them in the same way as the first. Then it's time to leave the store and go for a walk to get some fresh air.
After an hour, pull out those paper testing strips from your pocket and smell them again. As the alcohol evaporates the balance between alcohol and oil changes, altering slightly the combination of notes that are released. At this point you'll be able to perceive the base notes, and this is basically what you'll smell like to others if you wear that particular product.
When you've narrowed it down to one or two colognes, try actually applying them to your skin as described below. If you want to get really technical, some sources recommend to taking your personal skin pH into consideration as the smell of your own skin can further influence the smell of the cologne. As best as I can tell, this essentially amounts to applying the cologne to yourself and seeing if you still like it. If anyone actually tests the pH of their skin when deciding on which cologne to purchase, congratulations: you're hardcore.
Please Don't Be This Guy
Applying the Cologne
Keep in mind that if another person can smell your cologne while they're standing further than two or three feet away from you, you're doing it wrong. Also, as your nose gets used to the smell your brain will filter it out and you won't notice it much. This is why a correct application is important: if you over apply you won't realize how badly you reek to other people. Please don't be that guy (see below).
A good way to apply cologne:
- Spray once onto your hand.
- Pat the cologne on both sides of your neck.
- Pat the cologne on to your wrist, then press your wrists together.
Rubbing the cologne is not recommended, as that can "bruise" the notes. This means that the way the different flavors are intended to change over time will be affected, and the fragrance will not smell as it should.
The inner wrists and sides of the neck are good places to apply a fragrance because they are "pulse points," which are locations where your circulatory system is near the surface of the skin. Your heart beat at these locations combines with the heat of your blood causes the fragrance to emit well, so this is an efficient way to use less cologne for the same effect. Don't apply cologne to your clothes, as you want it to interact with your skin. Please don't apply a cologne liberally to your armpits and crotch. I've actually seen this happen. Just try to shower at least once a week instead.
Once you've decided on a cologne, you can usually save about 6 bucks by checking online for the best price. This is especially easy if you've got a data plan on your phone, as you can check while you're standing in the store. Just make sure when comparing prices that you are also comparing the same bottle size in ounces (oz).