If you read our previous article about what makes a beautiful man, scent may have been one category that you don’t pay that much attention to. Or perhaps you do? People are different and whilst some of my friends are wildly into male fragrance, others don’t see the point or even find it irritating when smelled on others. Whilst fragrance is indeed optional, scent is something none of us can ignore. It’s built into our DNA. What is your relationship with it?

Scent is essential, fragrance is optional

“Good manners and good cologne is what transforms the man into a gentleman.” – Tom Ford.

First off, the natural scent. Recently a friend said on social media: “It’s weird but I kinda like the smell of my armpit sometimes”. There’s nothing particularly weird about that. Body scent carries our genetic information which our noses are capable of perceiving. In an interesting article, Jesse Bering notes that we are normally attracted to people who don’t smell like us, the evolutionary explanation for that being that our nose steers us away from incestuous relationships.

We know what makes one’s body smell bad. Garlic and meat consumption, alcohol, unwashed gym clothes. But what makes it smell pleasant? Apparently, it’s the consumption of citrus fruits, vegetarianism or veganism and drinking lots of water. White fish and yoghurt are excluded from this as they do not make your sweat smell worse. Then there’s that wild claim that eating pineapple will make your semen smell and taste pleasant. The evidence for this remains anecdotal. Great opportunity for an experiment though!

Sweating and deodorants

All of the above is interesting to know but many of us have things to do other than obsess over how our diet will influence our body scent. After all, as long as you shower regularly, change your clothes and wash your bedding, you should smell fine. We don’t have control over who likes our pheromones and who won’t. “Regularly” can mean different things to different people though. Some dermatologists advise against showering daily so judge by the type of skin you have and by the amount that you sweat.

Whilst antiperspirant is great for those who sweat heavily, men who sweat lightly might prefer a deodorant that is not a sweat inhibitor. It will neutralise the smell but won’t stop you perspiring. After all, by sweating we expunge toxins from our bodies and it doesn’t seem terribly healthy to block your sweat ducts. If you were ever puzzled by the ‘no aluminium’ signs on some deodorants, they mean that the product is not an antiperspirant as aluminium hydrochloride is the ingredient that blocks your sweat ducts.

Finding your way in the world of male fragrance

bottle of bleu de chanel fragrance

Bleu de Chanel: popular but common. When you can’t decide between mass appeal and originality, follow your nose.

Now let’s talk a walk away from all this sweaty business and towards the magical world of male fragrance. Well, magical. Whilst there are of course natural essential oils that you could use (always mix them in a carrier oil!), generally all of us male fragrance enthusiasts accept that we’re likely spritzing ourselves with a somewhat cancerogenous mixture. When you see ‘cherry blossom’ listed on the packaging of your perfume, it’s not an ingredient. It’s an artistic description for what a bunch of chemicals mixed together smell like to the perfumer who created the fragrance.

If that hasn’t scared you off, welcome to the club. Here are the basics. Scents are often divided into ‘niche’ (e.g. Serge Lutens), ‘designer’ (e.g. Dior) and other (e.g. Avon). Niche scents are usually the most complex and expensive, some bordering on mad science experiments (see ‘Secretions Magnifiques’ by Etat Libre d’Orange). Designer fragrances are generally cheaper and more generic although there are exceptions (e.g. Hermes releases a lot of original fragrances). Whilst all of this is very interesting and can help you explore, the best fragrance is the one that suits you well, so no need to pay too much attention to the labels.

Fragrance strength & spraying technique

Another way to classify scents is by what they smell like. The scope of this article doesn’t allow me to go into detail but you’re looking at fragrance families such as fougeres, chypres, gourmands, orientals and so on. You don’t need to be conversant with them unless you’re either curious or want to learn what it is that draws you to a particular fragrance and how you can use that to discover new scents in a similar vein.

You can also classify scents by strength. If you have never worn fragrance before, try something light and fleeting, perhaps a cologne or an eau de toilette. Stronger scents are more expensive but not necessarily better, in fact sometimes different concentrations also differ in character. The number of sprays you’ll want to use will depend on the type of fragrance (some are real powerhouses!), its concentration, your body chemistry (dry skin ‘drinks up’ the scent quicker), weather and the environment that you’re in.

As a rule of thumb, 2-4 sprays are usually sufficient. Spraying on clothing reduces your exposure to the chemicals and the scent stays longer but some fragrances might stain the fabric. You can choose to spray on your neck, your wrists, your upper arms, your chest or even your legs. The scent travels upwards as your body warms it up. Spraying on the back of your neck will leave a ‘trail’ of scent as you walk. Scent can sit for a while if sprayed on your hair but the alcohol in fragrance could be drying.

Some examples of male fragrance

And finally, how about we drop some names for concrete examples. Dior Sauvage is now extremely popular and is both loved and hated for that reason. Creed Aventus enjoys similar popularity but fewer men can afford it (and hence it’s widely considered to be ‘nicer’). Terre d’Hermes with its earthy cedar is a solid modern classic that offends no one. ‘Grandad’ smells scents like Burberry London for men and Ralph Lauren Polo are older classics that are still widely loved. Tom Ford’s private blends are always popular, so give  Tobbacco Vanille and Tuscan Leather a sniff and see what you think.

Where does one begin with this olfactory cornucopia? Test everything and buy nothing. Don’t just try the scent on a tester strip, it will smell differently on your skin. Wear it for a full day before deciding how you feel about it, you might find that you love the opening but hate the dry down. Rinse and repeat. When you find a scent that works for you, it’s time to shell out for a full bottle’s worth. After that…fall in love over and over again, and watch your pandemic savings evaporate into the thin, beautifully scented air.