Can you remember your first time trying to use cologne? Nervously splashing it on you in the boy’s bathroom before the Grade 7 dance, so maybe you’d smell good if you got that close to a girl. Asking your buddies “Hey man, is this too strong?” and then you’d leave, full of swagger and stinking of Brut. Well, you’ve come a long way since then. Let’s try and step our smell game up.
Buying a cologne
The most important thing is that you get a cologne that really works for you. Too many guys decide they’ll just buy something generic like Aqua di Gio that every other guy on the block has already worn to death. It’s bad enough wearing the same clothes as everyone else; wearing the same fragrance makes you just as forgettable. Or worse, a little too familiar. Do you want to smell like a girl’s ex? Her best friend? Her brother? You have to work hard to stand out, so you should smell a bit unique, too.
Most stores will have tester strips where you can spray cologne onto a strip of paper. This should give you a basic, although incomplete, idea of what it smells like. Apply the fragrance to the strip, but don’t smell it right away, because it’ll just smell like alcohol. Give it a second or so, then let give it a gentle smell. If you find all the smells are getting confused in your head, try smelling coffee beans in between colognes—they’re considered a neutral smell that will clear out any lingering scents in your nose.
Take your time in the store, and try to smell a few different blends to see how they measure up. Some guys do better with an old leather and wood type of smell, while other guys work best with a citrusy and clean type of cologne. Our body chemistries are different, and things like sweat and your own smell will affect how the cologne sits on you.
Speaking of which, once you’ve narrowed it down to two bottles, dab them onto either hand. The fragrance changes when it comes into contact with the skin and its protective oils (which paper cannot emulate), so now you’ll be able to see how your choices really differ. The smell changes again within around 15-20 minutes of application, too, so wear it around the store a bit longer before you make your final decision.
How to wear cologne
Once you’ve bought a cologne, the next step is knowing how you’re going to wear it. Too many guys figure more is better, but that really couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s like designers say—less is more. When you’re out of the shower, and after you’ve put on some unscented deodorant that won’t clash, give one of your wrists a quick spray. Press both wrists against each other lightly to open up the oils, then dab them on either side of your neck.
If you’re thinking you can’t quite smell it, that’s exactly what you should be going for. Limiting your scent to these locations will keep your cologne in check until it’s appropriate, not annoying. You activate the spritz on your wrists when you talk with friends (often moving the arms), and your girlfriend will enjoy that scent on your neck as she leans in for a kiss. Better than sharing your new cologne choice with the rest of the streetcar, right?
Buy these now
Smokey: 11 Semma Unisex by Odin New York
Here’s a fragrance your girl can steal every once in a while. Spicy red chilis and myrrh lead this warming scent, with mellow notes of cinnamon and peppery clove. The base is formed with sweet tobacco and sandalwood, which is fairly neutral if you’re only just starting to experiment with wearing a cologne (Odin New York, $165).
Woody: Sugi by Commes des Garcons
Boozy: Spirit of the Glen by Hylnds by D.S. & Gurga
Attention Scotch lovers: this one’s made in collaboration with famed distillery, The Glenlivet. Speyside-oriented notes of oak casks, spirits and vanillic wood call to mind a glass of your favourite dram. More refined gentleman, less booze-hound (Barneys New York, $180).