Ah, cologne. So many questions. So many to choose from. So many do’s and don’ts. But so much potential.
It’s been said that a man wears cologne because it honors his primal instinct to mark his scent. On an even simpler level, it smells good (well, hopefully, depending on your choices).
And to get to perhaps the real root reason – it’s quite often attractive to the opposite sex. Combine it with a beard, which is scientifically proven to tantalize women, and you’re suddenly a man with places to go, things to do.
But before you move forward with your quest for the best cologne for men, remember to proceed with caution. It’s important, for instance, to remember that too much of a good thing can easily become too much of a bad thing.
The key is to wear cologne, not marinate in it. It’s hard to impress when your cologne enters a room before you do because you’ve doused yourself in it.
Let’s get started.
The 5 best colognes for men
Paco Rabanne – the man, the myth, the legend. Born Francisco Rabaneda Cuervo, Rabanne first came on the scene as the so-called ‘terrible child’ of 1960s French fashion. Later he would branch out, as great designers often do, and collaborated with the fragrance company Puig.
History aside, the terrible child and his company have created men’s fragrances which not only smell great – but have a bad-boy quality in them when you consider that at least one review of Paco Rabanne – 1 Million says it “takes the luck out of getting lucky.” Another reviewer (of the opposite sex) suggests wearing sexy underwear before you leave the house if you’re wearing Paco Rabanne – 1 Million.
This fragrance is noted for its top notes that include sparkling fresh fruits, blood mandarin, and peppermint. A touch of sensual leather is also noted in the base notes. It comes in a 3.4-ounce bottle that sells in the $60 to $70 price range, although smaller bottle sizes are also available.
Oh, another reviewer advises not to wear it to the office. It might be hard to get any work done. That Paco Rabanne. Such a naughty child.
Everything about the John Varvatos Artisan line speaks to fine craftsmanship, including the hand-woven, flask-shaped bottle that simply looks cool on your bathroom shelf. Artisan is one of the iconic John
Artisan is one of the iconic John Varvatos brands, and it has so much going for it that it seems to combine a hundred scents at once, from citrus to ginger root, to a powerful background that is described as woody musk.
Artisan has also been described as “aquatic” – but a strong Mediterranean kind of aquatic with plenty of masculinity. As one reviewer put it, “Women have little choice but to get a little closer.” Nothing wrong with that.
But why expect anything less from John Varvatos, who operates his store on Woodward Avenue in the heart of downtown Detroit, and whose website declares, “Long Live Rock”? It’s the stuff of men.
Spring is on its way gentlemen – and Tommy by Tommy Hilfiger is a great scent for the season. It has all the classic warm weather elements with a masculine scent that packs a nice citrus punch along with spearmint and lavender. You’ll love the hint of cinnamon, as well.
This fragrance has been around since 1995, so its scent is easily recognizable – but has also stood the test of time and continues to turn women’s heads. Best suited for daytime wear, it works well with a casual ensemble but is certainly not limited to that choice of clothes.
Considered a “lifestyle” brand, Tommy by Tommy was designed to capture the American spirit and the tastes of classic Americana. Bottom line: it’s a nice casual scent that still works very well.
You’ve got to hand it to Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren. After all, their company has come up with a cologne that some say James Bond would wear. And we all know how things turn out for Mr. Bond.
Originally, the Spicebomb was released in men’s version because of the vast popularity of the women’s (flowery) version of the same scent. But it’s nothing like the feminine scent as users say it’s firmly masculine but not overly musky. Again, something Bond would wear. Besides, it comes with a warning from reviewers that women will attach themselves to you if you sport this fragrance.
This cologne works well for all occasions but particularly for a night on the town with a scent that checks in with a scent that combines many elements. Male reviewers tend to give it 5-star ratings. It’s great to have this bomb in your arsenal.
If you know anything about Greek mythology, then you’ll remember Eros, the god of love who attracted people with his bow and arrow. He was accompanied by Aphrodite, the goddess of love.
What does that have to do with cologne? Well, Eros by Versace is inspired by Greek mythology and Eros. Even the bottle’s color – turquoise – is considered a masculine color of the gods. But how does it smell, you ask? Well, it smells vibrant with a mix of mint leaves, green apple, and lemon zest. It smells clean, not overpowering. It suggests virility, which is the whole point of Eros (well, maybe not the whole point, but still).
Eros is said to be a fragrance for a strong man, one who is passionate and a master of himself. Plus, it’s great for all occasions and its scent lasts all day. While you may not have a bow and arrow, you’ll impress nonetheless.
It’s also helpful to know the basics before you pick The One. After all, you wouldn’t sit down at a high-stakes poker game without first understanding the rules.
Rules of the Road
It’s not as simple as just finding your right scent and then dousing it on your neck before you embark upon the day. Cologne – like caring for your beard or choosing your clothes – requires more than primal caveman thought.
- Cologne isn’t meant just to be worn on the skin – though it has been suggested that you wear it where you want to be kissed. Don’t hesitate to spray some on your clothes. Or, spray some on your hair because hair is great for holding scent. Experiment. Spray some on your lower back. Spray some behind your knees. The point is that there’re no hard and fast rules when it comes to this aspect of it.
- As your applying your cologne, repeat this mantra: ‘Less is more.’ You could even write it on a sticky note and attach it to your bathroom mirror. We’ve already touched on this point, but it’s worth repeating – use restraint. While the scent of your cologne is hopefully the right fit for you, and alluring to the opposite sex, no one wants to be overpowered by it.
- The best time to apply cologne? After your shower. Your pores will open after a nice hot shower and truly capture the scent of your cologne, a scent that will stay with you the entire day.
- As a footnote to the rule above, it’s not a good idea to combine your cologne with the smell of strongly-scented soaps, deodorants or body washes. They’ll either cover up the smell of your cologne or alter its scent, thus defeating the purpose.
- Watch what you eat when it comes to cologne. That’s right, the type of food and drink you put into your body can make your cologne smell stronger, but not in a good way. It’s easy to succumb to the temptations of man-food, like fried chicken, a trip to the Indian buffet, or knocking back several beers. Experts say that this kind of stuff will likely lead to a goodnight handshake from that woman you finally got lucky enough to date.
- There’s nothing wrong with seeking your signature scent, just remember that there’s also nothing wrong with changing things up. As a rule of thumb, you should change your cologne with the seasons. For instance, that light, citrusy scent you wore during the warmer months doesn’t quite fit the bill during the winter. On the flip side, a full-bodied, woodsy fragrance doesn’t quite cut it in August. Not that this means you need to stock up on dozens of bottles of cologne just to make sure that you’re right for the season. Choose two, one that’s appropriate for spring and summer, and one that works in fall and winter.
Before You Buy
Let’s talk about some things to keep in mind before you step up to the fragrance counter. You don’t want just to wing it because your cologne is as vital to your personal style (vital enough to be considered make-or-break) as your clothes, shoes, and beard.
There are three groups of colognes: citrus, green, and spicy. Citrus, with scents like lemon and tangerine, provide a fresh-from-the-shower aroma and, as mentioned, is great for the warmer months. Green scents are sweeter while spicy, seasoned scents call to mind the leathery aroma of Old Spice.
Composition means the different elements that make up a scent. You’ll hear phrases such as “notes” of leather, or sandalwood, and the best colognes have a unique composition that sets them apart from the rest. It’s not easy to judge composition – and what’s written on the label is usually written by marketers and should be taken with a grain of salt, so it’s best to test it yourself.
Narrow it Down
Everything from the way you dress to your skin tone should influence what fragrances work for you. If you prefer a laid-back appearance with jeans and t-shirts, a spicy scent shouldn’t be your first pick. But that spicier scent will be just fine if you dress in pinstripes and nice oxford shoes. As far as complexion goes, if you’re naturally pale, choose citrus or green.
Yep, just like wines, colognes go through slight variations every year since the ingredients used are never perfectly uniform. So that 2008 version might be a bit sharper in 2009 depending on the ingredient.
It’s also important to note that colognes are often made with a nod to the fashion of the day. An experienced pro can usually tell you what brands belonged to what decade. Then again, some scents have survived through all the fashion and style changes and remain among the best cologne for men.
Try Them On
If possible, take home four or five samples from the category you prefer. Spray a different one on each day until you settle on a favorite. If you can’t, or rather not, do that, try on a few fragrances at the store – no more than four – before choosing the bottle you like best.
A good fragrance will need about 15 minutes to react with your skin and for its essence to really come forth. Spicier scents get stronger the longer they remain on the skin. You’re seeking the best cologne for men, and there’s no need to rush it.
The more oils in your cologne, the longer it lasts, which can be a good and bad thing. You’ll get more effect but, again, don’t pour it over yourself with a bucket. The subtle scents are usually designed to last no more than two hours.
Know Its Strength
Again, back to the basic premise that probably dates to the days men hunted mammoths: going too heavy on cologne is over-kill. Cologne’s strength determines how far its scent projects. If your cologne’s scent is perceptible more than a step away, then you’ve put on too much. Each cologne has its own strength, so apply wisely.
You’re the best judge. Let’s face it, when it comes right down to it, you’re still the best person to determine which scent suits you. Only use the opinions of others to reinforce your decision. That said, if multiple people question your decision, then you may be better off trying another product.
Don’t buy a cologne based solely on someone else’s recommendation. Try it for yourself and honestly ask yourself if it works for you.
Now let’s move on to a topic to a very serious aspect of the buying process. That is, how to know when you might be buying a fake cologne (or other toiletry). It’s no laughing matter fellas, since an estimated 10% of perfumes and fragrances are fake. By fake, we mean counterfeit stuff that uses urine as a stabilizer and contains anti-freeze. So, inspect the product very carefully:
- Check the labels for misspellings and poor logos.
- Ask yourself this: “Do I really want to buy my scent at a street stand or market?” No, you don’t.
- Be wary of bargains. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Be wary of floaters in the bottle (enough said) and excessive oiliness.
- Ask the seller if they offer a full money-back guarantee. If they don’t, or do but don’t seem truthful, then move on. You’re a man! No need to put up with that stuff.
There. You’ve been forewarned. We’re not naive; we just understand that unscrupulous bastards exist in every business. But enough about them. Karma will catch up with them and force them to live their next life wearing cheap cologne poured on by the ladle-full. You, however, are going to go through this life smelling like a man should. And we’ve listed the best products to help you do that.
Now that you’re equipped with the basics of cologne, there’s no holding you back. Scent is a powerful attraction, especially if it’s a scent that fits you, your personality, and isn’t overpowering. The right scent can help you gain wanted attention. Choose wisely. You won’t be disappointed.