Darwin believed that us humans produce two types of smells: defensive and attractive. When scientists delved into the topic of exactly what makes our nose tick for attraction, they came up with no exact answers. We do know that scents, both natural and unnatural, have profound effects on mood, but there are no studies that prove why these reactions exist. For now, science abandons us to figure out this whole scent thing out on our own.
The Cologne Minefield?
Choosing the right cologne can sort of be like walking through a mine field. What turns off one girl, will turn another on. When I was a young man in high school, I used Old Spice due to the fact it was a Christmas present and free. To be honest, at that time in my life, anything that wasn’t video games wasn’t getting any of my time, dedication or money.
The free cologne granted me my first adventure into the world of cologne. When I first wore it, ready to impress my girlfriend at the time, Angela, she reported to me that I smelled familiar. In fact, after an hour she figured out that I smelled like her father!
She would proceed to tease me for the rest of our relationship about this connection, and the Old Spice cologne went to the back of the closet. The story has stuck by me in the importance of picking out colognes- so let’s say the first rule is to stay away from mainstream as Old Spice or, God Forbid, Axe to avoid the risk of reminding girls of someone else.
Here are some additional, less anecdotal guidelines, on how to pick out a cologne.
1. Consider Multiple Colognes
There is a cologne for every setting. The type of scent you want to wear to work will probably not be the same one that you want to wear on a date night. Try to choose more nuanced scents for special occasions and a toned down, fresh scent for casual places like the office.
2. Know The Absolute basics
Colognes basically come in three categories: citrus, green, and spicy. There are tons and tons of scents that fall into those three categories, but having just that knowledge will help you begin to narrow down the scent you desire.
3. Make A List Of Scents You Like
Although the ultimate goal of wearing cologne is to leave a positive impression on other people, you are the one who has to smell it all day. Write down scents that you wouldn’t mind being around on a daily basis to help guide through the different options. Also take note of scents that you don’t like as well.
4. Look For Well-Constructed Scents
A good cologne will have three layers of a scent, a top, a mid-level and a bottom. If you take the time, you’ll be able to distinguish multiple scents within the cologne. If there is just one strong scent coming through, this is the sign of poorly made cologne.
5. Be Assertive
Now you sort of know what to look for, try going to a store where there is a clerk to assist you in exploring the scents. Tell them what you are looking including the scents and the construction, so that they can guide you in the right direction. If the sales person seems to not getting close to the target of what you want, don’t feel bad if you move onto a different clerk or store.
6. Don’t Listen To Anyone Else
You girlfriends, the hot sales woman, your mother- these are all people who are not going to be wearing the cologne. Trust us on this one, you want to choose something that you actually like rather than worrying about the opinions of others.
7. Take Your Time
Shopping for scents is an overwhelming experience for your sense of smell. Usually after getting a good whiff of a couple, scents start to blend into one another. Take a breath of fresh air every handful of scents, so that you can come back refreshed. Also, don’t feel bad if you don’t find anything you like that day, because you could always re-visit to start your search for the perfect scent anew.
Mark Greene is an expert in dating and men’s grooming. His past work has been featured in different men’s lifestyle publications like and GQ and Details. He is now editor of Men’s Axis Grooming and works as a consultant for various men’s lifestyle brands.