Men's fragrance rules: A step-by-step guide to wearing cologne

For all of the talk of fragrance as a love potion, the most artistically and commercially successful of them directly seduce the consumer himself.

But before you yield to temptation, read on to catch of whiff of essential insider knowledge in choosing and using a scent.

Shop around

No need to settle down with your first, advises perfumer Olivier Gillotin. "It's important to say that just smelling on the blotter is nonsense," so test it out on your skin directly. "A fragrance reacts differently from one skin to another," he continues. And give it time to develop, so avoid snap judgments. "Some fragrances might not be interesting to someone for the initial two or three minutes, but wonderful after."

"The power of the trail"

When I asked him where a man should apply fragrance, I was aware that "pulse points" is the universal refrain. (Thus, the traditional ritual of spraying the wrists.)

Gillotin, however, gestured matter-of-factly toward his inner thighs: "You have two big arteries here. It's one of the warmest parts of the body."

And he made a persuasive argument against spraying the neck. If I could smell his fragrance strongly while speaking with him right just then? "Pfft – that's no good. But someone passes next to us [and says,] 'Did you smell that?' That, I think, is the most important thing to achieve – the power of the trail."

Apply conservatively

The only firm rule is not too much. "It's a tricky question," Gillotin concedes. "But remind your readers that people are smelling your fragrance stronger than you do."

If you are ever in doubt that a second spritz is going to push it over the line too much, hold off and repeat later in the day instead. It is always easier to add more later.

Start small

Men tend to exhibit strong brand loyalty when it comes to cologne. About 60 percent of men's fragrance purchases go to restocking or replenishing a dwindling supply of his regular brand. Best practices dictate that the halfway hesitant or merely curious shopper always buy the smallest quantity of a fragrances. Wait to make the value-size purchase, ungainly though the big bottle may be, until you've committed to the scent.


Why you need three

Gillotin suggests that the sophisticated gent will own a minimum of three fragrances – a fresh, low-key one for the morning and the gym, something from the herbal and spicy fougère family for a more assertive mood, and something with "a very strong signature," such as his latest: "It is to be used when you want to be seen."


Check out the gallery above for 11 of the strangest, and strongest, fragrances for men on the market.