When it comes to fragrance, most men go well and truly overboard, smelling like they've bathed in it. That's the message from the world's leading perfume expert, Michael Edwards.
“Most men instinctively apply too much,” says Edwards, author of Fragrances of the World. “From the time they're young, they tend to overdo it. And after a couple of minutes you can't smell your own fragrance; your nose cuts out. This is why it's important to get some indication from your wife or your partner if it's acceptable or not. It's far better to be under-scented than over-scented. Always err on the side of caution.”
The key, according to Edwards, is to use fragrance sparingly, applying just two light sprays in the 'T-zone' from nipple to nipple across your chest and down to your navel. “Whatever you do, don't spray it on your face, as fragrance can wreak havoc with delicate facial skin,” he says.
He adds that the fragrance should be left for 10 to 15 minutes to give it a chance to “lie down on your skin”. Only after this amount of time can you ask the question: is this subtle, or do I smell like a pimp?
A good rule of thumb, Edwards advises, is to take the length of your arms as a guide to what is an acceptable distance from which people should be able to smell your scent. If folks can smell you in the next postcode, you're wearing too much.
Don't blitz the boardroom
Edwards says subtlety when it comes to fragrance is never more important than in the boardroom.
“The executive arena is no place for loud, abrupt fragrances,” he says. “Fragrances should complement, but be remarkably discreet. There are some people who do not believe that any fragrance is appropriate in the boardroom.
“But, having said that, it depends on the country that you're doing business in. If you are in the USA and dealing with white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant males, most are very reticent about using fragrances. On the other hand, if you are dealing with Latin-Americans, fragrance is expected. And in the Middle-East, fragrance is not only expected, it's part of a daily ritual, and each time you go to a meeting you'll be offered fragrances and you'll be expected to apply them.”
As for the fragrances themselves, Edwards recommends that executives avoid “oriental” styles - such as Opium pour Homme (Yves Saint Laurent) or 1 Million (Paco Rabanne) – during the day. “These are superb fragrances, but they are probably not appropriate for daytime usage,” he says. “I would recommend a citrus, or a water-note, or a fresh wood-note for the boardroom.”
His recommendations for suited and booted types include Terre d'Hermes by Hermes (woody); L'eau d'Issey pour Homme by Issey Miyake, plus Acqua Di Gio by Giorgio Armani (water notes); and Chrome by Azzaro, Neroli Portofino for Tom Ford, and Eau Sauvage by Dior (citrus).
“These are all discreet and yet they do have a presence to them,” Edwards says. “Most importantly, don't wear cheap cologne, such as Brut 33, or it will be a disaster. It is akin to turning up to a boardroom meeting in a polyester suit.”
He cautions executives not to underestimate the importance of how you smell. “There are enough problems in business without seeking to add to them. Impressions do count, and it's important that you are perceived as being professional. If you get close to somebody and they smell too strongly, you start to question their judgment.”
As for his personal favourite? “When I first went to Paris as a kid, I fell in love with Dior's Eau Sauvage. I still love it. Perfumier Jo Malone says it's got the smell of money and she may just be right; it's superb.”
What scents do top CEOs wear?
Glenn Barry, founder and executive creative director, Genius Group
“I wear Hugo Boss Black. It's masculine, but soft.”
Anthony Griffin, CEO, Saxo Capital Markets
“My wife has purchased colognes for me in the past, I couldn't tell you what they were and I probably did persist with them for a while, but not being a perfume sort of guy, unless somebody buys it, I wouldn't bother myself.”
Lou Pagano, director Alliances Group, AMP
“Something very powerful, that ignites the nasal hairs and gets attention. Maybe it's something to do with the subject I'm presenting and trying to keep people awake. I'm wearing Calvin Klein One at the moment.”
Luke Harvey-Palmer, CEO, Alive Mobile
“I spend a lot of time in the boardroom. My wife bought me Prada cologne recently, so I wear that. I love Burberry, too. They tend to be subtle; I don't like a fragrance that is too overpowering.”
Jason Glanville, CEO, National Centre Indigenous Excellence
“I spend a bit of time in other people's boardrooms. I do wear cologne every now and then. I like one called Light Blue by Dolce & Gabbana. My partner picked it for me.”
John Gee, non-executive director and consultant to several companies including NAB Wealth and Asset Management
“My favourite is Dior Eau Sauvage. I've worn that for many, many years, and found it to be very fresh.”
Guido Belgiorno-Nettis, Executive Director, Transfield Holdings
“I usually smell of sweat and fear. No, really my particular cologne is Dior Eau Sauvage. My wife likes the smell on me. She's the decision maker.”
Craig Hobart, GM Australia, Baycorp
“I wear Rexona 24-hour anti-perspirant. That's it. I don't wear cologne in a corporate environment.”