By Mike Shen
All too often we males gravitate to extremes when it comes to body odor. Worst case scenario? We smell like dirty laundry. Deodorant, good hygiene habits, and regular laundering of our clothes and linens can usually rectify that situation. The other extreme is the natural body scent that we emit that more often than not is overpowered by the other aromas in the immediate environment. The trick when it comes to cologne is to know your signature scent and successfully combining it with the product.
Before I elaborate, here are a few no-no’s that I highly recommend that you follow. 1) Do not drown yourself in cologne! I’veseen men use cologne like a second shower, spraying their hair, neck, armpits, wrists, and – yes, I kid you not – their family jewels. Not only will you become a walking potpourri exhibition, any display of affection from a hot date you might experience will turn sour when an innocent kiss on your face or neck elicits a flavor analogous to kissing a sponge doused in cleaning solution. The proper way to apply cologne is to spray a mist in front of you, then walk through it. If you have non-spray cologne, just dab a bit on pulse points on your neck and wrists. 2) Do not mix or confuse aftershave with cologne. Aftershave is NOT a cologne substitute. Unfortunately, most aftershaves on the market have evolved from being skincare products that moisturize and tone skin – staving off dryness and ingrown hairs – to vile concoctions that irritate and reek of old-world barbershops. Instead, use an odorless alcohol-based astringent (or non-alcohol for those with sensitive skin) in replace of aftershave, and then proceed to your cologne of choice. 3) Cologne is not deodorant. Remember, the chemical compounds in your eau de toilette works with, not against, those in your odor de body. Besides, the two cannot subtly cancel each other out – think the aroma of a French pastry shop mixed with that of a garbage truck driving by.
With all of that said, let’s get down to some of my older and newer favorites:
Cool Water – Davidoff (retail: $47 for 75ml/2.5oz)
Now, before you sigh and roll your eyes, let’s honestly ask ourselves why Cool Water, when released in 1988 became an immediate success in Europe and later in the U.S. and is still one of the top sellers of men’s fragrances today. The distinctive and contemporary scent is youthful, yet appropriate for all ages. The cologne contrasts lavender and rosemary flavors against mint, coriander, and orange flower. The heart notes (ie. body of fragrance) of jasmine and geranium are offsets against sandalwood and earthy tones of moss. Vetiver provides a firm, masculine base. What does all of this mean? The fragrance is light and distinctive. The natural freshness is immediately disarming to those who approach you. I recommend it for daytime use, though it is a rule that I myself follow loosely. The best thing about it is that it’s appropriate for both semi-formal and casual attire. If you want to give off a down-to-earth, fun-loving impression, this is the fragrance for you.
Dunhill Desire – Alfred Dunhill (retail: $46 for 100ml/3.3oz)
Now I would be lying to you if I didn’t say that I’m seriously biased towards this truly unique and refreshing cologne. To date, I have yet to find another cologne that even comes close to the modest complexity of Dunhill Desire. Released in 2000, the fragrance features top notes (ie. first impressions) of bergamot, lime, neroli, and apple. Its heart notes tease the senses with patchouli, rose, and teak wood. Finally, its base notes (ie. subtler flavors) excite with a blend of vanilla, musk, and labdanum. Bergamot is a key ingredient in this concoction. Found in popular teas like Earl Grey, the citric flavors of bergamot rind combines nicely with the woody-apple tones to create a sexy, floral fragrance that is both simultaneously sensitive and masculine. Great for daytime casual or office wear. Convey a mysterious, yet soft and passionate side with this winner.
L’Eau D’Issey – Issey Miyake (retail: $70 for 125ml/4.2oz)
Issey for men is fresh, modern, and sophisticated. Created in 1994, the cologne blends citrus and spice with base notes of musk, amber, and woods. Women love this product and often buy the perfume counterpart. The cologne and perfume complements each other perfectly, which is more than I can say for other male/female scented releases like Gucci Rush. There is a genuine balance of verbena, coriander, sage, and mandarin orange with spices, sandalwood, cedar, and amber tobacco. The result? A fragrance that actually morphs with your body’s on chemistry as the day goes on. The complexity of the cologne is perfect for evening wear. If you’re going for a formal, scholarly impression, pick up a bottle and walk tall.
Black Vetyver Café – Jo Malone (retail: $75 for 100ml/3.3oz)
It was a chance encounter at Dean & Deluca that inspired Jo Malone to capture the distinct aroma and social allure of coffee in a fragrance – think of smells in the coffee bean aisle mixing with those in the flower bouquet aisle. Although not everyone loves to drink coffee, I have yet to find someone that doesn’t like the aroma. Released this past winter, this innovative fragrance fuses the bitter notes of coffee with the exotic spice of vetiver. You’ll also get hints of coriander, nutmeg, sequoia, temple incense, sandalwood, and vanilla. I truly believe that this product will become a top-of-the-line competitor with the best colognes on the market. Fantastic for evening wear, though not inappropriate for day wear, the cosmopolitan flavor of Black Vetyver Café is disarming, trendy, and alluring. Just released, the cologne is hard to find; visit the Jo Malone Shop in the Flatiron Building @ 949 Broadway (212-673-2220).
I’ll leave you all with this bit of advice. There are hundreds of men’s fragrances to choose from in the market. Pick a few that you like – four is a nice round number. It’s classy to make sure that you wear the right cologne for the appropriate occasion. Remember that certain colognes smell better on some people than others; so before you buy, get second opinions from friends or a significant other. Stick with your selections. After all, nothing leaves a greater and more memorable impression than your signature scent.