In The Cologne Series we explore the art of fragrance and how to use it as a tool in our grooming arsenal. We also muse on the artistic aspects of perfume, its history and the relationship men have had with cologne throughout the generations.
After reading this series we are confident you will emerge an erudite intellectual who not only smells marvelous but has made an educated artistic statement with his scent.
Here are the links to each part of the series:
Part 1: Why Cologne Matters?
Part 2: How to Pick the Right One
Part 3: Telltale Signs of a Good Perfume
Part 4: Who Do We Wear Cologne For?
Part 5: How to Build a Fragrance Wardrobe
Part 6: Wearing a Fragrance Intentionally
Growing up, cologne was a mystery for me. It was one of those things that the “real men” in my life always approached with a healthy dose of suspicion.
My dad didn’t wear cologne and neither did my grandpa. They wore aftershave. The one with alcohol that burned your face and smelled of a man.
As far as I could tell, they saw aftershave as a practical tool, which made it fit into their worldview of what makes something manly and hence acceptable to wear.
The male models of my early life followed the same simple rule, which delineated what a “real man” should engage in and what he shouldn’t touch. I found out later in life this wasn’t just an oddity of the men in my family but a broader belief of my dad’s and grandpa’s generations.
The simple rule was this: “real men” deal only with practical things; they don’t concern themselves with looking pretty and even less smelling pretty. A real man rolls up his sleeves to chop wood, fix an engine and, generally, engage in any activity that will feed and clothe his family.
Cologne helped with none of this and, hence, in my grandpa’s eyes, you don’t need to concern with it.
While I don’t share the same view on perfume, I won’t argue that somehow putting on cologne is a practical endeavor. It is not but, come to think of it, neither is shaving, trimming your beard or styling your hair. Still, just like virtually all of us today, both my grandparents and my dad never skipped their barber appointment even in the leanest of times.
The reason why us guys are iffy about cologne is because no one has ever taught us anything about it. Your dad or uncle may have shown you how to shave your beard and comb your hair but they likely never mentioned why a man should smell good. Yet, wearing a cologne is as important as your daily shave.
...women who don’t wear perfume have no future. It’s no different for men.
Just like your grooming habits and personal style tell the world who you are, so does cologne. If your clothes and hairstyle show how you fit into the world around you, your perfume tells the story of the world inside you. Skip your fragrance and you miss the best opportunity to tell others who you really are without saying a word.
Coco Chanel is credited for saying that women who don’t wear perfume have no future. It’s no different for men. The right fragrance will boost your confidence, put you in the right state of mind and show others that special something that makes you unique and interesting.
The trick to wearing cologne is two-fold: knowing what to buy and how to wear it. Grabbing something from the clearance bin on your way to the toilet paper section won’t do. Neither will succumbing to the sweet-talking of the sales reps at the department store promising you success in a bottle.
Finding the right fragrance is an exploration in two dimensions: the physical one and the emotional one buried deep inside of who you are. You know you have found the right fragrance is like finding the right partner: she makes you tick; you get her and she gets you; you crave her when she’s not around and takes you to a place of comfort when the going gets tough.
If you think finding the right scent is tough, you are right. It can take years to find the right match or matches (more than one can be right for you). I can’t help you pick yours but I can tell you how I go about picking mine and lately I’ve rarely gone wrong.
Buying the right scent is only half of the story. How you apply it is the other half.
I’ve been the guy who empties an office building with my cologne. I’ve learned the hard way how to make my perfume hum. In the Cologne Series to follow I’ll show you how to buy, wear and think about cologne. It’s an experience worth exploring, so let’s not waste any more time and get to it.
What Comes Next...
We start at the beginning: how do you actually buy cologne? It’s more than just grabbing the first thing on the counter. Picking the right one take some psych work, which we cover in Part 2: How to Buy Cologne.