Best Cologne for Men: The Ultimate Guide

Popular Men's Fragrances

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What is the Best Cologne for Men?

You may have taken all the necessary steps to make sure you look good in all your fits: everything’s the right size, your colors complement each other in just the right way and you’ve got the confidence to rock whatever you’re wearing.

But let’s not forget an important detail if you want to give an extra boost to your outfit and even your confidence: smell. You could be the best-dressed individual in the room but if you smell like garbage no one is going to want to be close enough to you to ask what season Yeezys you’re wearing.

The absolute first step to smelling good? Take a shower. You should probably wash your clothes occasionally too. Who really wants to get by on just the bare minimum though? The next step to smelling good: Fragrance. Our men’s fragrance guide will clear up any confusion regarding all the different types.

We’re talking about the real stuff here, so leave the Axe body spray in the middle school locker room.

Types of Men’s Fragrances

This may come as a shock to you, but not all of those men’s fragrances you see are called “cologne”. There are five different types of fragrances out there:

  1. Eau Fraiche
  2. Eau de Cologne
  3. Eau de Toilette
  4. Eau de Parfum
  5. Perfume

It may seem complicated at first but this article will break down the differences between each type so it is easy to understand. The names mainly signify the different concentration of oils in each fragrance.

Eau Fraiche

This type of fragrance is the lowest on the concentration spectrum because it typically contains 1 to 3 percent of fragrant oils. This means that the scent will usually wear off in one hour. This is the category where you will find aftershaves as the lower concentration of oils will not burn the freshly shaved skin.

Because the Eau Fraiche fragrance has such a short duration, your body chemistry does not have the opportunity to interact with it – meaning that what you smell in the bottle is almost exactly what you will be smelling on your skin.

We like Versace’s take on Eau Fraiche.

Eau de Cologne

Commonly referred to as cologne, and what became the catch-all term for men’s fragrances, contains 2 to 4 percent of fragrant oils. This type of scent will last you approximately 2 hours. Cologne will also have more light and refreshing scents, which are recommended for use in hotter weather.

For fragrances lasting longer than an hour, your body chemistry will affect the smell throughout its duration. There will different “notes” that come off of the fragrance, but more on that later.

There’s also a sprayless form of this fragrance termed solid cologne. I was skeptical of the concept at first, but it’s actually a very convenient way to apply some fragrance while on the go (and it’s inexpensive). I find it’s easier to apply the proper amount of fragrance with this by “layering” the solid cologne. Check out the stuff from Duke Cannon, especially the “sea” variation.

Eau de Toilette

For this type of fragrance, the fragrant oil concentration is 5 to 15 percent which will last generally around 3 hours.  It’s a balanced middle ground of potency and duration and is a solid choice for beginners. As discussed previously, the notes will change throughout the second hour of wear.

I’ve been wearing Light Blue by Dolce & Gabbana for years and I’ve yet to get tired of it. Perfect for year-round fragrance, though I think it shines in the colder months.

Eau de Parfum

Sometimes Eau de Parfum is referred to as “Perfume” which is incorrect, EDP and perfume are two types of fragrances with different concentrations, so keep this in mind.

This fragrance will have a concentration 15 to 20 percentof fragrant oil, meaning it will last around 5 to 8 hours. After several hours of wear, your body chemistry will continue to mix with the scents of the fragrance, producing new notes as time goes on.

Perfume (Parfum)

This type of fragrance has the highest concentration of all, usually around 20 to 30 percent of fragrant oil. You can find even stronger concentrations of parfum out there but typically that is the bracket it falls between. This fragrance will last you a minimum of 6 hours but some types can last up to 24.

It should be noted that these times are a rough estimate. Everyone is different so they chemical levels in your body will affect how long these fragrances will last. Think of them more like guidelines than golden rules of fragrance.

With that in mind, those are the types of fragrances and about how long they will last, so when you go to the store to try some out – remember the approximation of how long each fragrance lasts to suit your need.

Have a job interview? Definitely want to go with one of the less powerful fragrances so you smell nice, but not necessarily assaulting the interviewer’s nostrils.

Date night? Try something that’s going to last you the few hours, but be careful to not put too much of it on. If they can smell you from across the room, they might not want to spend too much time right next to you.

If you retain one piece of information from this post, less is more when it comes to fragrances. You don’t want to be “cologne guy” who tried too hard at the middle school dance.

Types of Scent Notes

Now onto the “notes” that were discussed previously. There are three different types of notes that fragrances can produce:

the three types of scent notes for fragrances
  1. Top
  2. Middle (heart)
  3. Base notes

The top notes are the initial smell of the fragrance and will evaporate quickly because of the small, light molecular structure. This is the smell that either draws you in or immediately turns you away from a fragrance when sampling. Common top notes include citrus, light fruits, and ginger.

Middle (also referred to as medium and heart) will follow the top notes and appear anywhere from 2 to 30 minutes after application, depending on the fragrance used. These will last between 3 and 5 hours as the fragrance gives way to its final stage: the base note. Some common medium notes include amber, vanilla, lavender, and lemongrass.

Base notes will be the boldest of the three and create the body of the fragrance because of their large, heavy molecules. These notes appear when the top notes are completely evaporated. The medium and base notes interact with each other to form the main smell of the fragrance. Base notes will linger on the sprayed areas long after the other notes have left the skin. Common base notes include stronger, “deep” scents like tobacco, different types of wood, leather, and pine.

Not all fragrances follow this progression of notes, some are going to stay the same from the moment you put them on until you either wash it off or it fades away. These types of fragrances are called “linear” because of that.

Typically, the cheapest fragrances are linear but there are fragrances that go through the non-linear progression of top-middle-base.

The Fragrance Wheel

fragrance wheel by michael edwards

Now time for the fragrance wheel. A man named Michael Edwards created this great infographic above that will help you gauge how a fragrance may smell on you by examining where it falls on the wheel. The four main categories for scents are floral, oriental, woody and fresh.

Floral Scents

Just because something has to do with flowers doesn’t mean that this scent is only for women.  You can have a men’s fragrance with a floral scent that’ll have all the girls flocking. Or boys. Or both. We don’t discriminate here.

There are many flowery scents that fall under this category as you can see below that range from fresh cut flowers to sweet spices. There are three sub-categories of floral scents that are Floral, Soft Floral and Oriental. Once again, don’t hold back if a fragrance has floral notes because you think you might smell feminine. Fragrances with heavy floral notes are best used in the spring and summer time.

Oriental Scents

Oriental scents are going to smell of spices, incense, and certain types of wood, but this category overall can be described as “rich”. These scents sometimes are so rich on their own they may be overkill so they are mainly mixed with other scents. The sub-categories for oriental are Soft Oriental, Oriental and Woody Oriental. Fragrances with heavy oriental notes are recommended for use in winter months.

Woody Scents

Woody scents are going to be the most complex of the scents and are usually the base notes of fragrances. The subcategories are Woods, Mossy Woods and Dry Woods. These earthy scents are commonly looked at as the most masculine because of they remind you of walking through the forest and chopping wood. From the lighter aromatic woods to the dark scents of dry woods and leather, these scents are especially great for the winter months but are a common go-to year round.

Fresh Scents

This fragrance has subcategories of Citrus, Water, Green, and Fruity. Starting with Bergamot and citrus oils to berries and fruits, these scents are recommended for use in the summer and spring months.

This may seem like a lot of information to take in at first, but if you’re just trying to choose a new cologne, you don’t need to know the sub-categories of every type of fragrance.

The bottom line is: you should be choosing what you think smells the best on you.

Buying Fragrances

When purchasing a fragrance, it is ideal to try small amounts at a time so your nose does not develop scent fatigue. 3 is the suggested amount so after that, you’ll need something to refresh your nose. Coffee beans are usually provided at most stores that sell fragrances for this purpose.

Spray the fragrance on your wrist and take some time to let the fragrance seep into your skin. If you are really committed to finding out those deeper notes are like, smell the fragrance at intervals lasting up to an hour.

Blind buying a fragrance is not recommended

For best results, you’ll need to go into a store and test the ones you’re interested in. Department stores are a good bet as they carry a ton of men’s fragrance brands.

Buying a new fragrance off the internet simply because of the brand name will probably lead to dissatisfaction. That being said, “showrooming” is totally encouraged here. Try out a scent next time you’re at the mall and you’ll more than likely find it cheaper online.

Smell is an important part of every man’s style. It’s the invisible accessory that can tie your #aesthetic together. Take time to find a fragrance that best suits you and your preferences so you can feel even more confident. You might find a new scent that you’ll wear for years or even decades.

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