A Man’s Guide to Cologne Etiquette

Men, listen up. This is all about you. Ever wonder why some women can smell a hotdog stand 8 blocks away? Or how they know when their babies flatulence signals a bowel movement in the near future. Well, women were given a gift, the gift of smell.

Why is that?

Studies suggest that smell has a significant impact on selection. You know to mate.

It has been proven that a man’s natural aroma merely is detectable by the female gender. 

It doesn’t help that natural selection gave women the advantage of smell, i.e., more cells in their olfactory bulbs. 

Single or married, the feeling of an attractive woman complimenting your fragrance choice puts a smile on your face, yes? 

Your fragrance selection, albeit natural body odor or what bottle you sprayed yourself with today, is all part of your style. May it be feeling more attractive, self-confident, or as a de-stressor, perfumes and colognes can literally make or break you.

So, let’s go over basic ideas when selecting and wear cologne or parfum in this Perfume101 class. 

What are fragrances?

Great question! Fragrance can come from almost anything in the world known as raw materials. These raw materials can be from flowers, animals, or feces of a whale. These extracts, as their called, can also be reproduced synthetically in a lab to resemble certain smells we can not extract from their host naturally. 

Perfumes are made with four compounds; Carrier Oils, Water, Fragrance Oils and Alcohol. The higher the fragrance oil concentration, the higher the strength. Thus, a longer lasting and more potent aroma on your skin. 

Keep in mind, everyone smells differently, and perfumes can either enhance or degrade your natural B.O.

Why Wear Cologne?

Well, why not? It increases your self-esteem and attraction meter while grabbing the attention of the opposite sex. 

As I mentioned earlier, women use to smell like a ‘yay or nay’ approach to choosing a partner. It goes back thousands of years to the dawn of time. Sorry guys, women can outperform you on smell since birth!

FUN FACT- Did you know we can detect over a trillion unique odors compared to our eyes detecting roughly seven million colors?

Who wants to be around a foul-smelling, pungent person? 

The smell also triggers memories, good or bad. It recollects to childhood when your grandfather used to smoke cigars, or evoke the scent of your mother coming back from the hair salon. All it takes a familiar scent to bring you back to yesteryear.

Ghiaccio Nero by Duccio Pasolini

Types of Fragrances

Fragrance is actually a generic, unisex term for perfume. No matter the form or name, there are five different fragrance categories – Parfum, Eau de Parfum, Eau de Toilette, Eau de Cologne, and Eau Fraiche. 

  • Parfum. A corruption of the Latin phrase per fumum (through smoke). The most concentrated and expensive of all fragrance options. Slightly oilier, parfum (or perfume; you can see how these terms get confusing!) is composed of 20-30% pure perfume essence. A single application can last up to 24 hours. 
  • Perfume (Eau de Parfum). Historically genderless, used to describe both men’s and women’s products, and is the best term for describing a fragrance. (I’ll be using cologne more in this post though, simply because that’s the term most readers associate with scent.) Contains 15-20% pure perfume essence and lasts for about 5 to 8 hours.
  • Toilette (Eau de Toilette). A light spray composition with 5-15% pure perfume essence dissolved in alcohol. Usually lasts for about 3 hours.
  • Cologne (Eau de Cologne). The oldest term for perfume, used in North America for masculine scents. Light, fresh, and fruity, typically composed of 2-4% perfume oils in alcohol and water. Tends to be used in fragrances for younger people. Usually lasts for about 2 hours.
  • Eau Fraiche. The most diluted version of fragrance, usually with 1-3% perfume oil in alcohol and water. Usually lasts for less than an hour. 

The Fragrance Notes

Top Note- The initial aroma we smell immediately after applying to the skin. Can last from 15 minutes up to 2 hours.

Heart/Middle – Features the main fragrance can last up to 3-5 hours. They build off the top notes and include more potent florals like jasmine or grass. Fruity and spice scents can appear here. 

Base/Bottom– The final note to surface about 5-10 hours after the first spray. Usually bolder a typical of vanilla, sandalwood, leather, smoke, and musk.

Types of Fragrances – Designer and Niche

Designer fragrances – The ‘popular’ fragrance by large perfume houses (Chanel, Armani, Gucci) and/or endorsed by celebrities (Johnny Deep, Mariah Carey, Rihanna). Due to being mass produced for a mass consumer consumption, they are made with cheaper materials, to save costs and escalate volume production. They also sell $25-$200 a bottle (1oz).

Niche fragrances – made from usually higher quality, natural ingredients, these perfumes are made for selective consumers looking for something unique and daring. They understand that not everyone will like them and usually asked for by fragrance aficionados. A one-ounce bottle can sell from $50 to a few hundred.


Just because an influencer or celebrity endorses the brand, doesn’t mean its better. That is how perfume house ‘reel people in’ – pairing a famous name/face to a label. 

What makes a bottle expensive is the amount of oil concentration it contains. Most often, we are paying for branding, packaging, marketing, and a well-known face.

If you noticed, many designer perfumes have the same smell or ‘feel’ to them. Using marketing as their biggest tool, brands use almost identical ingredients and measurements in each scent. That way, if you like one scent, you will most likely enjoy them all.

Selecting and Purchasing

You know your body better than anyone else’s. Choose a fragrance that works with your natural body odor. 

Just because if you come in a shiny or pretty or even an expensive-looking bottle and packaging, doesn’t mean it the right choice.

Ask about the notes -Top, Heart, and Base. Ask for samples or to be sprayed by one and see how others react around you. If they shrug or walk away, you know why. 

  1. Spray one scent on each wrist.
  2. Avoid the paper cards the store provides. You will only smell the top notes and not how it smells on you throughout the day.
  3. Between smelling each fragrance, refresh your palate with something strong, like smelling coffee beans or drinking tea.
  4. Try to smell all the notes. They will merge and change over the next few hours.
  5. Walk around and smell the fragrances at various intervals throughout the next few hours. 
  6. Purchase a bottle of your winning choice. Wearing a fragrance is a process, just like a chemistry experiment. 

What Size Bottle Should I Buy?

Just as a restaurant as different size portions, so does fragrance bottles. The standard sizes are 1 ounce to 3.5 ounces. If you’re trying a new scent, go for the smaller and least expensive size. Plus, fragrance as an expiration date. The longer it sits on your shelf, the aroma will begin to alter – unless you wear it every day and then some!

It will not last forever! Perfumes respond to heat – the hotter it is, the quicker it will lose potency as the molecules begin to break apart. Do not store your fragrance in the bathroom or anywhere well lit. Storing fragrance in a dark, cool, dry environment extends the lifespan while avoiding funky smells. Bedroom closets and refrigerators are great nesting places!

Who hasn’t been around someone with a little too much cologne? Not only is it overwhelming and unpleasant, but it can also be easily avoided once learning the proper technique.

  1. Spray fragrances on dry skin. After shaving, showering and moisturizing, spray about 4-5 inches away from your target spot.
  2. Baby steps. When testing a new scent, start light. A single spray (on your chest) is ideal for getting comfortable, then branch to your wrists.
  3. The hot spots. Heat reacts well with fragrance creating a sillage. Start with the areas were veins are closest to the skin surface: wrists, neck, forearm, chest, behind the knees and inner elbow. DO NOt spray on all points at once! Start with one and work up.
  4. Refresher. Once you see how a scent reacts with your natural body odor and oils, spray a second round on your wrists later in the day.
  5. Don’t rub it in! Rubbing your wrists is a big no-no. It breaks the molecular bond causes the scent to be weaker (and more sprays=more bottles).
  6. Don’t be a spritz. Never spray in the air and walk through the mist. It’s a waste of money and drops to the floor.
  7. Splish-splash. If you have a cologne without a spritzer, press one finger on the opening and gently tip to the side. Dab onto your target area as mentioned earlier.
  8. Save your money. Resist the temptation to over spray. You should never spray yourself as you do with bug repellent. Mend those around you, they don’t want to be overwhelmed by your smell.

Find the perfect fragrance takes time. Learn to discover your favorite scents and what works with your body. Some men have 2-3 signature scents, while others collect perfume like hotcakes. 

Just as you dress yourself to feel confident and self-assured, fragrance helps enhance that without being cocky. When testing fragrances, identify the notes, and look back for fond memories that bring nostalgia and deep, emotional connections. 

Written by Sarah Finley

About the Author: Sarah Finley is a conceptual copywriter and content creator from Miami, Florida. For the last five years, she’s taken the role as a single mom, teacher, and freelancer while going back to school to focus on Media & Public Relations.


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