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Style & Grooming

10 Step Guide To Finding Your Manly Signature Scent

Handsome man spraying fragrance

For some men, finding a signature scent seemed to come naturally; for most, it was a long, arduous but worthwhile journey.

You probably already have an abstract idea of what your signature scent should smell like — something manly, something not too strong yet doesn’t remind people of pink ponies and flowers… Maybe something sexy or soothing. Not only does a signature scent serve as a personal scent memory to family, friends, associates and even people you don’t know, but it also makes you more attractive to women.

That’s right, whereas men tend to go with what they see, smell is the most powerful factor for women in choosing men whether or not they know it!

It goes without saying that having a signature scent is very advantageous, but finding one can be difficult, if not impossible. You will be told to find one you like, but that’s easier said than done.

Perfume descriptions are useless for determining whether a smell is for you, and over-eager shop assistants will throw fancy words and terminology at you just to make a sale. The last thing you want is to buy something that smells nowhere as good at home as it did in the store, so to save you from wasting your time and money, we have put together a 10 step guide to help you find your signature manly scent.

Fragrance Pyramid, Too Manly

How your fragrance evolves over time is key to choosing a signature scent for men best suited to you

STEP 1: Understand The Fragrance Pyramid

For there to be even a chance of finding your perfect scent, it helps that you know what you’re buying. Scents are a lot more complex than meets the eye nose. Like the food triangle, they are constructed on a ‘pyramid’ that’s divided into three portions.

Sitting high on the scent pyramid are the top notes, which are the clean, citrusy, and fruity smells that people most notice when the fragrance is first applied. They also disappear the fastest, usually lasting no more than 15 minutes.

Smack dead in the middle are the heart notes, which are generally the green, herbal, floral, or spicy smells that become apparent once the top notes begin to fade. Lasting twice as long as the top notes at around half an hour, they are the most dominant part of the scent you’ll buy.

Last but not least are the base notes, the underlying smells that sit at the bottom of the pyramid and form the foundation of the scent. Made from larger molecules than the top and heart notes, they are earthy in smell — vanillas, chocolates, woods, musks, etc. — and last the longest, appearing around half an hour after you spray on the fragrance and lasting anywhere between two hours and an entire day.

These details might seem excessive or unnecessary for a simple man like yourself to find his signature scent, but how your fragrance evolves over time is key to choosing the one best suited to you. We’re not here to give you a degree in aromachology.

Man walking in autumn falling leaves

Like food, seasons evoke strong scent memories, so use them to help identify a signature manly scent

Step 2: Figure Out Your Favorite Food And Season

Approximately 80% of our sense of taste is driven by our sense of smell, which is why food tastes so bland when we have a cold. So, working backwards, the flavors you gravitate to may play into what you’ll like in a scent.

The memories you attach to certain scents also have a strong influence on your fragrance preferences. Seasons evoke strong scent memories, and summer in particular can illicit memories of suntan lotion and the smell of the ocean.

Spring is tied to walks in a forest, green, and floral scents, while pine needles and wood smoke and incense are hallmark winter smells. If you are an outdoorsy man that can’t get enough of the invigorating scent of untouched wilderness, making a connection with what you’ll want in your signature manly scent will be easier.

Men's Cologne Brands

Made for the everyday man, designer fragrances are less expensive and more common than niche brands

Step 3: Understand The Types Of Fragrances

Cologne and other fragrances can cost anywhere from $20 to $300; however unlike most things in life, you don’t necessarily get what you pay for.

The price of cologne is NOT driven by ingredients! The idea that cheaper fragrances use synthetics and more expensive colognes use natural fragrances is a common misconception that is largely untrue. High-end brands may have the budget for more expensive ingredients, but this may be an indication of the quality of the ingredients rather than whether it is synthetic or organic.

Fragrances have historically been been divided into two general categories: designer and niche. Here’s your quick breakdown:

  • Designer fragrances are the most common type. Made by companies like Armani, Hugo Boss, Creed, and other world renowned designer brands, these fragrances are usually concocted for the masses — the everyday man — and cost anywhere from $25 and $150 a bottle. A large target audience means they typically stay away from smells that evoke strong reactions and tend to be made from cheaper materials to cut costs.
  • Niche fragrances are usually but not always made from more expensive, higher-quality ingredients. Whereas designer fragrances are developed for mass-consumption, niche scents are created by industry artists for a more selective customer looking for a distinctively bold or unique smell. These bold scents won’t be for everyone, and a price tag that’s typically over $50 and can go into the multiple hundreds makes them harder to obtain.
Wallet With Measuring Tape

Having a budget and sticking with it can help you narrow down a quality fragrance for men without throwing money around wastefully

STEP 4: Have A Budget

How much should you spend on cologne? How much are you willing to spend on your manly signature scent? Having a budget and sticking with it can help you narrow down a quality fragrance for men without throwing money around wastefully.

Remember, more money does not always mean a better fragrance. Some of the most popular fragrances of the past few centuries had relatively cheap ingredients, and it is possible to mix expensive raw materials only to end up with an undesirable smell that even your dog won’t like.

As with luxury cars, what men often end up paying for is the marketing cost and the brand image associated with a particular fragrance rather than the cost of its raw materials. But you may find that the price premium may be worth it if you are accustomed to the scent of a particular brand, a scent you can’t get anywhere else.

Perfume Shop in Paris

When it comes to finding your manly signature scent, there is no alternative to going to a shop and actually trying out scents yourself

STEP 5: Go To A Fragrance Shop

When it comes to finding your manly signature scent, shopping online won’t cut it. In fact, there’s no alternative to going to a shop and actually trying out scents yourself, so you will have to get busy..

Don’t be that guy who ends up regretting a fragrance he picked because it had a fancy bottle and the celebrity spokesman was eye-catching, and not because it actually smelled good. Be the disciplined man that headed somewhere with a wide selection of scents — ideally the fragrance counter of a department store — and put his nose to work.

Going early in the morning is best, because that’s when your nose is at its freshest and most primed for capturing the fine intricacies of a fragrance. Just don’t stop and smell the roses while on your way.

Man Trying On Cologne

To give each fragrance a proper shot, it’s best to try out only two to three scents at most per visit

Step 6: Try Out Only Three Scents A Time

Before trying out some of the scents, be aware that your nose is limited in the amount of scents it can process in a short period of time. Your olfactory bulb will be getting more of a workout than it’s used to, so everything will start smelling the same after blasting it with too many scents.

To give each fragrance a proper shot, it’s best to try only three scents at most per visit and two scents ideally. Out of the ones you sampled, pick the two or three you like the most and spray them on your skin, one on each wrist. The leave the shop, go about your day, a take the smells in.

You will notice that your chosen scents will develop as the day progresses, hitting each note, coming into their own and possibly evolving into something far better than you tried at the shop or into something flat and boring.

After trying the first two or three fragrances, and after smelling a neutral environment for a few minutes to reset your nose, repeat the the process by going to the shop and spraying on other scents. If you don’t find it on the first or second try, keep doing this until you find a scent you really love. Your signature manly scent is not something to be taken lightly.

Types of perfumes concentration

there can be up to seven different versions of the same scent

STEP 7: Choose A Version

As if finding a signature manly scent isn’t difficult enough, you must also sort through the different fragrance concentrations.

“Fragrance concentration” refers to the strength that a fragrance has, and there can be up to seven different versions of the same scent. However, fragrance concentrations are generally broken into five categories: eau fraiche, eau de cologne, eau de toilette, parfum, and eau de parfum.

Eau Fraiche is the most diluted version of fragrance, containing 1-3% perfume oil in alcohol and water. They usually last no more than an hour.

Eau de Cologne, or cologne for short, is used in North America for masculine scents, hence why we used “cologne” throughout this article. Typically composed of 2-4% perfume oils in alcohol and water, they usually last for about 2 hours are very characteristic of fragrances for younger people.

Eau de Toilette is composed of 5-15% pure perfume essence dissolved in alcohol and usually lasts for about 3 hours.

Eau de Parfum (AKA Perfume) contains 15-20% pure oils and lasts for about 5 to 8 hours. The term perfume has historically been used by the general public to describe both men’s and women’s fragrances.

Parfum (not to be confused with Eau de Parfum) is the the most concentrated and expensive of all fragrance variations, featuring a composition of 20-30% pure perfume essence. It has the most oily feel, and a single application can last for an entire day (24 hour).

Finding the best balance of strength of value for your manly signature scent can be just as important as finding the scent itself. The key is to have a fragrance that sells strong and lasts for a good amount of time without being overpowering, and this requires a lot of trial and error.

Woman smelling man

A manly signature scent makes men more attractive to women. How do women react to yours?

STEP 8: Gauge Reactions

Once you’ve gone through the work of finding a fragrance, there are a number of ways to determine if it’s your signature scent. First and foremost, do you love the way it smells? If yes, then it’s definitely worth wearing. After all, who better than you can determine which scent suits you?

Secondly, does wearing it get you a lot of compliments? If so, then you’re definitely on the right path — not only do you love it, others do, too.

Finally, does the scent create memories? When other people make a comment like, “I knew it was you — I can recognize that intoxicating smell anywhere,” it’s definitely a signature scent.

Don’t let others choose for you — there is a reason why the scent grandma gifted you last Christmas has sat in your closet unused for years. Instead, use the opinions of others to reinforce or question your decision. Consider trying something else only if multiple people tell you your scent is off or a poor match.

Man Holding Perfume Bottle

STEP 9: Choose Your Fragrance Bottle Size

So, you have finally settled on what might be your manly signature scent and are just about ready to end your journey. But before you kick back and smell the fruits of your hard work, you must choose the right fragrance bottle size for your needs.

Fragrances come in many different bottle sizes (while they usually range from 1 oz. to 3.4 oz, some come in even bigger bottles) and they don’t last forever on the shelf. Rapid heat fluctuations like those found in most bathrooms and sunlight causes the molecules in fragrances to break apart, so this is one product you definitely don’t want to stockpile.

Also consider that you don’t know how often you will be wearing your signature manly scent, and your tastes will probably change once you get the chance to smell different scents.

Simply put, if you are new to the world of fragrances, reduce your risk by buying a smaller bottle.

Man Holding Cologne

Things change, and it’s possible to have a different signature scent for different stages of your life

Step 10: Switch It Up Occasionally

Changing what you wear throughout the year doesn’t mean you’ve lost your signature manly scent. In fact, it’s possible to have more than one signature scent — one for each season or for every stage of your life.

Your sense of smell and taste change as you age, and changes in the chemistry of our skin as we age (moisture levels, temperature, etc.), as well as changing hormone levels, can interact with the ingredients of a scent, causing the notes to affect the body in different way and making the scent to smell different than before.

The seasons can also change the perceived smell of your manly signature scent. In the summer, for instance, the fragrance notes dissipate from the skin a lot quicker due to the heat, so it’s probably best not to wear very powerful cologne. In the winter, they may actually take longer to reveal themselves, making lighter fragrances a good choice.

Needless to say, sometimes, it’s just best to give a signature scent a rest and find a more suitable one for your new body composition and / or the season.

Happy man with arms open

You are an adult man now, so take responsibility and pick your own manly signature scent

Be A Man, Make Your Own Choice

Smell is one of our strongest senses, if not the strongest. It is connected to our memory and can elicit powerful emotions, so having a signature manly scent is a distinctive way of expressing yourself beyond the visual.

It can be a difficult and arduous journey, but once you find some fragrances that complement your natural scent and you feel comfortable wearing on a regular basis, you will develop an appreciation for colognes as the interesting olfactory world becomes a part of your life.

Plus, how long can you really go wearing whatever your grandmother buys you for Christmas? You are an adult man now, and it’s time you picked your own manly signature scent.

Written By

Kwame Owusu is a personal development coach and the founder of Too Manly. He holds an MBA from a top business school and is committed to helping men all around the world look, feel and live the prime of their life.



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