Shopping for cologne is difficult. Simply getting past the annoying shopping mall spritzers — the eager salespeople ready to spray you with something new — is just the start. Once you get to the counter, you still have hundreds of scents to choose from. It’s overwhelming.
To take some of the anxiety out of the process, we went straight to women and asked them, “What smells sexy to you?” Let’s be honest, fellas; if they like it, you’ll wear it.
What Women Want
Before diving into the specifics, there were a few surprising constants. The adjectives “masculine” and “manly” came up again and again in our discussions with the ladies. Not that the women we polled agreed on what a masculine scent was, but they definitely like their men to smell like a man — not a floral bouquet. One woman polled went so far as to say that a certain low-priced deodorant has a very manly smell.
This doesn’t mean that women don’t care about their men smelling “special,” whatever that means. Here are some of the scents our ladies recommended.
Monocle Scent One: Honoki by Comme Des Garcons
“It’s my favorite — it’s woodsy, earthy and very green,” says Lilith, a writer from New Orleans. “It’s perfect.” The scent is a commission by the chic newsmagazine Monocle and the fantastically cool clothing company Comme des Garcon. The inspiration is definitely sexy too: Scandinavian saunas. Can they bottle all that naked steam? Yes. “It’s one of those scents that, if someone around me is wearing it, I immediately feel this urge to sidle up next to the wearer. Luckily it’s usually my boyfriend,” admits Lilith.
Grey Vetiver by Tom Ford
“A great scent like Grey Vetiver can be totally intoxicating and sexy,” says Courtney, a 20-something Southern transplant to New York City. “I remember how every boyfriend I’ve ever had smelled. My current boyfriend wears Tom Ford’s Grey Vetiver solely for my benefit. He can’t smell a thing. It’s really manly and woodsy, but really complex with citrus and spiciness that you can’t really put your finger on.”
The One for Men by Dolce & Gabbana
“It’s the mix, I think,” says Laura, a publicist in San Diego. “My boyfriend wears The One, and it always smells a little different; at times rough and woodsy, at other times light and citrusy. Maybe it’s just him that I like. But no, I like this scent on him. Together, it’s a really delicious combination.”
Absinth Parfum Extrait by Nasomatto
“My gay best friend started wearing Absinth and I told him I could hardly be around it,” says Orli, a 20-something magazine editor. The light green scent with a rugged wooden top is earthy and a bit grassy, not at all reminiscent of the famous alcohol it’s named after. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an intoxicating effect. “The scent drove me too crazy, and since there’s definitely no chance there, it’s torture!” says Orli.
Polo Black by Ralph Lauren
Ralph Lauren has created dozens of popular scents over the years. Remember Chaps? But he seems to have hit a sophisticated peak with Polo Black. The mix of mango and sandalwood sounds strange, but it works. Margaret, a young artist from Maine, says it is the sexiest cologne for her. Why? Because it reminds her of her favorite man: her dad. “When I smell it on him … Oh! I know it’s a very special occasion,” she says.
By Aaron Krach for Style + Tech For Men
Aaron Krach, former grooming editor of Cargo magazine, is a writer and editor based in New York City. His work has appeared in InStyle, Out, and TimeOut New York, as well as on Esquire.com. Aaron is a frequent contributor to Style and Tech for Men.
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