How To Wear A Cologne That Goes With YOUR Style

I had this English teacher when I was in the 9th grade, and he didn’t like us at all.

I don’t mean that he didn’t like us as students, but it was his last year of teaching, and he had given up trying to care about our success as students.

Of course, as a bunch of 14 year-olds, none of really felt bad that he cared little for our education or our advancement of knowledge. We just all saw Mr. Harvey’s class as a chance to slack off.

He would regularly tell us that this was his last year. He would go on long diatribes about what he would do with his retirement.

He wanted to learn to play the alto saxophone. He wanted to travel around Spain. He wanted to learn to brew his own beer.

I loved the time he wasted. I loved all the things he would tell us. I loved that class.

I couldn’t tell you which Shakespeare we read that year, if Montag was the good guy or bad guy in Fahrenheit 451, or if I learned anything about writing essays…

…but I did pick up a bit of knowledge that I have remembered to this day.

Wearing cologne is important.

Mr. Harvey hated how all the young men would ‘bathe’ in cologne and let their stench permeate his classroom.

He took it upon himself to educate all the guys in my class, not just about semicolons and sonnets but about the art of wearing cologne.

He told us how to apply it. He told us about different scents for different occasions.

More than anything, he taught us about how important a good cologne can be for your self-esteem.

Since then, I’ve taken that guided wisdom and I’ve expanded on it. I’ve been purposefully doing what Mr. Harvey has done for me and all my friends in that class.

And now I’m going to do the same for you. I’m going to pass on the knowledge I have (and you’ve never asked) about cologne. I’m going to make sure that you leave this article with the confidence and swagger to wear a damn good scent and wear it proudly.

Here’s Why Wearing A Cologne Is Worth Your Time AND Your $$$

If you’re like most guys, you assume that wearing cologne is all about smelling good and not smelling bad. That’s the extent of it, right?

Wrong. And I’ll tell you more about that in a second…

But first, the main reason you wear cologne actually doesn’t have to do with smell.

It has to do with how you feel when you’re wearing the perfect scent.

It gives you this incredible boost of confidence. You’re the man. You’ve got it going on. You know how to wear a damn good cologne and you’re damn sure everyone else will notice you.

If you’ve got the shirt, the jeans, the perfectly coiffed hair (or perfectly shaven head, well, now you’ve got the additional layer of cologne to give you that boost of confidence.

This is worth the price of the bottle, every time. If you smell like a million bucks, you’re going to act like a million bucks.

And there’s nothing sexier than a guy who knows he’s got it going on. Even if it comes out of a bottle.

But let’s get back to smell.

Women Love It

This is true. In fact, science tells me it’s true. Click here if you need more proof. (Warning: Dense technical jargon inside. Safe for work, but maybe not if you’re about to operate heavy machinery or perform surgery).

Women respond better to smell than men. It’s a genetic ability they use to differentiate between guys. If one guy smells better, a woman’s brain fires off an age-old response that this guy is worth her time.

Women have an impressive 43% more cells in the olfactory bulb, the region of their brain that processes smell. I suppose this could be why your partner is more offended at your flatulence than your buddies.

But studies have shown that a guy that smells better is deemed to be more attractive than a guy who doesn’t smell as nice.

Your Nose Knows

Don’t underestimate the power of your nose. It’s a powerful factor that most guys don’t appreciate.

Let me tell more about what I mean by that.

Take your eyes as an example. You have the astounding ability to see an impressive 10 million colors. Your brain can actually distinguish 10 million different shades of colors, giving you the ability to correctly assess your world around you.

People pay attention to what they see, and for good reason. Your eyes are remarkably good at seeing.

But your nose is 100,000 times better at doing its job than your eyes. In fact, compared to your nose, you’re a regular Mr. Magoo.

You can use your nose to distinguish 1 trillion scents. That’s trillion, with a big, fat ‘T’ in the front.

How big is that number? If you smelled 1 smell every single day since the earth was formed – you still wouldn’t have smelled everything!

Your nose knows its smells. It is a powerful way to win over someone’s senses. You might impress their eyes, but you can blow away their nose (Bad pun. I’m sorry).

And what does this have to do with cologne?

With Over 1 Trillion Scents – How To Determine What Is What

The science of smell has created this fancy chart to help us understand what you should know about your cologne:

Use these terms at your next fancy party to impress your fancy guests with this fancy language.

It’s been broken into three distinct types of smells. This applies, not just for colognes, but for deodorants, beard oils, and anything else that applies a scent to your body.

You should pay attention to the ‘Big Three’ scents, or notes, that compromise your choice in cologne: Base, Heart, and Top Notes.

The Top Notes (minutes – 1 hour)

When you first apply your cologne, you’ll first notice the head, or the top notes, of your smell. These smells are temporary and fade away relatively quickly. Most top notes only manage a few minutes before they fade away completely.

Most citrus and aromatics fall into this part of the pyramid of pungency. It’s a quick and noticeable hit of scent, and it fades away to allow the deeper scents to emerge later.

You’ll find common smells like lavender, bergamot, lemon, orange, anise, and lemon grass.

Cleaning companies know these top note smells are your first impression, which is why you’ll find they liberally use these scents in their products. It creates the impression of clean because it’s a powerful scent that you notice.

The Heart Notes (2 – 5 Hours)

The middle scent of your cologne is a hearty scent that has staying power. It doesn’t strike your nose at first, but the prolonged aspect of these notes make it a powerful additive to any smell.

These scents last anywhere between 2-5 hours. If you’re doing your math, that means that after application, these are the smells that everyone else around you will notice.

The heart notes, or the middle smells, are made up of floral, green, fruits or spices. Think cinnamon, rose, grass, peach, or clove.

The Base Notes (5+ hours)

Whether it’s cologne or a really good funk fusion band, you need a good base line.

The base notes are the foundation of your scent, which is built upon the longest lasting smells. These are rich and long-lasting, often extending past 5 hours after application.

The base notes of your cologne are made up of woody and balsamic smells. Oak, cedar, sandalwood, vanilla, and musk are the main players in this part of the pyramid.  They do the time and they smell great for long periods.

Important Facts When Wearing A Cologne

Your cologne has been rigorously designed to be different to a body spray or deodorant. But not all colognes are created equal.

I’ll get to that before too long here.

It’s been formulated to go the distance and last for longer periods, fading the top notes into heartier middle notes with a resounding base note smoothing it all out.

Your cologne can be perfect for the day or the night, depending on what you have planned.

Oh, you’re planning on something day AND night?

Alright, you lucky dog, here’s a couple reasons why you should always prefer a cologne to a body spray.

Fragrance concentration will be higher in a cologne.

A body spray has different elements in it that detract from the main purpose of scent. Cologne has more fragrance in concentrated doses, so you need less to produce more.

Good news for your wallet, and your evening.

Cologne is made from synthesized fragrances that have that higher concentration than a more natural-based fragrance. Essential oils come with a lower dose of that concentration, so they can’t make the distance of a regular, synthetic smell.

It’s All About The Pulse Points – How To Wear Cologne

Alright, here’s my favorite part of all of this. This is where I get to channel Mr. Harvey from all those years ago and teach you some lessons that many, MANY men today still don’t get.

I’m going to show you just how to wear your favorite cologne.

Pulse Points

Have you ever heard someone talking about their ‘pulse points’? It refers to the areas of your body where you can take your pulse.

Pretty easy to deduce that one, I know.

But it’s also the place where you should focus your cologne application.


Thanks for asking.

I’ll tell you why.

It’s because your pulse points are also the spots on your body where the blood is closest to your skin, and therefore the hottest part of your body.

Your body heat amplifies the fragrance and gives you the maximum effect from your chosen smell.

This could mean places like:

  • The base of your neck
  • Your wrist
  • Your inner elbow
  • Your chest

These are the key areas where your fragrance will have a better result. But (and just Like Kim K., this is a BIG BUT), only choose two of those points when you apply it. Otherwise, it can quickly get overpowering. The point isn’t for you to smell it, it’s so other people can.

It’s tempting to spray it on your clothes.

Do NOT do this.

You’re not getting the heat releasing the top, middle, and base notes of your cologne. It’s a dead zone on your clothes when your fragrance is designed to react and bloom with your skin.

Secondly, and I can NOT emphasize this enough, please don’t rub it in. This destroys the makeup of the cologne and it hurts the effect you’re going for.

If Ron Popeil sold cologne, he’d tell you to ‘Spray It and Forget It”.

The Misting Method

I watch guys that I know do this all the time. They take their cologne and spray a couple puffs into the air. Then they walk through it and assume they’re good to go.

What a waste! And let me tell you why.

First of all, you’re spraying money away when you do this. Much of your cologne ends up on the floor, the bed, the sink, and whatever else you happen to be standing next to when you take your march through the mist.

Secondly, it doesn’t go where you need it. It goes in your eyes, on your hair, your face, or on your clothes. Those aren’t effective spots to get the best out of your scent.

Thirdly, if your girl kisses you on the cheek, she’s going to get a mouthful of your fragrance.

Tasting cologne is NOT a pleasant experience.

See if she comes back for a second kiss after that one.

Besides, if you’re like many guys, you tend to mist your body after a shower. I know, you think that having open pores means longer smelling if it’s absorbed into your skin.

That’s only half right. I’ll explain that further down below.

Wet skin actually further destabilizes the fragrance, again, not giving you the intended effect of pleasing women’s noses everywhere. Keep it dry and keep it all day.

Daytime and Nighttime Occasions

Different colognes are better suited to different environments. There are smells intended for the work day, for lunches, for brunches, and run-ins at the water cooler.

You’ll find that a good daytime cologne has a light fragrance, intended to be focused on the middle and top notes. It can pop out and make you feel invigorated as you go about your day.

It’s also perfect after you’ve had your workout, and your skin is nice and dry.

But if your plans include some night time activities, head in a different direction with your aroma. Focus on scents that use heavy, woodier smells.

Chances are that your nights aren’t going to be spent at home, so you won’t have the chance to reapply. You need the base notes to be sophisticated and long-lasting.

Did I mention that a good scent can trigger a great memory? It’s one of the benefits of the 1 trillion scent nose you’ve got. A long-lasting smell will reinforce those parts of her brain that will cause her to think of you every time she smells those rich, deep, base notes of your cologne.

It makes a difference when your date can smell your cologne at the beginning of the evening, and have it linger in her nostrils as she leaves in the wee hours of the morning.

Other Factors To Consider

Remember when I said you were only half-right about applying cologne after your shower?

Yes, you do want the open pores. Yes, you do want to ensure that your fragrance gets into your skin.

But your skin can’t be wet.

After you’ve toweled off, give yourself an application in a couple of the pulse points, and those open pores will imbibe the scent and release it throughout the day.

Don’t mix and match your smells. As guys, we are provided a LOT of options for making us smell better.

Maybe the fragrance industry is trying to tell us something???

You’ve got your cologne, your shaving gel, your deodorant, your body spray, your beard oil… And that’s just after your shower. Because you also have lotions, soaps, and body washes to compete with as well.

When possible, pick a soap/lotion/deodorant that is either unscented or complementary to your cologne. Mixing and matching smells can lead to unintended consequences. Not to mention that it dilutes and overwhelms the cologne that you’ve diligently purchased.

Speaking about money, cologne can be pricey (of course we do have a list of cheap colognes that are perfect for men on a budget). The reason is that it’s extremely concentrated, so it should last you a long time. It’s also a powerful smell that performs better than any drugstore body spray.

So if you’re shopping around for your next (or maybe your first) scent, hit up the department stores. They’re a great resource for trying before you’re buying.

You’ll get a chance to smell the top colognes and even try something you’re interested in. They will offer you sample strips. Don’t take the sample strips. Because those flimsy pieces of cardboard don’t have any heat, they won’t smell the same way on you over time.

Spray one sample on one pulse point, and spray another on another pulse point. You can do 4 samples if you go for each wrist and each inner elbow.

And please don’t make a decision based one minute of smelling. Let it sit and release its potency over the course of a day.

This is not only for the smell, but to see if your body has an allergic reaction to it. Smell it at different intervals, seeing how you like the makeup of the cologne.

Better yet, because your nose will become accustomed to it, get your partner to smell it. She’s the one that will notice it on you in the first place.

One last note, there’s a new fad coming up for solid cologne.

Well, actually it’s not new.

Solid fragrances have been around since the pyramids. Egyptians used solid fragrances regularly, and it’s catching up again today.

There are some excellent benefits to using solid colognes, and I’m definitely a fan of this version.

  • The TSA doesn’t care. You can’t get anything over 3.4oz on a plane, but your friendly neighborhood TSA agent doesn’t care about solid colognes. Pack your favorite fragrance without worrying that it’ll get tossed in some dingy airport bin.
  • No breakages. The other worry about cologne bottles is that it’s hard to safely carry around a glass bottle. You never have to worry about your solid bar of cologne though. Toss it in your gym bag. Take it with you on the plane. Carry it in your man purse. And never be without it.
  • You can apply it anywhere. Spraying a cologne bottle anywhere but at home makes you look a little vain. Your privacy can be intact when you discreetly reapply your solid fragrance at the office, in the car, or out in a restaurant.

I’m not just saying all of this about cologne for your benefit, but for mine as well. Now that I’ve gotten older, I can appreciate my former English teacher’s disdain for wearing cologne improperly.

There’s nothing worse than getting in an elevator with a guy who clearly poured the cologne on before leaving the house that morning.

Dude, you’re doing yourself no favors, no matter how good the cologne is.

I wish all men would take a bit of time to educate themselves on something that can have such a drastic effect on their friends, their co-workers, their social life, and their own confidence.

So take this and I pray you pass it to someone you know. No man deserves to be ignorant about the wonders of a good, developed cologne.

Adam Williams

As the lead editor of Tools of Men, Adam loves men's grooming products. Particularly of interest is managing facial hair and perfecting the art of the modern man's skincare routine. His work has been featured or quoted in several publications, including New York Magazine, Vice, Sharpologist, MIC, Elite Daily, and more. When Adam isn't working, he enjoys spending time with his two little kids who keep him both on his toes and young at heart.

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