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How to Pick a Cologne

When choosing a cologne, it’s important to find one that speaks to you. It should smell good and reflect your personality. The right cologne will make you feel confident and stylish, and it will be a scent that people associate with you.

There are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for cologne.

Related: The Best Smelling Colognes

1. Learn the Fragrance Notes

The first step to finding your perfect cologne is understanding the fragrance notes. Fragrance notes are the individual scents that make up a cologne. There are three different types of notes: top, middle, and base.

  • Top Notes: These are the first scents you’ll smell when you apply cologne. They are usually light and fresh, and they evaporate quickly.
  • Middle Notes: These scents develop after the top notes have evaporated. They are usually softer and sweeter than the top notes.
  • Base Notes: These scents are the last to develop and linger the longest. They are usually heavier and more intense than the top and middle notes.

2. Learn the Olfactive (Fragrance) Families

Colognes are also classified into different fragrance families. Here are some of the most common fragrance families:

  • Floral: Here you’ll find floral scents like rose, jasmine, and lily of the valley. These colognes are usually light and fresh, and they are ideal for spring and summer.
  • Fresh: Common fresh fragrances include citrus, green, and aquatic scents. These colognes are light and clean-smelling, and they are perfect for summer.
  • Oriental: These colognes are usually richer and more intense than other types of colognes. They often have woody, spicy, or sweet scents. They are ideal for fall and winter.
  • Woody: Woody colognes often have scents like cedar, sandalwood, and moss. They are usually heavier than other types of colognes, and they are ideal for fall and winter.

Other Notable Fragrances

  • Chypre: These colognes have a citrusy top note and a woody, mossy base. They are classic and timeless.
  • Fougere: These colognes have a lavender top note and a woody base. They are classic and timeless.
  • Musk: This fragrance is often used as a base note in other types of colognes. It is warm and sensual. Musk also has a tendency to linger, so be careful not to overdo it.

Fragrance Wheel

To make sense of all the different fragrance notes and families, you can refer to a fragrance wheel. This will help you identify which scents you like and don’t like.

3. Consider the Occasion

When choosing a cologne, it’s essential to consider the occasion. For example, you probably don’t want to wear the same cologne to a job interview that you would to a night out with friends.

Here are some occasions and the best colognes for each:

  • Job Interview: A clean, fresh scent like citrus or Fougere
  • Weekend Wear: A casual, relaxed fragrance like woody or oriental
  • Night Out: A bold, masculine scent like woody or oriental
  • Daily Wear: A versatile scent like citrus, floral, or woody

4. Consider the Season

The season can also affect your cologne choice. You’ll want to choose a lighter scent for the spring and summer and a heavier scent for the fall and winter.

Keep in mind the occasion too. For example, you probably don’t want to wear a heavy cologne like an oriental to the office during the winter months.

5. Express Your Personality

Your cologne should reflect your personality. For example, if you’re a shy person, you might want to choose a softer scent. If you’re a more outgoing person, you might want to choose a bolder scent.

Here are some personality types and the best colognes for each:

  • Shy and introverted: A soft, floral scent
  • Outgoing and extroverted: A bold, woody scent
  • Serious and professional: A clean, fresh scent
  • Fun and playful: A fruity or citrusy scent

6. Sample the Cologne

Once you’ve narrowed down your cologne choices, it’s time to sample them. We recommend visiting a local department store such as Sephora, Nordstrom, etc., to sample colognes. The sales staff will be happy to help you find the perfect scent.

The best way to do this is to spray a little cologne on your wrist and see how it develops throughout the day.

Pro Tip: If you are testing multiple fragrances, smell coffee beans in between to help clear your nose.

7. Types of Colognes

Now that you know how to pick a cologne let’s look at the different types of colognes.

  • Eau de Cologne: This is the lightest type of cologne. It contains 2-5% fragrance oils.
  • Eau de Toilette: This is a slightly more concentrated cologne. It contains 5-15% fragrance oils.
  • Eau de Parfum: This is a more concentrated cologne. It contains 15-20% fragrance oils.
  • Solid Cologne: This is a concentrated cologne in a travel-friendly solid form. It is made from beeswax, oils, and waxes. Fragrance tends to be lighter. Learn more about solid colognes.

Pro Tip: We recommend sticking with an Eau de Cologne or Eau de Toilette if you’re just starting out. These are lighter scents that are less likely to be overpowering.

Dive Deep: Differences Between Aftershave, Cologne, & Eau de Toilette

8. Ask for the Opinions of Others

Once you’ve found a cologne you like, it’s always a good idea to ask for the opinions of others. See what your friends and family think of the scent. They may have some helpful suggestions.

9. Expensive Doesn’t Always Mean Better

Just because a cologne is expensive doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for you. There are many great colognes on the market that won’t break the bank.

10. Trust Your Instincts

In the end, you’ll want to go with your gut instinct. So if you find a cologne you like, go for it. You’ll be the one wearing it, not anyone else.

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.

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