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When one thinks of the classic gentleman, images of dapper suits and pinstripes might immediately spring to mind. However, those in the know will tell you that no proper gentleman’s formal attire is complete without a few spritzes of a high-quality cologne.
Throughout history, both men and women have worn a large variety of different fragrances to symbolize wealth, status, or just to smell a bit nicer. Today, men’s cologne tends to come in fragrances inspired by natural scents such as herbs, trees, or even fruit.
The most popular brands of luxury cologne today include the following:
While men’s cologne can come in at many different prices, a bottle of the most luxurious colognes can cost upwards of $400 for just 100 mL. Although that may seem pricey, you can be sure that the appeal of a beautifully crafted cologne is well worth the cost, however steep it may be.
The Benefits of Wearing Cologne
Although colognes have long been a staple product for the everyday gentleman, some people might not be certain why men even wear cologne. Colognes aren’t just a symbol of sophisticated masculinity. They can also help to enrich your overall presence and bring other benefits, not just to your aesthetic but also to your state of mind.
Here are some of the top benefits of wearing a cologne:
- Wearing cologne can help make a better first impression.
- Wearing cologne can make you feel better about yourself.
- Wearing cologne can make you more romantically attractive to others.
A Better First Impression
One of the first things people notice when meeting you for the first time is your scent. A quality cologne can make an immediate statement that you are a person who values self-care and looking after your appearance. Colognes are a symbol of a person’s social status, as well as a sign of respect for the people around you.
Wearing a little bit of cologne can almost make you more memorable to the people you meet. Studies have shown that individuals associate scents with memories and a pleasant scent can make a person’s memory of you more positive later on.
Feel Better About Yourself
Social gatherings, especially formal ones, can be nerve-wracking even for the most self-assured individuals. Wearing a fine cologne can help to improve your own confidence by helping you to feel better about how you present to others, as well as offering a comforting scent to alleviate any concerns about body odor that may make you self-conscious.
Studies have shown that manipulating body odor with artificial scents such as cologne has a tangible effect on a person’s self-perception. In turn, this can enable you to overcome feelings of stress or social anxiety and conduct yourself more positively.
Appear More Romantically Attractive to Others
Whether you’re attending a social mixer or going on a first date, many men feel an enormous amount of pressure and anxiety about appearing attractive to potential partners. Fortunately, the same study that found that wearing an artificial scent can help to improve confidence also found that wearing cologne can improve the chances of others finding you romantically appealing.
Not only is smelling nice just a positive quality in a potential date but wearing cologne also shows a potential partner that you care about your self-image and the people around you enough to spruce yourself up a little.
The Main Differences Between Colognes vs Perfumes
When shopping for fragrances, many men often get confused about the number of terms for different fragrance products in the market. You may see terms such as:
- Eau De Parfum
- Eau De Cologne
- Eau De Toilette
to describe different fragrance products. It can be challenging to understand what each of these different terms means, though.
This is further complicated by the fact that the traditional definitions of these terms, which are still in use today, differ from the conventional use of “cologne” and “perfume” in modern North America. Nevertheless, here are the major differences that you are likely to come across when browsing products labeled “cologne” and “perfume.”
- In everyday use in North America, perfume generally refers to any fragrance product primarily intended for use by women, whereas cologne generally refers to any fragrance product primarily intended for use by men.
- In technical terms, however, perfume refers to any fragrance with an oil concentration between 20-30%, whereas cologne, or “eau de cologne,” refers to any fragrance with an oil concentration between 2-4%.
- Due to the higher oil concentration, perfumes are intended to last up to eight hours after application, whereas colognes last much less time, typically around 2-4 hours.
Although the traditional definitions of perfume and cologne have nothing to do with who the intended user of the product is, most fragrance products in North America are advertised to consumers by using the terms “perfume” and “cologne” in a gendered way. Nevertheless, people should wear whatever scents they want, regardless of marketing or social expectations.
What Are the Best Use Tips for Wearing Cologne?
While wearing cologne can do a lot to improve your overall presentation in lots of circumstances, wearing or applying cologne improperly can actually lead to negative judgment rather than a positive impression. Here are some guidelines for when and how you should wear cologne.
- Use cologne in moderation. You never want to overdo the amount of cologne you apply, lest you end up with an overwhelming and unpleasant concentration of fragrance. Stick to two or three sprays to maximize how long the cologne lasts while still remaining subtle enough to smell good.
- Apply cologne to the neck and chest area. You should apply it either when getting out of the bath or when getting dressed (but only on dry skin!). Spray from at least six inches away from your skin to maximize dispersal.
- Always apply cologne to clean skin. Not only can cologne cause skincare issues by trapping oil and dirt in your pores on dirty skin, mixing cologne with poor body odor can create an even worse scent. You should never use cologne to try to mask your body odor. Bottom line? It’s never a replacement for good hygiene.
- Colognes are best suited for formal or special occasions. Optimal situations for wearing colognes include social events, particularly professional ones, and dates or weddings. If you want to wear cologne at work, keep it professional by wearing an understated or subtle scent, such as floral or citrus fragrances.
- Never wear cologne in situations where you’re stuck in close proximity. If you’re going to be in tight quarters with others for hours, such as on a long car ride or on an airplane, nix the cologne. It’s just common courtesy.
How to Pick Out a Good Cologne
Picking out a cologne can be a difficult task. It often isn’t enough to simply pick the most expensive or most popular cologne since every person’s taste in fragrances can differ. After all, it doesn’t matter if other people like a scent if you hate how you smell. Different colognes are also appropriate for different situations and even different times of the year.
With that in mind, here are some tips for picking the best cologne:
- Invest in a high-quality cologne.
- Understand the structure of a cologne.
- Know when you should wear what scents.
- Try cologne out before you make a purchase.
Quality Over Quantity
While it’s true that the price isn’t entirely correlated with how much you’ll like a particular cologne, luxury colognes are almost always made using higher-quality ingredients. Most of the time, they’re going to be designed to smell better than cheaper alternatives.
If you’re wearing cologne, then you’re likely trying to improve the way you present to the world. You definitely don’t want to do that with a cheap scent. Instead, invest in a higher-quality one for maximum scent appeal.
Cologne Structure 101
When purchasing a cologne from a retail store, you’ll most likely have the option to try out or smell a sample. Cologne scents typically have three layers of notes or scents. The top notes are the immediate scents of the cologne, the ones that are immediately noticeable.
These are followed by heart notes, which are generally more subtle and provide a transition to the last layer of scents. The scents, called base notes, are the most prominent and long-lasting.
Just a Matter of Timing
Different seasons call for different fragrances of cologne. During the warmer summer months, lighter colognes with more herbal, floral, or citrus scents often help to blend in with the natural floral scents of the outdoors. This can help to create an atmosphere of energy and levity around you.
On the other hand, during the colder winter months, heavier scents such as woodsy or spicy colognes can channel a different vibe. With these scents, you’ll impart a more cozy, comfortable atmosphere around you, particularly during the holiday season.
Try Before You Buy
When purchasing cologne in person, take advantage of the sample bottle, or ask the attendant to let you sample the cologne before you make a decision to purchase. Everything else aside, it’s important that you like the smell of the cologne above all and that it meshes well with your unique body chemistry. You can even take a friend with you to get a second opinion.
The Top Five Luxury Colognes on the Market
While which cologne suits you is ultimately a subjective and personal decision, there are a few highly regarded fragrances that men (and women!) from all around the world use every day as their personal favorites. The list of best colognes is plentiful, but here are some of the most well-reviewed colognes you can buy on the market today.
Our Selection Criteria
Before we start exploring these five incredible colognes, let’s go ahead and take a peek at our inclusion criteria. That way, you’ll have a better idea as to why we added it to our list.
- Their Price. As a rule of thumb, we generally tend to recommend a wide range of colognes at different price points for our readers. However, for this article, luxury was the bottom line. No budget scents managed to sneak their way onto our list! In this case, the more costly the cologne was, the better its chances were of being included.
- Their History. While it’s reasonable to think that a more established brand of cologne would be more costly than a recent one, there have been some exciting breakouts in recent years. Young or old, we considered all vintages before compiling our list. Some of the brands are hundreds of years old, whereas others are still brand-new.
- Their Quality. The quality of the cologne was something we refused to ignore, no matter the price of the fragrance. Sure, we can set aside our sticker shock when looking at a scent that costs literally hundreds of dollars per ounce, but if it smelled terrible? No, thank you. Every cologne on this list smells amazing, making it well worth the investment.
- Their Versatility. As we already mentioned, the time of the year that you wear a cologne will largely influence how much you should wear — or if you should even reach for it in the first place! Even though these colognes are the very definition of opulence, what good is there in buying a scent that you’re not going to get much use out of?
Creed Millesime Imperial Fragrance
One of the world’s oldest fragrance boutiques, Creed was founded in 1760 and has served the likes of Queen Victoria and Empress Eugenie of France over the course of its long history. Its Millesime Imperial Fragrance was launched in 1995 and has been a fan-favorite ever since.
Masterminded by the legendary Olivier Creed, the unisex scent combines fruity and salty top notes, citrus and flora heart notes, and musky and woody base notes for a truly irresistible cologne. Millesime Imperial Fragrance is a perfect scent for a warm sunny day, making it perfect to wear during the summer.
The complex yet subtle notes to the cologne allow it to have enough sophistication for a formal occasion, like a summer wedding, yet still understated enough for simply wearing around the office. The cologne’s packaging is appropriate for its luxurious nature and status, coming in a classy gold bottle that’s sure to impress anyone who passes by it on your dresser — including you!
- This unisex, adaptable scent is perfect for a wide range of situations.
- The company behind the cologne is highly reputable and has centuries of experience.
- A complex combination of notes gives the cologne an air of sophistication.
- Reviewers report that recent reformulations last for less time on the skin.
- Fairly expensive, at $320 for 1.7 oz.
- Might be too subtle of a scent for some people.
Clive Christian Original Collection X For Men
Like many of the other brands on this list, Clive Christian has a rich history of producing fragrances. The company was founded in 1872, under the name the “Crown Perfumery Company,” which served the British monarch Queen Victoria.
In 1999, the Crown Perfumery Company was purchased by Clive Christian and transformed into the modern version we know and love today. The company’s famous fragrance X For Men was launched in 2001 and has dazzled users since, with a delicious mix of fruit, spice, and musky notes that evoke a feeling of mystery and exoticism.
The cologne is perfect for the colder months, its spicy scents creating an aura of warmth and comfort around the user, while still remaining complex enough to retain a sense of elegance and class. The elegance of the fragrance is maintained in its bottle, a dark black container topped with a gold stopper in a show of debonair charm.
- Strong, spicy scent lasts for up to eight hours due to 20% oil concentration.
- Uses high-quality ingredients from a reputable company.
- Classic masculine notes in the fragrance help to make it versatile.
- The fragrance is on the stronger side and might be overwhelming in small spaces.
- Some reviewers have reported an unpleasant scent when first applied
- More expensive than some other similar options.
Dior Bois D’Argent
The world-famous luxury fashion company Dior was first founded in 1946 as a clothing brand, but it has since developed into one of the world’s most popular and prestigious fragrance companies. The company released its first perfume in 1947, which revolutionized the perfume industry at the time.
Dior later released its first fragrance for men in 1966, known as Eau Sauvage, which was similarly well-received. Their popular unisex fragrance Bois D’argent was first introduced in 2004 and quickly gained a loyal following thanks to its complex mix of aromatic, sweet, and woody notes.
An underlying hint of warm spice helps to add an additional level of versatility to the otherwise predominantly fresh fragrance, allowing the cologne to be used during both warmer and cooler months. The scent was designed by the famous French fashion expert Hedi Slimane.
Fans of the cologne applaud its soft yet complicated scent, remaining understated enough to not risk being overpowering. The combination of fresh and musky scents helps to make the cologne evoke a sense of nostalgia that many compare to an antique bookstore or workshop.
- Light, understated scent allows this cologne to be worn in close quarters without fear of overwhelming others nearby.
- A combination of warm and fresh notes helps to keep the fragrance appropriate throughout the year.
- A classic and recognizable scent, particularly on the streets of Paris.
- The fragrance may be too subtle for some and fades after only a few hours.
- The scent is often cloned due to its popularity, diminishing its overall prestige.
- Reformulations of the cologne have received mixed reviews.
Byredo Lil Fleur
A newer brand than many others on this list, the Swedish company Byredo has been making fragrances since 2006, each one carefully and intricately designed by perfumer Jerome Epinette. One of the company’s newest fragrances, Lil Fleur, launched in 2020 and became an instant favorite, particularly among younger adults and teenagers.
The scent captures a variety of floral, citrus, leather, and wood notes to create a unisex scent that’s somehow both innocent and sensuous at the same time. Fans of the fragrance report that its strong yet refreshing scent lasts for hours on the skin, and its youthful notes make it a perfect springtime cologne as the weather gets warmer.
The scent is on the bolder side, mixing traditionally feminine scents such as rose and vanilla with traditionally masculine scents such as leather and wood to create something intended for an audience less attached to the hard-coded gender norms of yesteryear.
- Strong, high-quality ingredients allow for a fragrance that lasts for several hours.
- A new and experimental mix of fragrances attempts to create a different pairing of scents than classic colognes.
- The cologne provides a romantic and bold scent perfect for dates.
- The fragrance may be too strong for close quarters such as airplanes or cab rides.
- Not everyone will like the experimental blend of masculine and feminine scents.
- May feel a tad juvenile or childish due to the heavy floral notes.
Ermenegildo Zegna Essenze Roman Wood
This cologne comes from the hills of Northern Italy by the luxury Italian fashion brand Zegna. Founded in 1910, Zegna has had over a century of experience designing luxury products for men, including clothing, accessories, and colognes.
While many new colognes for men are taking on a more exploratory approach to scents, Ermenegildo Zegna Essenze Roman Wood instead adopts a new take on a highly classic blend of aromas.
His scents often focus primarily on woodsy notes with aromatic, spicy, and mossy scents as well. This classically masculine cologne is perfectly evocative of a sophisticated yet rustic wooden cabin, inspiring a romantic atmosphere perfect for late-night dates by the fireplace in the winter. Fans of the cologne report that it lasts for around 7-8 hours after application, indicating a high concentration of perfume oils.
Despite that, the scent is unassuming enough that it should be safe for more intimate spaces without becoming overpowering. The cologne attempts to strike an optimal balance between making a statement and remaining sophisticatedly subtle.
- Well blended and complementary scents allow this cologne to be powerful without being overpowering.
- An extremely classic fragrance helps to make this cologne versatile, particularly during the cold months.
- The reputable company ensures that the ingredients used are high quality.
- The cologne may not be as original or creative as some may prefer.
- Some may be disappointed that the scent isn’t as stark as others.
- The fragrance may be more expensive than similar alternatives.
Question: How long is cologne supposed to last?
Answer: While a more traditional cologne (that is, a fragrance with 2-4% oil concentration) typically lasts 2-4 hours at most, many modern fragrances marketed as colognes in North America are simply masculine scented perfumes with much higher concentrations of fragrance oils. These can last anywhere from six to nine hours after proper application.
Question: Is there a way to make fragrances last longer?
Answer: While how long a fragrance lasts ultimately depends on the concentration of perfume oils in the product, you can maximize how long the scent lasts by applying the fragrance on clean and dry skin, ideally after a shower. Fragrances also react to heat, too.
With that in mind, you can apply colognes to areas known as pulse points such as the wrists, neck, and inner elbow to make the scent more noticeable. Some additional moisturization on these points using some lotion or vaseline can also help.
Question: Do colognes ever expire?
Answer: Yes! Colognes have a definite shelf life, something you should keep in mind before splurging hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a larger bottle of luxury cologne. As a general rule, the expiration dates of various kinds of cologne can differ, with some lasting less than a year, while others can hold for ten years or more.
For most brands, though, the average bottle of cologne will last three to five years before the blend of scents starts to go off. Colognes with the highest concentrations of oils and the heaviest scents typically last the longest before going bad.
Question: How can you tell that cologne has expired?
Answer: Expired colognes will tend to smell less pleasant, usually with a sour or metallic scent accompanying the normal fragrance of the product. This is caused by the oxidation of the molecules in the cologne, as well as the natural degradation of the emulsion of water and oil that makes up a bottle of cologne.
Question: Is it normal for colognes to change in scent throughout the day?
Answer: It’s entirely normal for a cologne to smell different immediately after applying it, especially when compared to a few minutes or a few hours afterward. Luxury and high-quality colognes are actually designed with this in mind, which is why there’s usually a range of main notes and base notes.
In fact, many people prefer to way cologne smells after it’s been sitting on your skin for a few minutes, rather than the immediate scent of the cologne when it’s applied. Colognes tend to mellow out and reveal more subtle scents after they’re applied, compared to the sharp harshness of the scent at first.
Question: How should you dispose of old colognes?
Answer: While it may be tempting to simply pour expired or unused colognes down the drain, you should never do this, for fear of contaminating waterways in the drainage system. It’s always a better idea to contact your local hazardous waste facility and ask about the proper way to dispose of cologne in your municipality. The bottles, however, are typically made of glass or plastic. This means that they can be recycled once emptied in your regular blue bin, though you may want to remove the spray mechanism or cap of the cologne bottle.
Our Final Thoughts
Wearing a high-quality cologne can be a fantastic way of improving your image while increasing your own self-perception and self-confidence. While a cologne can be attractive and appealing in many ways, at the end of the day you should choose a cologne that you enjoy and which makes you feel good about yourself.
Don’t spend too much time worrying about how other people will enjoy it, whether they’re strangers, colleagues, or potential romantic interest. That being said, you should also remain mindful of any scented products you use to avoid bothering anyone in close spaces, such as airplane rides or carpools.
While choosing a cologne is a personal decision, our favorite cologne in our list of recommendations is undoubtedly the Byredo Lil Fleur for its bold and innovative scent and a high-quality blend of ingredients. As social norms change and shift, the world of scents that are accessible under the masculine umbrella of cologne also changes.
This allows for individuals to experiment with and explore different notes that may not have been present in classical or traditional colognes of the past. Regardless of whether you’re in favor of new and creative fragrances, or you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to cologne, hopefully, you’re able to find a cologne you love in the list of recommendations above.
Feel free to ask others in your life who you believe smell pleasant to see if they have recommendations or favorites when it comes to cologne that you can inspire your own collection as well. You can also find other recommendations online and read reviews before you purchase a cologne.
Without a doubt, colognes are an essential part of a man’s professional and formal wardrobe, and a little spritz helps add an otherwise impossible element to a person’s attire and aesthetic. With your luxury cologne sprayed on your pulse points before you tackle the day, it’s safe to say you’ll be unstoppable, no matter where life takes you!