Track Down Your Scent

How much does your nose know when it comes to how you should smell? Here’s our scents-ible primer.

When it comes to cologne, chances are you fall into one of two categories: You either douse yourself daily with the same brand you’ve used since high school (“It worked for me then, so it has to work for me now, right?”) or you avoid the stuff and prefer to go au naturel (“Chicks really dig my pheromones”).

Whichever one sounds more like you, it’s time to rethink. If you’re the brand-loyal douser, now’s the time to update your scent and tone down your method of application. And if you’re scent-free, consider this before you swear off cologne for good: Scientists at the University of Liverpool have recently discovered that the mere act of applying fragrance boosts a man’s self-confidence to the degree of increasing his sex appeal.

If that isn’t enough to send you running to the nearest duty-free store, well, then, you probably need something a little stronger than cologne to help you out.

Here’s how to find your secret scent weapon of choice and wield it for the most effect. The ladies will never know what hit them.

Pick a Family
Unlike your complex relatives, there are only five different cologne “families” (that’s fragrance industry-speak): Citrus (light and fruity), Oriental (spicy and sweet), Fougere (pronounced foo-JER: mossy and oakey), Chypre (pronounced SHEE-pr; woodsy and floral) and Marine (think fresh, salty sea air).

Each category has its own allure, and even season -- Orientals and Fougeres are more popular in cold winter months because they smell spicy and warm, while Marine and Citrus are more popular in summer because they offer a cool and refreshing contrast to the heat.

If you already know which category you like best, that’s great, skip to the next section. If not, think about how you want to smell as opposed to how you think you should smell. And ask your girlfriend what smells she likes best. After all, that’s why you’re wearing it, right? Many guys assume that women are attracted to “manly” smells like musk and oak, when in fact, your lady may be more inclined to nuzzle up to a whiff of cucumber and licorice. (There was an actual study linking those aromas to increased sexual arousal in women.)

Take a Test Drive

Fragrances smell different on different people due to a number of chemical factors -- skin type, pH levels, sweat glands, etc. -- so just because a certain fragrance smells godly when it mingles with the DNA of David Beckham doesn’t mean it’ll smell good on a mere mortal like you (though we’re dying to know how you got to smell Beckham). This means you’re going to need to take trip to a department store (one with a well-stocked men’s scent counter) and try them out.

Find a few colognes with the general scent profile you think you’ll like, then spray them on those little pieces of paper at the counter. Take a sniff, wave it around, wait a few minutes, repeat (wouldn’t hurt to bring a woman with you, since you might not be able to objectively judge your own scent). Fragrances have what the industry calls top, middle and base notes, which basically means they’ll smell different the longer they’ve been in the air (or on your skin). The “top note” is the first (and strongest) smell your nose picks up, and it will dissipate over time.

Don't Hit the Bottle Too Hard

When it comes to applying cologne, the biggest mistake guys make is to go overboard. If a little bit makes you smell good, then a lot will make you smell even better, right? Wrong. People should be able to detect your smell when they’re within a few inches of you, not when you’re across the room. A few spritzes right after you get out of the shower is plenty.

If you want to make a bottle last even longer, keep it in the fridge. Just don’t reach for it before you’ve had your coffee and accidentally spritz yourself with that bottle of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. (Don’t worry, your secret is safe with us.)