A Man’s Guide To Fragrances: How to Choose and Wear

Our Founder and Master Perfumer, Rajiv Sheth, a perfumer trained at the prestigious I.S.I.P.C.A Versailles, France, and a leading fragrance expert answers the most frequently asked questions by men on understanding fragrances.

Good manners and good cologne is what transforms the man into a gentleman,’ designer Tom Ford famously remarked. A fragrance is indeed an extension of your personality and a powerful tool in making lasting impressions. In fact, there are scientific studies that demonstrate how women are more influenced by how a man smells than how he looks. This probably is the premise of the cliché advertising campaigns which shows perfume as a weapon in the art of seduction. 

Yet a majority of men reach out for deodorants for everyday grooming, leaving fragrances on a pedestal for special occasions. Why is that so? I think it’s got to do more with marketing and perception. Deos are marketed as masculine and sporty, whereas Fragrances are perceived as expensive and perhaps for the connoisseur which makes it for occasional wear. But that can’t be further away from reality.

What is the difference between a deodorant and a perfume?

Deodorants and body sprays are linear fragrance formulations whose role is to mask body odour. Hence they smell the same from start to finish. A few also have antiperspirant active ingredients which reduce the sweat created in the body. Deodorant body sprays can be sprayed all over the body. Perfumes, on the other hand, are dynamic formulations, can be simple or complex, and change over from start to finish.

Perfumes are best applied on the pulse points of your body, like the wrists, inside of the elbow, on your neck, etc. Body heat helps in diffusing the fragrance better. Perfumes can also be additionally sprayed on clothes.

As a rule of thumb, the lower concentrated versions are used in the morning/day and the higher concentrated ones in the evening/night. For example, apply an Eau Fraiche or Eau De Toilette (EDT) in the day and EDP (Eau de Parfum) in the evening. 

Why wear fragrances? 

First and foremost, a man must wear a fragrance for his own self, to feel good and as an extension of his personality. Smell is connected with emotion and memory. So a fragrance can help you connect better with people and make a lasting impression. 

What is the life cycle of a fragrance? 

Much like how musical notes make up a song, fragrance notes are necessary to make a perfume. There are three-note scales that when blended together create the perfume's fragrant accord. 

Head or Top notes are fresh. The head notes are the ones which trigger the act of purchase. They last for the initial five to 10 mins.

Middle or Heart notes are powerful. These are more consistent than top notes and they correspond to the perfume’s “trail” such as floral, fruity, etc. These last on the skin for four to five hours. 

Base notes are heavy and warm. They create the fragrance’s personality (for eg woody, spicy) and encourage loyalty. These are the most stable compounds in the formulation and last up to 6 to 8 hours. 

What’s the difference between Designer and Niche fragrances?

Designer fragrances are referred to perfumes which have fashion designer brand labels. These fashion houses have them as line extensions/accessories to their fashion and lifestyle statements. These generally have global launches, high marketing budgets and fancy packaging. Niche fragrances are created by perfumer and perfume enthusiasts who are not limited to any fashion boundaries and generally more creative in terms of creating original compositions which could be very polar in appreciation. Also, generally they are not for global appeal and have very high-quality packaging, but not too fancy. 

Does an expensive perfume mean a better one? 

In general, the higher the concentration of the perfume, higher will be the cost. Other factors like brand prestige and packaging also determine the worth of the perfume. However, an expensive perfume is not necessarily a better one. Hence, best is to try it first on oneself first before buying. Price, brand, product features, details on the pack and website reviews are good ways to judge if the product is of good quality. 

How to select the right perfume? 

Choosing the best perfume for an occasion is not an easy task. Most of the fragrances are classified under different facets or categories like citrus, aromatic, amber, woody and floral, as the main group. A perfume is a combination of such two to three facets, such as citrus-woody or aromatic-spicy-woody. You will need to find out which kind of notes you like after a few trials. And if they work well on your skin and complement your personality. 

There are a lot of other factors you should have in mind like the season, your mood or even the occasion. That’s why one should carefully consider a fragrance to wear to work or to the beach.

At Work: Remember not to overspray your fragrance to work. You don’t want to disrupt people at your workplace, but want something that will uplift you and help you through the day. Choose fresh cologne fragrance or aromatic sporty fragrances with citrus, mint or rosemary. 

On a romantic date: Woody fragrances are your best choice. 

Party: Wear a perfume that reveals your masculinity and accentuates your individuality. Oriental, amber and musk perfumes are your best bets because they have warm and captivating notes of patchouli, spices and vanilla. 

Brunch: A leisure morning where you want to feel relaxed. Choose a marine fragrance with aquatic notes to feel the holiday-like calm. 

What are the basic rules for wearing fragrances? 

Perfumes are supposed to be worn on the body, generally on the pulse points, such as inside of the wrists, back of the neck and behind the ears. The warmth of the body makes the perfume blossom to the fullest. Wearing perfumes on clothes will not give the warmth of the pulse points and the lingering effect that is generally desired is lessened.

So head on, one step at a time, and discover the fascinating universe of olfactory!