Does the smell make the man?

Does the smell make the man?

Q. My old girlfriend used to have an aftershave that she liked and bought for me, but I don’t want to wear that one anymore. Is there a good method for knowing what is a good choice for a man?

A. Fragrance is part of our personal style. Since a nice scent not only affects the way others see us, but also helps us feel confident, it should be chosen carefully. Anything that will become such an integral part of a person’s signature deserves extra attention in the selecting process. It is important to remember that scents react differently to different body chemistry; what smells good on one person may not, and in fact often does not, smell the same way on you.

So the idea of a universally good scent doesn’t really exist as much as advertisers might tell you it does. People often look online to get their information about fragrance ratings, but that is definitely the wrong way of going about it. Scents are such a personal thing that blogs, reviews, and YouTube-provided ratings for specific fragrances will not answer your question. The trick to finding a good fragrance for you is to get feedback from others. Just as you used to get it from your previous girlfriend, now you need to find a way to get it from others. If there is not a reliable or “new friend” to check with (or even when there is), I suggest the following two sources:

1. Department stores with a complete line of fragrance selections. Do not go to your neighborhood pharmacy that carries only a limited variety. You want a large store with a full line of options. Go to one or two stores and browse a bit at their fragrance counters. Get a few samples to take home with you and test over a period of time. Fragrance isn’t just a single smell; it evolves and changes over time. That is why you should never just let them spritz some onto a piece of paper, have you smell it, and then buy it. You cannot judge a fragrance properly by your first impression. Instead, you actually need to wear it. Do not purchase any right away; wait until you have tried a few and gotten some valuable feedback. I know men don’t like delayed purchases, but this is like a car or a significant other, it’s going to be around you a lot, so you better like it and be comfortable with others’ associating it with you.

2. A long-time fragrance expert, someone who is truly knowledgeable about fragrances. If you can locate a fragrance boutique, you will be on your way. While I don’t like to advertise in my column, there is no other way than to name this unique company. To my knowledge, Parfumelle (817-731-6633), which has been supplying hard-to-find as well as new fragrances for four decades, is the only company to offer such objective expertise, unlimited access to all brands without any company/brand biases, and a personal analysis of the person’s preferences. Prospective customers (men and women) call and speak directly with the owner about their history, their skin type, and what fragrances they have liked in the past. Based on what he learns, he prescribes several possible scents, and sends samples to try at one’s leisure. The samples’ charge of $19 is refundable in full when a purchase is made.

Now, when you have these samples at home to try, you need to be comfortable with the scent yourself and determine if others are too. A good way to tell if your scent choice is the best one for you is to listen for, “You smell great today,” or “I like your aftershave.” Not, “What is that fragrance you have on?” The latter could mean the person wants to avoid buying it.

Despite the need to get feedback, your use of the scent must be subtle. In the same way that smoking assaults some people’s sensitivities, so does too much or the wrong fragrance. Perhaps even more important than the scent itself is the intensity. Using too much can be an invasion of other people’s space. Aftershave, which is lighter than cologne and more of a skin-treatment product than a scent, is fine for an office setting. Reserve the use of cologne, which is stronger, for evening, social situations.

In my opinion, unless you are dancing with someone (or are closer to a person than is appropriate in business), you should not be able to detect a scent. If you are looking for a new girlfriend, a new job, or simply not to offend, your smell should never be your introduction!

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