By Janet Osman
Having a signature scent is like having a suit that is cut perfectly: it enhances your natural features and boosts your confidence. A signature scent is a scent that smells good in the bottle, but even better on you. It’s what you splash on for weddings, interviews, and any time you want to put your best foot forward.
Selecting the scent that works for you and with you can take a while, but like finding your favorite beer, there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had along the way. Knowing how colognes and aftershaves are created will help you recognize why you like what you like, and help you find the scent that suits you best.
Colognes, aftershaves, and all scented products get their scent from chemicals that have distinct aromas. These chemicals can be derived from animal sources, like musk from the musk deer, from plant sources, such as cinnamon bark or mint leaves, or created in a lab. Some scents are created to simulate aromas that occur in nature but aren’t stable, such as grapefruit. Others are synthesized to create an entirely original scent.
These aroma chemicals are blended into fragrances that have different layers of notes. If you’ve ever noticed that cologne doesn’t smell exactly the same when you put it on in the morning as it does in the afternoon, you’ve discovered the different notes of the fragrance. Top notes are the ones you notice first, but fade the quickest. Top notes can include citrus and some herbal notes. Middle notes become more obvious next, and are the second to fade.
These include woody, stronger herbal, and some spicy scents. Base notes are the last to appear and fade, and are often musky, incense-like scents. Your signature scent should smell as good to you in the afternoon as it does in the morning, even as the fragrance evolves. When testing for a signature scent, get samples so you can test a fragrance fully.
Department stores and online retailers often have samples, but you may need to ask for them with a purchase. If you can’t find a sample, get a miniature bottle of a fragrance you’d like to try from a perfume shops or kiosk.
If you aren’t used to testing different scents, you may not be familiar with the way that fragrances are categorized. Knowing what kind of fragrance you are using can help you identify fragrances you might like, and steer you away from types that don’t work for you.
Companies that make colognes and aftershaves blend aroma chemicals to create fragrances that usually fit into one of several fragrance families. Fragrance families consist of categories describing the aromas that dominate the fragrance.
Men’s colognes and aftershaves usually fall into one of four families:
Woody – This includes sandalwood, patchouli, cedar, and other wood-inspired aromas. Calvin Klein’s
“Obsession for Men and Thierry Mugler’s “A*Men” fall into the Woody category. Fans of Woody fragrances like that they are lasting scents that don’t seem as heavy as the incense-like Oriental fragrances, but more substantial than Fresh family fragrances.
Oriental- This includes incense notes such as frankincense, amber, and spices. Armani “Code”, Burberry’s London for Men are in the Oriental category. If you like Oriental fragrances, their rich, spicy complexity is part of their appeal.
Fresh- These scents include citrus, herbal, and water-like scents. Davidoff’s “Cool Water”, and Clinique’s “Happy for Men” are in the Fresh category. If you like smelling like a dip in a waterfall after a hike through the forest, a Fresh scent might be for you.
Fougere- This type of scent may have a nearly equal balance of the previous three, plus notes from the Floral family. Gaultier’s “Le Male”, Joop’s “Homme”, Hugo Boss’ “Boss in Motion” and Prada’s “Pour Homme” are in the Fougere category. These can be the hardest to describe precisely, as they may be so well balanced, body chemistry may be the only way to bring out a dominant element.
If you gravitate toward one type of scent, such as freshly laundered sheets or burning incense, start your hunt for a signature scent there by seeking fragrances in the same family as your favorite scent.
If you don’t favor any particular type of fragrance, try to remember a time when you were complimented on your use of cologne or aftershave. Start with that fragrance and work from there to find similar fragrances until you find a fragrance that you enjoy throughout the day. Note any reactions to your new cologne or aftershave.
You may find a body wash, deodorant or powder that makes it possible for you to wear your signature scent in a variety of forms. Just don’t use all the products on the same day, or your signature scent will arrive at the office about ten minutes before you do. Finding a signature scent takes work, but the confidence and appeal you give off when you smell as good as you look is well worth the effort.