The Ultimate Guide To The Best Colognes For Men

When it comes to cologne, less is more.  You can think of a myriad of people that wear too much cologne and even worse, too much bad cologne. 

Even the best cologne can smell rancid when it’s applied too heavily, or the smell itself is too overbearing.

Subtle fragrance is usually the way to go, leaving just enough of you behind to make you linger in other’s thoughts.

In the fashion world, fragrance is as powerful as the use of visual aesthetics.

However, it’s a subjective topic because everyone has different skin and tastes. What might work for you might not work for someone else.

Since everyone has diverse knowledge and experience levels, let alone smell palates when it comes to this topic, I’ll try to keep this guide basic.

That way, we can go deeper or add on later on.

The Best Men’s Colognes: Best Sellers List

Concentration Guidelines

The first thing to understand about colognes is something called concentration. 

There is a concentration percentage for fragrances that can usually play a role in how it’s used and the type.

Fragrances are added to solvents (typically alcohol-based) to create an alluring smell. As a rule of thumb, the higher the fragrance percentage, the longer the fragrance will last on the skin.

Body Splash and After Shave1-3%This is usually seen in body wash and bath products. It will give your skin a pleasing scent, but won't last as long as other fragrances.
Eau De Cologne5%Cologne is a citrus smell of concentrate that has a 5% fragrance.
Eau De Toilette5%-15%These are the most common fragrances you’ll find in department stores.
Eau De Parfum10%-20%These fragrances are found in niche fragrance stores and tend to last longer on your skin.
Pure Parfum or Parfum Extract15-40%Pure Parfum fragrances are hard to find, but some are offered in certain houses.

Notes: You will hear the words note/s, which refers to individual scents that are belted together into what you smell, such as vanilla, lavender, bergamot, etc.

The 3 Layers of Fragrance

Fragrances are then comprised of typically three layers: the top notes, mid notes, and base notes.

Top Notes: The top notes are what strikes your senses during the initial spray. This is the first smell you’ll experience, and it evaporates faster than the mid notes and base notes. Some stores reps use this to their advantage, as they’ll try to sell you a fragrance based on its first spray. 

Mid Notes: The mid notes is more of a transitional set of notes. It is used to transition between the deep base and light top notes.

Base Notes:  This is the longest smell of the fragrance and accounts for the primary aroma. More vibrant scents such as lavenders, leather, and sandalwood are here. 

Now not all fragrances follow these rules, and what is listed as top notes may end up in the base or what’s listed as a base note may not even be perceived.

Other times, there is no change at all or transition, and a fragrance is just linear.

Linear vs. Non-Linear Fragrances

There are some fragrances that will smell the same from the time you spray it until it washes off.

Other fragrances will change through the note layers over time. Both linear and non-linear have their own purposes.

At work, you can have a refreshing scent all day without using a fragrance that turns into a musky leather once lunch is completed as opposed to on a casual date night where you’d want the opposite to happen.

In more informal settings, you can have an in-offensive citrus smell that transitions to a vanilla lavender.

Note: Never buy your fragrances blindly. And you should always test the fragrance before making a purchase.

That way, you’ll find a pleasant scent that smells great and doesn’t have any musky odors.

Basically, don’t buy a fragrance because you smelled it at TJ Maxx when the sales associated showed you because it can change.

The labeling of perfume for women and cologne for men is a bit arbitrary but also because the words reflect concentrations, and once you get into more niche fragrances, there are no gender differences.

Basically, everyone has a different view of what is masculine or feminine.

Disclaimer: In the fragrance world, gender doesn’t apply. The traditional labels for men and women aren’t used because those words reflect different concentrations, and when you get deep into niche fragrances, gender doesn’t count.

What smells feminine on me might have a masculine smell on you.

Niche vs. Designer Fragrances

An issue that’s commonly fought over in the fragrance world is niche vs. designer fragrances.

Designer smells are from brands such as Gucci, Versace, Chanel, etc. that make other items like clothes and accessories besides fragrances.

A niche brand is a brand that dedicates its business solely to creating fragrances.

Usually, a designer fragrance is a scent that’s designed to appeal to a broad group of people.

Niche scents have an artistic approach and often do not appeal to everyone.

Once you start your fragrance journey, you’ll start with a designer fragrance and then end at your particular place in the niche realm.

However, acting like a niche expert isn’t anything to be proud of. Fragrance is fragrance, so more expensive or harder to find colognes aren’t inherently any better than cheaper or more accessible ones.

It’s just great for individual expression and appreciation.

Is There a Certain Age Range for Fragrances?

Remember, since fragrance choices may vary upon the person, it’s subjective.

When using fragrance, let it merely be an additional point to compliment or express your mood or personality at the time.

With fragrance, there are no rules or labels attached to what you should get. Wear any scent you like.

Everyone asks crazy questions. Most people that have ever worked in a cologne or perfume shop have heard one of the following:

  1. Which ones of these smells best to girls?
  2. What’s the number one cologne that gets people laid?
  3. Do pheromones really work if you put them in X cologne?

These hilarious, albeit strange questions make sense. But, they’re limited in thinking.  Cologne should be an accessory, not a magic bullet.

For instance, when is the last time you kicked someone out of your house for not smelling like a complete set of Gucci Cologne?

Also, everyone has a different perspective on fragrances and have different likes and tastes. There isn’t a universal set of cologne that will help you “score,” and that’s a great thing. Diversity gives us a choice in wearing what we want when we meet someone and can become our signature.

“How Much Should I Spray and Where?”

This is another subjective topic, as well. This will depend on how well the fragrance reacts to your skin, what you’re planning to get out of it, and the concentration percentage (refer to table 1 above).

Heat is used to push the fragrance outward. During the summer season, a heavy scent might be hidden because of the heat.

I like to spray the back of my neck on my skin, my wrists, and spray some on my chest.

As you continue to experiment with different fragrances, you’ll find out that some will last longer on your skin.

There is one one-size fit all fragrance. And if you’re planning to add fragrances to your wardrobe, you’ll want to have options that will extend your personality and mood to the world.

I suggest that you start with a fragrance library that you can use for different scenarios.

I feel different when using fragrances for daily activities. When working out at the gym, I want to wear an inoffensive smell that’ll slightly mask the man musk, and while I’m out in town having a beer or seeing friends, I want a playful and fresh scent. The best way to understand your fragrance library is within these scenarios:

Day Time

You’re out around town or celebrating a day off with your chosen cologne. This is the time to wear fragrances that extends your personality in an efficient and inoffensive manner.

Night Time

Have a date with a special someone? Doing some weekend warrior bar crawls? If you’re out clubbing, you’ll want to wear fragrances that can cut through the alcohol/smoke/other fragrances.

Work Scent

No matter where you work, you want to have a scent that smells good but is inoffensive, which means it isn’t too heavy or sharp. Do you work with a group? Consulting clients? Delivering packages? Delivering food? Are you working inside, outside, or remotely? In most work situations, wearing a mall designer fragrance is suitable for this environment.


You have to wear fragrances that will act as a “suit and tie” scent. Try on something that lets the world know you’re there or wear something that states you’re the sophisticated, subtle person in the room.

You can create subsections and break the colognes down into seasons, such as spring and summer categories.

Store your fragrances in a dry, cool, and dark place. DON’T place it in your bathroom or your windowsill. I leave my fragrances in a refrigerator or the closet. Other people tend to store their cologne in a wine cooler.

Bottle splits

You’ll find that bottle splits are common within the fragrance world. The bottles tend to be nice, but don’t matter unless you are collecting. The main thing that matters are the fragrances. With a good group of people placing their money together and a seller with a good reputation, you can order the most significant size possible and find yourself getting a better return on your $$$/mL or oz Ratio.


That ends our Cologne guide. Remember, the concept of cologne will always be subjective, meaning that you have the free range to wear what accentuates you the best. Continue to experiment and wear the cologne that represents you.