While we can all agree fragrance marketing is pure wind, one truism holds solid: we buy aftershave to impress the fairer sex. Don’t deny it. Much like undoing a few extra buttons on your disco ruffle shirt come Friday night, paying attention to what you put on your wrists is a modern form of peacocking.
Indeed, if the venerable David Attenborough was documenting your life, that moment between brushing your teeth and walking out the door would be narrated as a ritual akin to unfurling your kaleidoscopic plume and getting your mating dance on. What bird could resist?
We’ve all seen that hubristic moment: the cocky beast steps up, displays his jazzy plumage and busts out the two-step only to be shunned for another mate with a slightly redder tailfeather. He leaves alone and doesn’t get to pass on those beta genes of his. Nature’s a bitch.
Luckily for you, human nature isn’t. Attention-grabbing accessories don’t have to be genetic. And your fragrance can be your strongest accessory, if deployed correctly. For insight into just that, we went to the other side of the fence.
Women. Actual women. And experts at that. Leading beauty editors and magazine writers that have seen and smelled it all. There’s not a fragrance that hasn’t gone across their desk, and they’re on hand here to tell you which ones turn heads and which ones turn up noses. Our panel are hard to impress. But heed their advice, and you might do just that.
So puff out your chest, keep an eye on your rivals and ensure natural selection favours you with our expert-led guide to turning your Friday-night fragrance into pheromones.
Senior Beauty Editor, Marie Claire
“There’s nothing better than a man wearing aftershave. Even if it’s just the cheap stuff, frankly. But when you catch a whiff of something daring and quirky it sends your ladyheart soaring – especially on those early dates.
“It’s a signifier that you’re strong, confident in your choices and care about the finer details. I personally don’t like anything too fresh on a guy. Anything zingy or citrusy makes me think of 1990s male scents which we all – women, I’m talking about – associate with teenage boys, who were all unequivocally wasters.
“You’re older and wiser than that, so try Tom Ford Oud Wood, which has notes of sweet tonka bean, the tràs masculine vetiver, Sichuan pepper and a hefty dose of amber (it’s the right side of sexy). Nothing else smells quite as captivating. I’d probably put out for one of the Chuckle Brothers if he was wearing this – to me, it’s desire bottled.”
Tom Ford Oud Wood, available at House of Fraser, priced £145 for 50ml.
Editorial Director, Byrdie.co.uk & Former Beauty Director of Women’s Health
“My boyfriend doesn’t wear fragrance, which I don’t mind because there is nothing worse than men (or women, for that matter) who douse themselves too liberally in something. So take that as rule one. Although I have never seen someone be quite so frugal or tentative when spritzing a bottle of scent as my other half (he does wear antiperspirant, thank god).
“For a time he did wear Jean Paul Gaultier Fleur du Mâle – a fresh, soft scent thanks to its orange blossom and petitgrain. The addition of coumarin, a synthesised ingredient, adds a little sweetness to balance the citrus and helps the perfume linger on the skin for hours.
“Unfortunately it’s not as readily available as it once was – but I suggest you buy a bottle before I snap them all up. Failing that, you can’t go wrong with Comme des Garçons Amazingreen, a green scent that draws its smell from jungle leaves (not grass, too obvious) and offers added depth thanks to gunpowder, smoke and musk (super manly), which makes it incredibly addictive.”
Features Writer, Cosmopolitan
“The man I’m dating came over the other night wearing Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb and it smelled so good I actually stopped him in the doorway and just sniffed his shirt for half a minute before letting him in the flat. It’s a really bold, spicy statement of a fragrance. For me, it oozes confidence.
“Plus – and I know this is a bit old school – if a man walks past me in the street wearing Joop! Homme, it can genuinely stop me in my tracks for a split second. It instantly transports me right to back to my first boyfriend (who used to practically bathe in the stuff) and all the mischief we’d get up to as teenagers, and the excitement of falling in love for the first time.
“To me, it smells of young romance and rebellion – my parents weren’t his biggest fans, so I’d often wait till they were asleep, then shimmy out of the bathroom window and catch the last bus to his house for a late night make-out session. I’d wager there are plenty of women out there who get the same Proustian rush from Joop! Homme.”
Senior Editorial Assistant, Absolutely Magazine
“More often than not, girls like a particular fragrance because it reminds them of someone. For me, it’s the cedar-based Chanel Allure Homme – my love for the scent outlived that for the guy, but that’s another story.
“Now though, I actually wear the genderless ODIN Semma 11 [from the seminal New York menswear store of the same name]. With warm myrrh, sandalwood and cinnamon, it’s a mysterious, masculine scent that strikes the balance between strength and femininity. A little bit spicy and a little bit sweet; it’s seriously sexy.
“You shouldn’t be afraid of a unisex fragrance. If anything, it’s designed to appeal to women more so your chances of her liking it only go up.”
Do you have a fragrance you’re convinced makes you irresistible? Share. Please.