According to a recent global fragrance report commissioned by Heathrow Airport, the average man will own eight different fragrances over his lifetime. It’s a novel idea, isn’t it? That the scents you select are in many ways milestones, olfactory markers of moments past.
So here’s a man’s life in eight scents – from the one you should invest in with your first paycheck to the one to spray once you’re old and grey – taking in some brilliant special occasion scents along the way. After all, a man’s not so much as old as he feels but as old as he smells.
A Boy’s First Fragrance
“Lynx Africa remains the pre-eminent fragrance appetiser for millions of teenage boys,” says Lizze Ostrom, author of Perfume: A Century of Scents. And though the brand has had a bad rap over the years, it’s clearly been doing something right. “Lynx fragrances are big business, and developed by some of the most experienced perfumers in the industry,” she says.
They’re not exactly scents known for their subtlety though (which probably explains their success with callow youths) and with teenagers today altogether more sophisticated customers, James Craven, perfume archivist at Les Senteurs, suggests a young man pops his olfactory cherry on a tried-and-tested classic like Chanel’s Pour Monsieur instead. Fresh, woody, spicy, it’s masculine without being polarising or too challenging.
Since fragrance can interact and intensify on contact with skin oils, fresher, citrusy scents like L’Occitane’s Verbena and Clinique Happy For Men are likely to come across as less overpowering on oilier teenage skin too.
The ‘Fit In’ Fragrance
A man’s early twenties are the years when he’s most likely to do most of his late nights (not necessarily in the office) and a lot of that time will be spent with his mates, rather than getting dressed up for dinner dates.
When you want to smell good but not too good, it’s worth turning to a modern fougère – a family of fragrances typically built around notes of lavender, geranium, oakmoss and coumarin – which are widely regarded as safe bets when it comes to men’s scents.
“The fougère accord is considered to be one of the freshest and most aromatic within perfumery and fragrances built around it have exceptionally broad appeal to men, and women love them too, which makes them extremely versatile,” says British perfumer Roja Dove. Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male is a classic updated fougère (hence its enduring popularity) but if you’re looking for a bang-up-to-date example try Burberry’s Mr. Burberry.
The Scent Of Dating Success
Whether you’re seventeen or seventy, chances are you wear a fragrance in the hope of increasing your chances on a date. You may even be one of the 15 per cent of men who that Heathrow survey discovered buy a new fragrance to herald the start of each new relationship.
Which is fine if you change partners as often as you change houses, but hard on the pocket if you’re a bit of player. So it’s worth investing in a killer fragrance that’s going to work every time.
And while sweet, spicy ‘oriental’ fragrances are generally considered to be sexier, if you fancy employing a bit of science you might want to look at scents like Dior’s Eau Sauvage and Paco Rabanne’s Invictus, which are big on an ingredient called hedione. A study by physiologists at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany showed that this synthetic citrus-floral note stimulates an area of women’s brains responsible for releasing sex hormones. It’s the nearest science has come to proving fragrance really is a weapon of mass seduction.
The Eau De Toilette To Wear At The Altar
According to the Heathrow study, nearly one in 10 men will select a new fragrance especially for their wedding. The perfect candidate is something that’s sexy but not so overpowering that’ll it leave them reeling in the aisles. Most importantly though, it needs to be meaningful.
“It’s really important to choose something that you feel comfortable with and are likely to think fondly of over the years to come,” says fragrance expert Thomas Dunckley, founder of The Candy Perfume Boy blog. “I always recommend picking a trusted favourite that has personal significance to you; perhaps the scent you wore on your first date for example or even your partner’s favourite fragrance.”
A word of warning though: given the fast turnover of brand new launches (many are ‘retired’ after just a few years to be replaced by updated versions) you might want to plump for something that’s already stood the test of time and you know will be around to remind you of the event in years to come – like Hermès’ Terre D’Hermès.
Hermès Terre D’Hermès, available at Harrods, priced £84 for 75ml.
The ‘F**k You!’ Fragrance
We’ve all done it – worn something ridiculous to grab attention and as a two fingers up to convention (Rick Owens’ penis-flashing man-dress anyone?).
You might only do it once, or you might fall in the love with the way it makes you feel and abandon that bottle of Hugo Boss for good, but every man should get experimental with his eau de toilette at least once in his life.
The easiest way to switch things up is to bend gender boundaries and consider a fragrance traditionally classed as a ‘women’s perfume’, like Guerlain’s legendary Shalimar. “Fragrance doesn’t have a gender – that’s just an idea instilled in us,” says award-winning fragrance writer Liam Moore. “When a man wears a fragrance like this it doesn’t just show he’s savvy and modern – it shows he’s got balls.”
Guerlain Shalimar Eau de Parfum, available at Debenhams, priced £71 for 50ml.
A Scent For A Man In His Forties
With an increasing appreciation of the finer things in life, no peer pressure to buckle to and a bigger disposable income, this is the perfect time for a man to experiment with richer, more complex fragrances. According to Craven, it’s also the perfect time to explore classic heritage brands that reflect your growing maturity and sophistication. “It’s only when you reach this age that you really appreciate what it means to buy into a treasured tradition,” he says.
And if heritage is what you’re after, look no further than brands like Creed (founded in 1760); Floris (1730); Penhaligon’s (1870) or Acqua Di Parma (1960). Or try true classics like Aramis – a fragrance redolent of leather-bound books and gentleman’s clubs – Creed’s Green Irish Tweed, Yves Saint Laurent’s Pour Homme or the grown-up, patchouli-based sexiness of Givenchy Gentleman.
If you’re daring, Craven recommends giving Knize Ten a whirl. A leathery number dating back to the hedonistic 1920s, he describes it as ‘disturbing’. In a good way, obviously.
The ‘I’ve Arrived’ Fragrance
Once a man is in his fifties he rarely has anything to prove: he’s confident in himself, has a bit more cash to flash and appreciates the finer things in life. “You have lived and your mind has expanded,” says Craven. “Your imagination is broader, you’re less judgemental and more open-minded – you’re your own man.”
Now’s the time, then, to opt for a finely crafted boutique fragrance like Kilian’s Light My Fire, which is big on notes (like tobacco) that have a whiff of the grown-up about them. “This fragrance smells of a Monte Cristo cigar; the smell of power, affluence and influence,” says Craven. “And in the same way a big cigar can be too much for a young man to handle, it’s a fragrance not all younger men can handle.”
Don’t worry about smelling like a 1950s gentlemen’s club (just in case that was a concern). “It’s far subtler and sexier than that,” says Craven reassuringly.
Kilian Light My Fire, available at Harrods, priced £195 for 50ml.
The Finely Matured Fragrance
As we get older, production of sebum – the skin’s natural oil – slows down, making skin much drier, which doesn’t just have implications for the way our mush feels but for the way fragrance reacts on our bodies too.
“Dry skin doesn’t retain fragrance as long as oily skin, so you may find you need to opt for a stronger fragrance or re-apply the fragrance more often,” says perfume consultant Mary Ellen Lapsansky. So now might be the time to ditch anything light and citrusy and go for a big, bold chypré fragrance – one characterised by notes of rose, vetiver and cedarwood – designed to have staying power on the skin. Roja Dove’s Vetiver Pour Homme being a perfect example.
An eau de parfum based around the musty, woody root that’s key to many classic men’s scents, it displays a longevity on the skin mass-market fragrances can only dream of. “I created it to be the ultimate in how a man should smell,” says Dove of his luxury creation, which is pretty much what any man wants from a fragrance – whatever his age.
Roja Parfums Vetiver Parfum Pour Homme, available at Selfridges, priced £345 for 50ml.