How to Choose a Cologne That Will Accent Your Style and Personality

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Learning how to choose a cologne can change a lot about a guy's life.

A fragrance has a lot of underlying power. We associate scents with memories, feelings and moods. So choosing the right one can even help create a new first impression. Not only that, a memorable and original scent can linger in the memories of others. If you learn how to choose a cologne that matches you, it might be hard for people to forget.


So if you think you're ready to take the plunge, we've got some advice. All of us cologne wearers started somewhere. And the expert advice we've picked up along the way might just shed some light on your journey. Before you get started, we'll just emphasize one thing: Relax, and enjoy it. Even easier to reverse than a bad haircut, it's okay to change your mind about a cologne. But as you get more familiar with the process, you'll have a higher success rate.

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What You Will Need to Follow This Tutorial

If you are hoping to learn how to choose a cologne, there are just a few things to keep in mind. When you are comfortable with these points, we'll get into some more detailed guidance. 


But first, start to get comfortable with the idea of wearing a scent. If that's new to you, we understand. And once you get past that aspect, you'll be free to begin following the guide below. Fragrances work with your body chemistry, so acknowledge that what works for you is personal. Just because you like how someone else's cologne smells doesn't mean it will suit you.

And we can define a few terms here at the top, too. Cologne is just one of a handful of terms used to describe fragrances. It also happens to be the oldest. It's only been in relatively recent history that it has come to describe men's scents. We'll talk about that a bit later. While we will be referring primarily to men's fragrances, the term itself is not gender specific. 

Before we dig any deeper, make sure you are comfortable with the following parameters. Then keep reading for our guide on how to choose a cologne.

  • Define your goal. Do you want a different cologne for every day or just a few for special occasions? 
  • Define your style. What do you enjoy doing? Are you active? Upscale? Laid back? There's a scent for that.
  • Define your budget. Like most consumer products, you can get a scent at pretty much any price point.

Instructions -- How to Choose a Cologne

We've got several easy steps toward picking the ideal fragrance for you. But let's make sure we're all getting started on the same page. The word cologne is a specific term that isn't interchangeable with "men's fragrance."

In reality, it is simply a designation regarding how much fragrance by volume is in each bottle. And compared with perfume, which has up to 30 percent fragrance, cologne is near the bottom. It has about one tenth of that concentration. That means it will fade faster and generally isn't as strong. But there is a lot more to consider, so let's get started. 

1. Visit an actual store.

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We know this might seem like a foreign concept to some guys. It can be a little awkward to walk around in a department store without clear direction. And with such reliance on online shopping these days, trips to the mall are increasingly uncommon. 

But with something like your next fragrance, you need to be informed. And you simply can't learn how to choose a cologne remotely. You need to smell it first hand, which is easy to do at any good department store fragrance counter. This choice might be as important as any other wardrobe picks you might make. People are going to judge you on your scent just as heavily as your clothes or hygiene. So go to a dedicated department in a store you trust to make that important decision.

Not only will you have expert advice on hand, but you can try out multiple scents. Be sure you take a whiff of something neutral between samples. But when you smell a spritz on a card, you get a pretty good idea of its notes and undertone.

2. Heed advice -- to an extent.

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There are probably a few key folks in your life who smell you more than often. If you're going to please anybody, it should probably be these people. Whether they're family, friends or a significant other, you should take their advice.

You should probably take someone you trust with you on your shopping trip. It could be a man or a woman, since everybody is going to be smelling you. Of course, you can be strategic if you're aim is to attract a significant other. But at the same time, we also recommend limiting the influence of those outside voices. If you give them a vote, make sure you're the tie breaker. Because all the noses in the world won't make up for yours.

And at the end of the day, you're the one who knows whether a fragrance works for you. So we think you should never buy a cologne based solely on the recommendation. If you want to know how to choose a cologne, you should be the one making that final choice.

3. It's all right to start small.

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There are some arguments guys frequently make against wearing any fragrance. Some just think it creates a strong impression they don't want to portray. And we think that's valid.

So we encourage any man who is interested in learning how to choose a cologne to start small. Choose an inoffensive and pleasant aroma. Pick something clean and understated.

Apply it conservatively to the wrists or chest where it won't come on too heavy. We think you'll probably start getting more comfortable with the process. But you don't have to worry about offending anybody else's sensibilities in the meantime.

4. Perform some experiments.

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Using the cards provided in a department store can give you a good idea of a fragrance. But to truly learn how to choose a cologne, you need to see how it interacts with you. Everyone has different body chemistry, which means some scents naturally pair better than others.

So reserve a forearm or two for those scents you like the most. Instead of just relying on their fragrance without context, spray it on yourself.

Then give it a moment to mesh with your skin and take a fresh whiff. If you still like what you smell, chances are it is probably a good match. To be safe, you can start with a small bottle. But you definitely need to let it breathe in a social environment to let others get the full effect.

5. Don't settle for the first one you like.

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We get it. It can be exhilarating to find the first fragrance you really love. But trust us, you're just getting started.

Once you learn how to choose a cologne, you might be tempted to stick to one that works. While it probably makes sense to keep it in the rotation, the real fun is in variety. That's why so many men and women have such extensive fragrance collections.

So start getting a bit more adventurous. Check out smaller, bouquet brands with bolder scents. Keep the crowd pleasers around for romantic nights out or a night at the theater. But if you really want to make a statement, go all out and grab a scent for special occasions. 

6. Consider the season.

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Credit: Public Domain Pictures, George Hodan

One final factor in how to choose a cologne is the time of year. Of course you'll probably end up with different scents for your various moods. You could have dedicated fragrances for certain events. Heck, you might even want to have a cologne for every day of the week. 

But don't forget the impact of the seasons. You'll probably want a fresh scent during the warmer months for a beach trip or time outdoors. Then a warmer fragrance can help balance out the cold winter.

There are many influences in making the right selection. As with almost anything, nature is right there in the center. So use the seasons as a guide and go with what strikes you as appropriate.


Once you know how to choose a cologne, you will probably feel some new confidence.

Making the switch to a fitting fragrance can feel like quite an accomplishment. Though it is a tricky concept, once you master it you will focus on that achievement.


We hope our guide has helped alleviate some of the pressure associated with the process. If so, share it with those in your life who might want to learn how to choose a cologne. And leave us a comment below if you have any final thoughts or questions.

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