When Tom Ford wrote a list of 15 things every man should have for the 15th anniversary of Vogue.com he spoke of having a good cologne that becomes a signature. At the time I remember counting this among the listed commandments to which I adhered and I didn't give the matter too much thought, but after receiving two compliments regarding my smell on a recent night out, I got to thinking about scents and the role they play for the modern man and I am here to urge you to take up the good smell.
I tapped a friend of mine who works for a major cosmetics company for some information about scents and he dropped some serious science on me. Basic knowledge for those in the industry, but for your average guy, these were things that we might never consider, so here is the crash course:
-Perfume dates back to ancient Egypt where its origins are rooted in religious rituals where scents were used to attract the gods.
-The word perfume comes from the Latin 'per' 'fumus', which means through smoke.
-Scents have been linked to the history of seduction going back thousands of years.
-The olfactory sense is not only the first sense we develop -- recognizing our mothers by smell as infants -- but is also that which is most closely linked to memory.
-The olfactory bulb, which is the main entrance to our brain for odors, translates the millions or even billions of molecules that reach it into a picture our brain can comprehend.
So now that we've got all that under our noses, and given that the perfume industry generates approximately $27.5 billion a year in sales revenue is the U.S. alone, it is no wonder that there is such a rich history, extensive scientific background, and massive corporate machine behind the world of scents. Still, most guys just want to smell good and are perfectly content using products readily available at their local pharmacy, marketed to them via throngs of models chasing a guy down the street or by a man on a horse. Surely these products keep you from smelling bad, and some would argue that they have you smelling good but they are surely not the olfactory signature Tom Ford was referring to.
Like many before me, my introduction to the world of man scents came via imitation. A friend was wearing a scent I liked, and so the next time I found myself in an airport duty free store I purchased a bottle. Same story for the scent I wear now, a friend was wearing it and I eventually bought it for myself. Of course it is up to each of us to make the scents we wear into a signature, and of course I would argue that this particular scent smells much better on me than it did on him but I digress.
Here the skeptics will tote the high price tags tethered to luxury scents as a detractor, but I would argue that when used rationally, (I am talking one to two spritzes daily, maybe three if you're feeling cray,) that the costs are well within reason. A 100 ml bottle of my signature scent -- the name of which will remain a secret -- costs me $165CDN but lasts me over a year, a small price to pay for 365+ days of olfactory greatness.
To any of you who do not currently have their signature scent on lock-down, I would urge you to take a trip to your local department store and begin to sniff some of what is out there, experiment, get smelly with it. That said, my industry-insider friend says it is also important to keep in mind, that each scent combines differently with our own personal smells and for this to fully take effect takes a couple of hours so if you find a scent you like at first smell, try and acquire a sample and try it on a couple of times before taking the plunge.
As mentioned in our crash course above, smell is the sense closest linked to memory. I remember once being tempted by the exotic bottle of a visiting friend's scent in my bathroom and abandoned my faithful signature scent for a day. When I met up with my partner later on that day, she immediately recognized the change even before saying hi; suffice to say her reaction was less than positive. Perhaps the guy she'd known who'd worn that scent didn't treat her very well, or maybe it was just the assaulting absence of my signature smell she'd come to expect, but what I now know is that signature scents are not to be trifled with.
So regardless if you are still on the quest for your signature scent or if you've had yours for years, the most important thing is to always act like a gentleman, so that when they smell your scent on someone else, they can't help but think of you, and what a mensch you are.
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