The Sexy in Men's Fragrances: The 11 Hottest & Best Men's Colognes - Part 1 {Scented Thoughts}

These colognes are not on my list, but the picture and the advert are great for illustrating what most men reportedly look for in a perfume

The other day I got the following candid response under an older post, in the section found below the list of nominees for the 2008 Fifi Awards (slightly edited):

"Hi, I just want to know what are the sexiest and most attractive fragrances for men, thank you"

The part where the commenter wrote "I just want to know..." is worth its weight in gold or should I say, civet? The word "just" seems to be glowing in the darkness of our common misconceptions. It translates as: I (barely) and politely listened to what you had to sayt but now let's talk about the real business at hand because I am a man on a single-minded quest and I need your help. The comment, in a rather sophisticated fashion actually, is signed "man" to convey even more straightforwardly the bare simplicity of this message-in-a-bottle. Like the Unknown Soldier, there you have an anonymous Unknown Man who absolutely knows that what he wants, every other man wants. Full stop. Hence a spontaneous claim to universality. Forget about the Kultur, the aesthetic appreciation, the perfumes-under-the-limelight, the fragrances that schmooze, the frisson of newness, the challenges of pushing back the boundaries of perfume technology. Just talk to me about what really matters under those blue heavens: Sex, Seduction, the desire to be irresistible.

The interesting part is that a man bent on seducing needs a woman to guide him in his olfactory choices as women are the ones that care most about how a man smells. Indeed, according to Donald A. Wilson and Richard J. Stevenson in Learning to Smell: Olfactory Perception from Neurology to Behavior,

"At a psychological level, women report that a man's smell is the most important determinant of attraction, and, not surprisingly, given this emphasis on smell, women spend something approaching 3.4 billion US dollars per year on scented products (Hertz & Cahill, 1997)"

At a behavioral level, the data is "somewhat more equivocal."...

This finding however does not cover the reasons why culture has made it such that men used to offer perfume to women, not the reverse, and why women are not more interested in men's fragrances. Brought to its logical consequence, one should be bumping into throngs of women sniffing obsessively in the men's perfumes aisles to scent their mates. Instead women translate that importance given to olfaction in sexual attraction as their having to smell the part. What a reversal. And men? They are ready to love all their lives the perfume you were wearing when they fell in love with you, is a pretty good bet.

This basic sexual or narcissistic pulsion was magnified as if put under a monstrous lens by modern myth-maker Patrick Süskind. Remember Jean-Baptiste Grenouille in Perfume, and more particularly that orgiastic scene as it was visually rendered in the movie adaptation by Tom Tykwer? The be-all and end-all perfume is called something like Power Over The Erotically Frenzied Masses or Adoration of the Crowd. If Süskind had more in mind Hitler and the heritage of Nazism than a Latin-lover crooner of the Julio Iglesias obedience, men who have only a passing interest in fragrances have more in mind a perfume that sings a croon to the girls and makes them go all languid and weak in the knees.

It just makes one realizes that perhaps the fragrance industry ought to officially recognize that sexual attraction is the cornerstone of perfumery, take off those slip covers from the animalic figurative foots of the living room furniture that the Victorians once put there in the 19th century and set up some Sex Fragrances Awards of the Year to recognize those compositions that appropriately deal with the problem. Or how about, say, the Sensual Awards of the Year so that not everyone flee away from the room. As a 1965 advice book on marriage entitled Ideal Marriage: Its physiology and Technique stated, "In general, sexual odors and all strong physical odors have a negative or repulsive effect on persons of culture at the first stages of approach..." So let us not frighten away, yet remind people of bare essentials, like the man did. It is, we have to recognize, the most instinctual reason for wanting to borrow the scents of nature and imagination: to be attractive, to the other. Men, in particular, in contrast with women, cite their desire to seduce women as their # 1 motivation for spraying on cologne. Women may love perfume more, but men have taken their evolutionary cues. In exchange, women may not be attracted that much to their own lipsticks, unless it's scented, but they know that men are visual creatures and so they comply.

The beauty of it all is that it sounds as if, otherwise, man wouldn't even bother or care to reach for a perfume bottle. It is somehow in recognition of a feminine principle of olfactory pleasure, then perhaps also as linked to the memories of mothers and former lovers, that a man will deign devote time and thoughts to the perfuming gesture. Schopenhauer would have said that perfume helps realize our fundamental human condition and the reason why we feel erotic love, the instinct of reproduction. Perfume as love trap first and foremost. Try to find out

As in medicine, no cure is absolutely guaranteed. Causality, chance, perversity intervene. But thinking about that question made me turn to my one authentic source of information, my reptilian brain. The colognes I list below are fragrances that for one reason or another, culture and experience intervening, evoke a particularly sensual masculine atmosphere, in an immediate, instantaneous way. Perhaps a good test of the effectiveness of this type of sexy fragrances is to do, not a blind test, but an insta test. Don't think too hard. Does it make you think of something sexual rather than tuberose, leather or pepper? If the answer is "man", "man's armpit", "man's coat", "man's skin", "bedsheets with a man in them", "a man's idealized sensual aura", then it's what you were looking for.

Perfumers do not let on their tricks very often but Christopher Sheldrake did mention once that the profession makes use of what they call a "bedroom accord" in some fragrances.

Look also for feelings of intimacy, an impression of the dimming down of the lights in a room, metaphorically speaking, a hushed atmosphere, a sensation of rumpled clothes and dry hot skin to suggest "steaming hot".

Part 2 with the list is tomorrow! Maybe I'll have more than my eleven insta-reviews by then, we'll see.

Photo credit for 212 Sexy Men: Jose Tomas Moran

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2 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. Well I, for one, get weak in the knees when a man smells good. I'm a sucker for a great sexy men's perfume.

  2. I have had about 20 different men's cologne over the years. I've smelled about 95% of them and my favorite by far hands down is still the DRAKKAR NOIR. It is not real strong it's just right and you can wear it anywhere for any occasion.

    tim schulte

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