A Starting Point for Finding Your New Cologne: 10 Initial Selections

Buying cologne has never been a fun process. I've always had a problem spending $6 for 20 ounces of flavored water at the movie theater, imagine my displeasure when I doll out $70 for TWO ounces of cologne.  It seems like scents have gotten less masculine the farther we get away from 1985. Tons of men's cologne could easily be worn by women, and no one would know the difference.

If you've ever tried to kill some time while your girlfriend is in Sephora, you know the sheer number of colognes out there is daunting.  Unless you rely on branding, the only way to find out which you like is by giving the bottle a sniff.  But are you really going to smell all 60 of them?

I did so you don't have to. Use my top 10 as a starting place the next time you need some overpriced smelly water.

When smelling the different options, you should spray it on a tester stick, holding the bottle at least 6 inches away. Any closer, and all of them are just going to smell like hairspray. The real scents of colognes are subtle, so when testing them that's what you're trying to smell.

I'd recommend picking up a small bottle. Cologne loses its potency over time if not stored in proper conditions. If you're not using more than a spray or two (which you shouldn't be) all your hard earned money and smelly water is going to go to waste. Besides, you're probably going to want to mix it up in a year or two anyway.

I have mixed thoughts on how a man should choose a scent. I know many guys who buy a cologne only because girls tend to like it. That's like letting your girlfriend dress you. I'm sure you'll look okay but it's not you. Are you dressing for her or you? (The correct answer is the latter.)

Women love Acqua di Gio, smell like it and they'll probably compliment you. They'll tell you how much they love Acqua di Gio. Unfortunately, it's pretty flowery. Pick your own scent, one with hints of leather, tobacco, cedar, one that not only you enjoy, but one you feel is a representation of you and she won't be complimenting you to your face – she'll be telling all her girlfriends how good you smell when she lays on your chest. That's memorable.

Wearing your own pick is important, but it's a balance. You don't want to wear something that women are going to hate, or that reminds a girl of her grandfather. Lots of men love the classic smell of Old Spice after shave, unfortunately many women these days don't. What you smell like is a part of your style. It's important to choose it consciously.

Don't feel limited to picking just one. A day in the sun warrants something different than a dark, fancy dinner downtown. As I like to say, different scents for different events.

young men cologne options 

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Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.


  • Reply September 3, 2011


    I tend to wear Polo black, it is a little stronger than some others I have tried so I definitely don’t wear as much usually.

  • Reply September 3, 2011


    I enjoy the Polo Black inserts in magazines, good selection.

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  • Reply September 4, 2011

    Mike T.

    I have been wearing Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male for years now. Always get compliments and my wife can’t resist shoving her face in my neck nook.

  • Reply September 5, 2011

    Mark Errol

    You have a good point of saying that we should choose the scent that best reflects us, but the problem is sometimes the scent that we like may not also be like by women, which may lead them to get turned off to us males. I wish I could find a cologne that both genders like.

  • Reply September 5, 2011



    I think that women tend to get turned off if the scent is overpowering. If a woman associates a scent with you (and you only use a little so it is not overpowering) the longer you are together she will become more in love with that scent. This goes for anything that would make you smell the way you do such as shampoo, soap/body wash, cologne, and laundry detergent.
    I guess this idea doesn’t work if you are trying to find a new love in your life however, but hopefully a long lasting relationship isn’t built on your particular cologne.

  • Reply September 5, 2011

    Amanda Rose

    This collection of cologne is perfect for gifts. sure be writing it on my wish list =)

  • Reply September 6, 2011


    I’ve been using Thierry Mugler’s Amen for years. One of the best, most unique scents out there. I have other scents I use for specific occassions. For very formal I love Paul Smith Man or Burberry Brit, and for gym/ lots of activity I like the smell of Diesel Plus Plus.

    I can vouch for the Burberry Brit listed above and I’ll be trying the Gucci Pour Homme II because it looks and sounds promising.

    @ Mark: what you should look for is a scent that compliments your other products ( shampoo, antiperspirant, etc) and has a distinctive personality that matches your own. If you’re a smoker, there are fragrances that will compliment that better than others. likewise if you wear a lot of leather jackets…some fragrances will blend with the scent of leather. Once you find it, make sure you just use one or two sprays and spread it on your chest, wrists and around the back of the ears. You want a lady to have to get close to smell you, not pick up your aroma party from a yard away.

    • Reply September 6, 2011


      Great points Micky, and thanks for the recommendations!

  • Reply September 8, 2011


    I find that there are certain scents that should fit the occasion, such as one for your job, one for your girl, and one for when you’re hanging out with the dudes. I have use Fierce for work, Obsession for my wife, and Axe when I’m out with the dudes. Micky hit the nail on the head with the advice of using products that compliment the scents that you choose to wear. If you can’t find scent-complimenting products, go for those products that don’t have a scent.

    Also — a little cologne goes a long way. You want your scent to have a “come hither” affect; not a slap–in-the-face send-off. A little under your ears at the jaw bone (not on the neck since there are women who like to kiss there) and a little on both wrists is fine.

    Your own pheromones will mix with what you splash/spray on (never rub or smear) and you will have a nice scent that your girl will recognize as your signature scent.

  • Reply September 8, 2011


    Pinaud Clubman…..$6.00 at CVS The classic Man smell.

  • Reply September 20, 2011


    My all time favorite is cool water. If was the first colone I got (my dad bought it for me before my first date). It has a classic, clean scent and it moderately priced.

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  • Reply September 21, 2011


    I’ve always been partial to Drakar Noir. Yeah, I know it isn’t 1994 any more but it is a manly cent. I’ve recently switched to using some of the Bath & Body Works body sprays. The Twilight Woods and Elixir Black are great manly scents. Ocean is not bad either.

    I am also partial to the Col. Konk and other classic aftershaves from my local barber shop. Bay Rum, Amber, Lime and other scents are simple and manly. These choices are also inexpensive and last a good while.

  • Reply December 23, 2011


    I know this thread might not have been active for a while.

    a) Great website!

    b) My absolute favorite, and downright awesome cologne that I use all the time. I’ll give you the name in a second. It is not a cologne that you smell right away, well it is, but its not a Polo Black or AX, but its something that is more of a scent. It become a part of you, and it smell good the longer you wear it.

    Called Azzaro By Azzaro For Men
    Golden bottle, black box.

    Spray some in your hand, smell it in an hour..absolute bliss.

    Its on sale from amazon for 22$ as well!!!

  • Reply December 28, 2011


    mmmmm i like playboy hollywood…..1 spray is enough!

  • Reply July 12, 2012


    Another great scent that didn’t make this list is John Varvatos’ Vintage. Check it out!

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  • Reply September 30, 2012


    Dolce is timeless, Escape and CK1 must’ve been the most parking lot bootlegged perfumes of all time.

  • Reply November 6, 2012


    I love it… I can’t wait to pick up the 4 pack of Royall on Amazon. Thanks for the recommendation! My old barber used to slap on some Bay Rhum after a shave/haircut. It’s a classic, manly smell. I can’t wait to smell the rest of the collection.

    Another great recommendation, Varvatos’ Vintage. Cedar, leather and tobacco flower. Your wife/girlfriend will love you in it. My wife says it makes her want to bite me. 

  • […] fantastic after shave lotion is the Clubman Pinaud brand.  The Clubman Pinaud lotion has a nice masculine fragrance to it and soothes tender skin.  This shave lotion will help heal any razor nicks you may receive […]

  • Reply September 23, 2015

    Rob Dc

    I can’t help but read all these comments in a Tom Haverford voice.

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