If you don’t know how to find your signature scent, then you’re missing out on one of adult life’s great pleasures. Just as everyone has a personal taste in fashion, food, music, and more, you can develop a robust appreciation for fine fragrances. But where to begin?
In today’s guide, we’ll be taking a thorough look at the process of finding your signature scent. Beginning with the basics, we’ll take you through our four step process for how to find your signature scent, as well as make some suggestions for where to start your search.
Table of Contents
What Is A Signature Scent?
At its simplest, a man’s “signature scent” is his standby cologne — his go-to fragrance, if you will. It’s the first bottle that he reaches for when he wants to smell great, and the only bottle that he makes sure to never run out of.
But it goes a bit deeper than this, as well: A true signature scent is one that seems to fit a man perfectly, complementing his natural characteristics, style, and way of life. Does that seem like a tall order for a collection of smells suspended in alcohol? Perhaps so, but it’s truly possible if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to find your signature scent.
If all of that sounds like too much for you right now, please make your way to our guide to how to choose the right cologne for you before carrying on.
Should A Man Have A Signature Scent?
Does every guy need to have a signature scent? Probably not, just like everyone doesn’t need to have a favorite food or favorite album. But if you already enjoy fragrances, why wouldn’t you be on the lookout for that perfect match that fits you like a glove?
If you’re just looking to smell great without spending your time, money, and efforts in search of your signature scent, it’s perfectly fine to pick a cologne from a notable producer and wear the heck out of it. The best Creed colognes for men are always a safe pick, but you could also go for a niche pick like one of the best Amouage colognes.
The Anatomy Of The Perfect Signature Scent
To get into the process of finding your signature scent, you’ll need to know a few key terms and phrases from the fragrance industry. Let’s break each of them down:
- The fragrance wheel is a visual guide to the style categories that you’ll find fragrances made in, and a great jumping-off point for narrowing down your scent options.
- Aromatic notes describe the individual scents that you’ll be able to pick up in a fragrance, and are the primary way to hone in on the exact ingredients you really love. Top notes are the first you’ll smell and the first to fade, heart notes give body and presence to the cologne, and base notes give greater longevity and depth to the composition.
Once you start exploring the nuances of different fragrance styles, you’ll likely develop an affinity for a style or set of ingredients. Follow up on this, using it to find similar scents, and you’ll be well on your way to finding your signature scent.
Step #1: Develop Your Scent Profile
Think of your “scent profile” as the embodiment of your lifestyle and activities, expressed through the styling of a fragrance. Everything from your job, to your hobbies, to your diet and exercise habits, and more can give you a hint as to what sort of cologne will be your perfect match.
For example: If you work a traditional 9 to 5 in an office environment, your signature scent will naturally carry a lesser intensity so as not to draw too much attention to yourself. If you’re a musician, however, attention is the name of the game — so your signature scent is likely to be more robust and visceral.
Your clothing style can be a strong indicator of what your signature scent might be, as well. If you trend towards sporty and casual, a citrus or aquatic cologne might have the freshness to match your activity level. On the other hand, if you’re regularly dressing in a suit and tie, a traditionally masculine woody aromatic style cologne is a better bet.
Step #2: Field Test Your Scent Profile
Once you’ve narrowed your choices down to a general scent profile based on your activities and interests, it’s time to start smelling. But did you know that there’s a right way and a wrong way to smell prospective fragrances?
Whether you’re smell testing in public or in private, you’ll need to make sure that you’re able to smell the genuine essence of each cologne you’re trying on. For starters, this means trying on just one scent at a time — any more than that on your skin, and you’ll start to get crossing aromatics that will obscure the true aroma of both fragrances.
But do you really have to try just one cologne per day? That could take quite a while, and thankfully it’s not entirely necessary. You can spray a single spritz of cologne on a small sheet of white paper, then hold that to your nose to get a general idea of the scent. Then, bury your nose in the extra material of your t-shirt to “cleanse your palate” between colognes.
While this paper test will give you a good overview of a fragrance, it’s only once a cologne is interacting with your unique skin chemistry that you’ll get a solid sense of whether it’s your new signature scent. Try not to rush the process, and keep in mind that variables like temperature and ambient weather conditions will affect your opinions of a fragrance. For example: The best summer colognes for men won’t smell quite right in the winter, and vice versa.
Step #3: Discover Your Winning Scent
Okay, so ideally at this point you’ve narrowed your options down to one or two extremely promising fragrances. Now, it’s time to dive deeply into the details of the colognes you’ve chosen — and see if they’re the absolute best version, or if they’re leading you towards an even more perfect signature scent.
In this step, you’ll want to have a listing of the aromatic notes — top, middle, and base — of the colognes you’re auditioning. If you’re not familiar with these, try looking at the full aromatic profiles we list for colognes in articles such as the best Tom Ford colognes for men.
How much do you know about the ingredients that are listed? Can you pick out the influence of each aromatic individually? Training your aromatic palate takes time and experience, but the end goal is being able to identify what, specifically, you enjoy about each cologne that draws your attention.
Once you’ve found an ingredient (or combination of ingredients) that you really love, it’s helpful to compare this to other colognes with those aromatics. For example: You discover that you love the intriguing aromas of sandalwood. Well, now it’s time to check out the best sandalwood colognes for men, and compare their aromatic compositions to gain a deeper experience and appreciation of each scent.
Step #4: Wear Your Signature Scent
Now’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: How does the fragrance you picked match up to your expectations? Don’t rush into a judgment on this one, because when you’re looking for your signature scent you’ll often need to wear it for days or weeks to form an accurate opinion of it.
If you’re absolutely in love with your new cologne, then congratulations — you’ve put in the work necessary to find your signature scent. If it’s totally wrong, you’ll need to go back to the drawing board. But what if it’s close, but not quite right?
This is the rub when you’re trying to decide on one cologne to have as your go-to fragrance. For some men, no single cologne will be perfect for every situation they find themselves in. Take, for instance, the difference between the best barbershop fragrances — perfect for work and social events — and colognes to get you laid. Those two categories just don’t fit together, no matter how talented a fragrance designer might be.
Which is to say: Don’t get down on yourself if you feel the need to have more than one cologne in your collection. Ideally, the more colognes you smell, the better your tastes will become and the broader your appreciation for every style available.
Common Mistakes When Looking For Your Signature Scent
There’s one big pitfall that guys will encounter when looking for their signature scent: Deciding too quickly that they’ve found it.
Look, we get it — when you’re new to colognes and haven’t developed much of an aromatic palate, it’s easy to fall in love with the first cologne that makes a strong impression on you. The trouble of this, though, is that choosing too soon can blind you to how many other awesome colognes are out there, including ones that would be an even better fit for your style.
Our advice: Take your time with this process. The more time and attention you can give to choosing your signature scent, the better educated you’ll become. And the better educated you are about the scents that you’re wearing, the better your decisions will be for which cologne is appropriate for each situation you encounter in life.
How Do I Know What Cologne Smells Good On Me?
Most modern colognes are designed to smell great on anyone — but they won’t always live up to these aspirations. Differences in personal tastes and skin chemistry can make some colognes really stand out, and others fall flat.
So how are you supposed to know which colognes really smell great on you? Unfortunately, there are no real shortcuts. As we’ve outlined above, you’ll have to take some time smelling and thinking about the scents that you really enjoy if you’re going to find one that smells great on you.
If you like the scent of a cologne on yourself but still have doubts about it, try wearing it in the environments you usually frequent. If you get compliments on your scent, then it’s almost guaranteed that you’ve picked a cologne that matches your skin well.
Still Don’t Know What Colognes To Try First? Start With These
With all of that in mind, you may be wondering: Where do you go from here? If you want some direction when it comes to discovering how to find your signature scent, we suggest taking a look through the aromatic profiles of popular colognes in a few of articles, such as:
- The best vanilla colognes for men, a list that really shows off how complex and interesting this popular aromatic can be.
- If woody and beguiling scents are up your alley, then this overview of the best vetiver colognes will lead you down the right path.
- It’s hard to go wrong with a classic like Acqua Di Gio — but we have some worthwhile alternatives in our guide to the best Armani colognes, too.