In the Will Ferrell comedy Anchorman, Paul Rudd’s character proudly proclaims that his cologne — Sex Panther — is “illegal in nine countries.” He goes on to brag about its lady-killing qualities: “They’ve done studies, you know. Sixty percent of the time, it works … every time.”
If your cologne has similar powers, you’re a lucky man. But seducing the ladies is probably not uppermost in your mind when you splash your scent on in the morning — and it shouldn’t be. You’ve got to get through the workday first. The ideal, of course, would be a one-stop cologne solution for day and night. Something that, as Mehdi Lisi — senior fragrance development manager for International Flavors and Fragrances — says, would make you “feel fresh and clean in morning, go through the day feeling energized, and then become a machine of seduction at night.”
Unfortunately, chemistry — both that of our bodies and that of cologne itself — makes the one-application goal somewhat elusive. Made up largely of alcohol, cologne begins evaporating immediately upon touching your skin. As your body temperature warms, it dissipates even faster. By the end of the workday, chances are it will be long gone. So what’s the man in search of an all-day, all-purpose cologne to do? The experts have a few suggestions.
Most importantly, do not douse yourself with vast quantities of cologne to make it last. “Your office mates will kill you,” says A.J. Jones, an aesthetician at the Nickel Spa for Men in New York City. It’s far better to reapply later in the day than to go too heavy in the morning. And this should go without saying, but if you’ve hit the gym on your lunch break or after work, you’ve got to shower before reapplying cologne. Otherwise, you’re only going to exude a nasty mash-up of sweat and scent. Jones also suggests using multiple products — such as body wash, deodorant, and aftershave or cologne — from the same label. This will deliver the same scent to different parts of the body and in different intensities.
And there are ways to give your cologne a fighting chance at making it past the 5 p.m. whistle, says Sarah Horowitz, owner and chief perfumer of custom fragrance company Sarah Horowitz Parfums. For one, if you pour a bit into your hands and clap, it will help burn off the alcohol and reduce the cologne to its signature (and longest-lasting) elements. Another stratagem Horowitz offers is to layer the scent by applying it to places that will retain it longer: “Your skin radiates heat, but hair does not. Put some cologne on your hands and then smooth it into the back of your hair or onto your beard.” You can also dab a little on a jacket or shirt — providing you’ve rubbed it into your hands first. Whatever you do, don’t spray cologne directly onto your clothing. You might smell good, but that big stain on your shirt will likely mitigate any positive effects.
And what of the holy grail? Is there a cologne that will allow you to strike the right notes at varying times of day? Indeed, there is. Colognes that contain two contrasting scents, such as citrus and wood, can help you create different impressions, says Lisi. Citrus, which has volatile molecules, will express itself early; as your workday wears on, however, the citrus notes will wear out and allow the sexier, more masculine woodsy notes to make their presence known. Consider it a two-tier approach. There are many types of cologne out there that will give you this one-two punch. Lisi recommends Diesel’s Only the Brave, Fierce by Abercrombie & Fitch, I Am King by Sean John and The One by Dolce & Gabbana.
Regardless of the one you choose, know that a signature scent is something by which people will remember you long after you’ve left the room. Choose and apply your cologne wisely: It will serve you well throughout the day and beyond. Overdo it, however, and you might start reminding people of a 1970s TV reporter — one with a zero-percent chance of impressing anyone.
Thomas P. Farley is a lifestyle and manners expert and the creator of the blog What Manners Most. He is also the host of the Web television show “New York Insider TV.”