How to Choose a Cologne 101 – Basics & Advanced

In this article we’ll go through everything you need to know when choosing a cologne. We go through both the basics and more advanced questions and tips.

A cologne is something that can elevate a man (or woman). You can do your best with grooming and fashion, but a stunning fragrance is one way to push yourself up a notch.

However, it can be very hard knowing how to pick a new cologne, or one that you will consider to be ‘signature’. There are so many out there with so many different properties.

We’ll be here to show you how to figure out which cologne will be perfect for you. Just slow down and follow us as we show you how to level up with a cologne that fits you perfectly, and turns heads.

Educate yourself on the basics

Perfumery is a whole world that many people don’t tend to delve real deep into. As a result, some of the basic aspects that can inform your decision are unknown.

You might get by without knowing the perfume basics if you simply want to get one signature scent for the rest of your life. However, if you’ll want to be able to buy your own scents in the future, you need to know these.

Let’s talk about the basics.


Think of notes like the ingredients in a fragrance. These are layered in tiers, based on how they expose themselves to you from the fragrance.

Top notes are those that are, of course, at the top. They come out first, opening up the scent, but at the same time, they leave first.

The middle, or heart, notes, are the ones which provide the middle ground and balance to the cologne. These are followed by the base notes, which stick out the strongest and last until the end.

It’s hard to know which notes you like and don’t like in your perfume. You’ll simply have to try them out and take note to know whether you’re a patchouli person or a coconut one.


Scents have seasons, and it is important to note this. Winter and fall, being colder months, tend to go for fragrances that are heavier, with warmer spicier notes.

Summer and spring are best for fresh, clean, and light choices of cologne.

Wearing something heavy in the summer can feel choking, and something light in the winter might not even feel like it is there. It is important to target the right season with what you buy.


The performance of a fragrance is judged by its longevity and sillage.

Longevity, as the name suggests, is how long the cologne lasts on your skin. Sillage refers to how strongly your scent lingers behind you.

More isn’t always better. Some ‘beast mode’ colognes go hard on the performance, but this can feel suffocating with stronger scents, especially if you work with people. Sometimes subtle is appropriate.

It all depends on you though. You need to figure out whether you like lighter scents that barely float around you, or the ones that project aggressively.

Observe and Ask About Scents

The easiest way to learn more about colognes and find out the ones you like is simple. You just need to smell what others are wearing!

If you are at a party and the person next to you smells amazing, ask them what they have on. Take note of that name and take a look at the notes online. This is one way to know what appeals to you.

Don’t be shy to ask people when you love what they’re wearing. It can only be taken as a compliment and it helps add more options to your list.

Start with the Veterans

There are a lot of colognes that you can consider to be veterans. These are long-standing products that have been around for years and are almost universally acclaimed.

You don’t need to stumble around trying to make the first cologne you buy something unique. Sometimes starting from these classics can really show you what your taste is like.

That’s a great spot to build off of. Some popular classic colognes include Giorgio Armani Eau Pour Homme, Dior Sauvage, Bleu de Chanel, Prada L’Homme, and Ralph Lauren Polo.

What’s the Occasion

The truth is, a signature scent might be the one that you want to encompass ‘perfection’ in a cologne for you, but it won’t be perfect for every situation.

For instance, a manly, sophisticated cologne might be too much when you’re going to the movies in a t-shirt with your friends.

Think of where you will spend the most time wearing this fragrance. Will it be work? Will it be school? Or perhaps it is the gym. Regardless, you need to make sure it fits the locale as much as it can.

You also need to think about what you want it to say about you.

If you want a fragrance that announces your presence loudly, you’ll surely be looking at different options than if you want something that is subtle and intimate.

Know the circumstances your scent will find itself in and what you want it to say about you, and the search becomes easier.

Don’t Ignore Your Instincts

We know it can be very easy to simply go with what everyone else is wearing. But if you do that, you’re going to be missing out on discovering hidden gems, plus, you won’t stand out from the crowd.

Sometimes you’ll feel a cologne calling to you. The notes might seem right up your alley, but it might not be the most popular choice.

Go for it. A lot of the time, you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Stick to Houses

If you smell something on someone that you really like, or you’ve had a cologne you bought in the past that was excellent, think of the brand that made it. You might strike a lot more gold looking at their other offerings.

These fragrance houses tend to have character in their scents, and they tend to be rather similar once they are all under the same roof. This means it can be very likely you’ll find something just right for you.

Smell Before You Buy

This might be the most important rule that you can follow when looking for a perfume. Test these scents out before you make that purchase, especially on costlier options.

Here are our tips for this.

  • Start with spraying on a strip. Ask the shop reps for a sample. The scent of the cologne on a strip of paper is not the same as it’ll be on the skin, but you’ll get an idea of how it will smell.
  • Hold onto these for some minutes. It is best if you can walk around smelling these scents over at least 20 minutes. The top notes will fade out and can reveal something entirely different, so don’t make the decision at the start.
  • Cut down your options. If your shortlist has just two or three choices, you don’t need to cut it down further, but longer lists will need to be trimmed down for the next tip.
  • Test on your skin. This is where you’ll be able to get the true idea of how the cologne will smell. If you did this at the start with too many, it can be hard to distinguish the individual fragrances.
  • Spray on pulse points. When testing on your skin, aim for the underside of your wrist and your inner elbow. These are warmer parts of your body, so they help evaporate the cologne nicely.

Now that you’ve given the colognes a whiff, you’ll be able to tell which of them you like the most. At that point, you can pull the trigger and go for it!

Buying a signature cologne for the first time can be a bit tricky, but it doesn’t have to be if you know what to do. Hopefully we’ve been able to demystify this for you and you can go out smelling great!