Fragrance is the anomaly of the style world. It can’t be seen, touched or heard, but its statement is nonetheless resounding. While it’s a one-size-fits-all product, cologne makes a personal declaration once it’s applied and mingles with the wearer’s unique chemistry. Because smell is the sense most closely related to memory, its effect lingers long after the wearer is gone.
Still don’t believe a mere aroma can speak volumes about a person? Consider the enduring image of the rugged—yet—sophisticated Aramis Man that springs from the mere hint of its sandalwood, tobacco, chypre and leather notes. Taken in a spicier direction with basil, mint and clove, the company’s new scent, Mustang, evokes a character not as burnished, but more likely to hit the open road in the car for which it is named.
Fragrance creators work from a palette of hundreds in their search for the new, but sometimes something compelling comes from a novel use of the familiar, as in Tom Ford Grey Vetiver. Earthy, grassy vetiver is the base in dozens of colognes, yet combined with grapefruit, sage, orange blossom and nutmeg, it stands out to herald the designer’s elegant style. Zegna, with its Colonia, similarly starts with a basic musk and adds cedar, Sicilian bergamot, neroli and cardamom to pull off what the company calls “a personal vision of la dolce vita.”
Colognes also work the magic of aroma therapy, and bold, masculine vibes are the aim of the moment. DKNY Man—with bergamot, juniper, orris and pepper—has the feel of a dry martini on a Manhattan evening. Bond No. 9 Wall Street, with kale, lavender, vetiver and a whiff of ozone, radiates the take-no-prisoners energy of its namesake. Marc Ecko goes pure boost with sharp citrus, vivid musk and anise. Subtler Façonnable—orange, mint and rose—works better in the board room.
But it’s not all about hard work. Coach Men, the debut fragrance of the renowned leather goods maker, smacks more of a day in the country with its cedar and, of course, leather. Calvin Klein Man—minty, candied, citrusy—is a whimsical mixture. Kenneth Cole Vintage Black, with floral notes, sandalwood and musk, has the warmth you might want on an evening out. John Varvatos taps the orient, with hints of tamarind, spice, wood, leather and vanillla, for an aura that is stylish, yet laid back—for when you’re in a meditative mood with a cigar.