Ask Esquire: What are the Rules for Wearing Perfume?

Should I walk into a cloud of scent and leave the bottle in my car?

It seems a lot of men are confused about smells, because we've been getting a lot scent-related inquiries from the mailbag, so how about we do a Q&A lightning round?

Here we go:

1| How should I put on perfume?

There are those who advise spraying it on the naked body, because the final smell of a perfume happens when it reacts to skin.

There are those who advise spraying it on your clothes, because that's the surface that people will be in contact with. 

Then, there are people like Bulgari perfume ambassador Nick Bateman who proposes spraying it on specific areas like the back of the ears and neck and on your hair, because when you lean in for a hug or a whisper, these are the places where the nose goes.

We like all these ideas.

2| How about that walking into a cloud trick?

You're just putting on perfume all over your furniture. (And wasting money.) 

3| But how much should I spray on?

Scents with lower concentrations like eau de colognes can be sprayed more liberally. We once asked Debbie Wild, lifestyle director of Jo Malone, about the matter and she proceeded to spray cologne all over herself.  

For more potent fragrances, we'd say two pumps is enough. Three max. As in cooking, you can add more later, but you can't take away what's already there. 

We really advise erring on the side of caution on this one. You don't want to be that guy who assaults people with smells. You'd rather leave a suggestion of a scent.


4| Can I leave perfume in my car?

Do you leave your dog in your car? A perfume is a conconction that can break down in the presence of extreme heat and light. It will not do well inside a car baking under the sun. That's not to say we've never kept one in the car (for convenience). Just rescue the bottle when it's critically hot.   

5| What scents are best for me?

Can't really say what's best for you, because we don't know what you like. But here are a few guidelines: If you like that fresh-out-of-the-shower feel, citrus and aquatic fragrances will suit you. If you like making a more deliberate impression, spicy and oriental flavors are the ones. Here's a guide.

You'll really need to brave the perfume floor and get your nose in there to find out. Here's how to do it

6| Yes, yes, but what do you recommend?

We're digging weird scents right now. Yep. Give us that luxed-up version of cat sweat, because, after a while, everything starts to smell the same.

As long as it doesn't smell like it can start a fire, cause a hallucination, or knock out a person, go for it. 

If you're not into smelling too different, then at least choose a familiar fragrance that has a twist. Eau de Citron Noir by Hermès does citrus with a smoky flair, for example.  

7| What are the trends in perfumery right now?

Trends? The trend is not to smell like a foot. Another trend is to not smell like everybody else who follows trends. But, if you really want to know, consider this: There's been a movement toward in-your-face scents this year.

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It seems that younger people would like everyone to know that they are wearing perfume. Subtlety is over. (We are shaking our fists in anger.)

8| I like how I smell. Why should I bother?

We know this guy who knew the secrets of wearing perfume well. He was consistent with the application of one particular scent that he made its heady smell his signature.

Even before he appeared in front of us, all the women would trill—trill!—that “John is here!”

And then he'd enter the room smelling good and looking handsome (to the ladies) and being very annoying (to us, salty men). In other words, putting on perfume is the easiest way to leave an impression.

Also, it just feels good.

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Clifford Olanday
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