Look Good, Smell Good: What’s the Latest with Colognes?

In a world that seems to have gone mad on smells, it is easy to forget about one of the originals, and something that is having something of a renaissance - Eau de Colognes. The term literally means ‘water of Cologne’ but applies to any light toilet water (stop sniggering) that are characterised by any male scent composed of around 2-4% perfume oils in alcohol and water. Tending to be lighter and less cloying than their obtrusive aftershave cousins, colognes are making something of a comeback, and for many discerning men, they are an absolute must.

In fact, Eau de Colognes and Eau de Toilettes - their slightly stronger brethren – are resurging and attracting a lot of interest from men who like to wear them, and their partners who love to smell them.

Nowadays, when we think of male fragrances, we tend to conjure up whatever imagery and slightly annoying ditty that is being used to peddle the latest line of aftershaves, but what is the difference between these and Eau de Colognes? In simple terms there is very little distinction between the two; Colognes tend to be slightly lighter and aftershaves are just that – something to be worn post-shave to sanitize any razor nicks. A cologne has a reduced olfactory strength, by virtue of the lower level of aromatic components in its composition, yet despite this low concentration, it will persist on the skin, for some hours. They are excellent to include as part of your daily routine, but you may need to replenish throughout the day, and many Colognes are sold in smaller bottles to allow them to be easily carried around for that purpose. While aftershaves have dominated the market for the last few decades, is it time that Colognes stepped back out of the shadows.

In the golden age of men’s fragrances, aftershaves were a bit passe, and seen as quite pedestrian. Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond books liked to imbibe his creation with many of his own likes, dislikes, and traits, and while the stories only reference Bond wearing Floris, we can be pretty sure that Fleming was alluding to Floris No.89, his own Cologne of choice.

In the real world, Colognes are seen as being a bit more classy than plain old aftershaves, and the British Royal Family are keen advocates. It is said that Prince William enjoys a splash or two of Ralph Lauren Polo Cologne throughout the day, while Prince Charles favours Irish Green Tweed by Creed. Colognes are also a thing with a lot of celebrities; Will Smith chooses Vera Wang for Men, while Hugh Jackman prefers Grey Vetiver by Tom Ford. Entrepreneur rapper Jay-Z totally rocks Millésime Impérial by Creed, and Chris Hemsworth probably smells great in Hugo, by Hugo Boss.

Let’s make no mistake, Eau de Cologne and aftershaves can exist in the same world, and often complement each other, but be aware that even the best Colognes will diminish during the day and ideally need to be topped up periodically. While it might not be convenient to carry even a small bottle of your favourite smell around in your pocket, there are a growing number of solid Colognes – with the essence absorbed into a lightweight wax – which are convenient to carry around in a pocket and top-up easily.

We all like to smell good, but a growing number of men are finding that the subtleness of an Eau de Cologne is preferable to the occasionally mawkish signatures of heavy aftershaves. The world of male fragrance is bigger than you imagined, so jump right in and get yourself some class.

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