Cologne 101 – A Guide On How To Start Choosing and Wearing Fragrances


With this guide, you’re going to learn;

  • Why wearing cologne is important
  • What’s the difference between fragrance/cologne/perfume?
  • Basics of fragrance
  • Linear vs Non-Linear
  • What notes are
  • The differences between cologne, fragrance, and perfume
  • Tips to get you started

Why wear cologne?

Why wear cologne?

Fragrance for me started back in high-school. I can remember my group of friends spraying Acqua Di Gio before heading to school or going out for the evening. It seemed girls couldn’t keep their hands off them and guys wanted to be like them. After awhile of noticing the effects of something simple like wearing cologne, I knew I had to get my very first bottle to see if I could gain the same results they did.

My first experience choosing a cologne was rather interesting. When I headed into the local department store, there were at least 20-50 different fragrances I could choose and I had no idea how to narrow down my choices. The kid next to me was busy squirting every single cologne they had out for display and stunk so bad that I immediately became nervous and was anxious to leave. I saw a bottle of Acqua Di Gio just waiting to be plucked from the rack. Since it’s the only cologne I have ever known, I quickly picked it up and ran out of there as fast as I could.

After wearing my new cologne to school, sports, and out with friends, I immediately noticed the results. The girls I talked to sometimes would compliment me on how I smelled and I would catch them leaning in closer to talk to me. The guys I hung out with looked gave me more respect, and lastly I had more confidence with everything I did. I was less shy, timid, and just all-around felt more comfortable talking and being close to other people.

I loved cologne! It made chicks want me, guys want to be me, and it gave me more confidence! But was this really true?

After wearing different colognes for over 15 years, I know that no single bottle of cologne can actually pull these statements off. A cologne can’t make someone that doesn’t want to be attractive suddenly transform into a womanizing machine. The cool kids in school don’t want to hang out with you just because you’re wearing cologne.

What fragrance actually does is give you a “presence”. Imagine shaking these guys’ hands.

Both of them give you some sort of perception of who they are and how tough, rugged, soft, sophisticated, and intelligent they are just by looking at their picture.

Now imagine these dudes with the following smells and how it changes how you view them…


Imagine them smelling like they just finished cutting wood… sawdust, woody aromas, earthy smell

Imagine them smelling they just got back from a campfire… smokey, outdoorsy

Imagine them smelling like they just hopped out of the shower… like soap, cleanliness

Imagine them smelling like pure sexiness… like they were headed on a hot date

You can see how simple smells can change how you view someone. This is their “presence”! It can make someone that looks manly appear 1) even more manly and bad ass 2) like an overgrown teddy bear or 3) like a sex machine ready to prowl. If you look at someone that looks a little more proper and business professional and you change the way they smell, 1) they can also be perceived as more manly, 2) more soft and laid back, or 3) like the sexiest man on the planet.

You can now see the purpose of fragrance and why you need to be wearing it. Using a scent can make you appear cleaner, manlier, sophisticated, sexy, or just simply fresher than you actually look. It magnifies and amplifies how you already feel creating an “aura” around you that gives you confidence and something that people want to be around. The fragrance by itself doesn’t attract women or breed confidence. Wearing it will give you more “presence” to create an environment where you appear to be more sexy, confident, sophisticated, or whatever you may be looking for.

According to a Men’s Health Article published in 2009, “smelling is the most intimate sense”. When we smell someone we consume them. Don’t believe me? What happens when you try and eat when your nose is plugged? You can forget about tasting anything because your taste buds rely on sense of smell. Understanding this philosophy, smelling like a Greek god can help you be perceived as one.

What’s the difference between cologne/fragrance/perfume? Isn’t it all the same thing?

If there is one thing I’ve learned from talking to fellow Cologne Masters and experts, it’s that they take fragrance talk, terms, and definition very seriously. So for the record, let’s get this right.

If you walk up to one of your buddies and they smell like Greek god with their cologne, you might say something like “Holy Moses, your cologne smells amazing!”. Most people will accept your compliment and go on with their life.

If you’re talking with a Cologne Master, fragrance expert, perfume-head, or someone else with considerable fragrance knowledge, they might correct you and say that it is not “cologne” and it’s actually an “eau de toilette” or “eau de parfum”.

Keep in mind, this should rarely happen, but it’s important to know that the word cologne is actually means just in case you end up talking to a fragrance professional about it.

General word = fragrance

If you wish to be safe when talking about a scent you like and you don’t want to sound like an idiot, call everything a fragrance.

In each fragrance, there is a certain amount of aromatic compounds. A fragrance can usually be between 1-30% of this composition and the rest of it is either water or alcohol. This concentration of aromatic compounds makes up the oil.

If a fragrance has a lower concentration of oil compared to alcohol, this mixture is called an eau, which means water.


Pure Perfume

  • Difficult to find
  • Very expensive
  • 15-30% oil
  • 6+ hours of longevity

Eau de Parfum (EDP)

  • 8-15% perfume oil
  • Mostly women’s fragrance
  • Lasts 4-6 hours

Eau de Toillette (EDT)

  • 4-10% perfume oil
  • Highest concentration for men
  • Lasts up to 4 hours

Eau de Cologne (EDC)

  • 2-5% perfume oil
  • Lasts around 3 hours

Eau de Fraiche (EDF)

  • 1-3% perfume oil
  • Lasts less than 3 hours

*Note – After wearing cologne for so long now, one thing to take with a grain of salt is how long these fragrances actually last. I have worn several Eau de Fraiches that lasts more than 3 hours. The times on these fragrance are more of a guideline than a rule.

**Note – Throughout the site, you’ll see many articles on cologne. Keep in mind in the world of fragrance, cologne is used very loose. People describe perfume, Eau de Fraiches, Eau de parfums, and Eau de toillettes as cologne! Just keep that in mind when you see different fragrances. Look for the abbreviations of EDC, EDT, EDP, and EDF next to all of these colognes if you’re one of those guys that needs to know what type of fragrance a particular scent is.

The Basics

To begin, you must understand one essential fact about your skin. Believe it or not, your skin is different than the person next to you. Your skin might be more dry, oily, sweaty, clammy, or hairy compared to friends, lovers, and family members. Because of this fact, fragrances you use may smell different on you than someone else! A bottle of cologne will contain various extracts, oils, alcohol, preservatives and water. This combination of skin and cologne creates a mini chemistry experiment. If you’re someone that has difficulty with cologne wearing off throughout the day, I highly suggest you check out ways to keep you smelling good all day.

Linear Vs Non-Linear Fragrances

Before reading anything further that I’m about to write, I bet you can guess what the difference between a linear or non-linear fragrance is.

A linear fragrance smells the same from the moment the scent hits your skin until the last drop evaporates into the atmosphere.

A non-linear fragrance is a complex array of different ingredients that are blended together to put the person who is wearing it on a fantastic voyage of different smells throughout the day.

There are pros and cons to both linear and non-linear fragrances so it’s up to you to decide which one is right for you.

For example, if you’re heading to school and want to simply smell clean all day, a linear cologne would be most appropriate. You won’t offend anyone by smelling clean and you don’t have to worry about the fragrance changing into something that the person next to you may not like.

Perhaps you’re heading out on the town to run some errands and you wish to go on a little adventure. Why not choose a cologne that changes as the hours pass? You’ll find yourself continuously sniffing yourself to complete the fragrance journey you started when you first sprayed the initial scent on your skin.

If you hear people talking about linear versus non-linear, pay attention, but don’t take their words as gospel. It’s your decision on whether you want a cologne that smells the same in it’s entirety or something that changes with time.

What the heck are notes?


Every fragrance or cologne has base, middle, and top notes. If you combine all of these notes together, you get what is called an “accord”. When you spray a fragrance on your skin, the scent begins to evaporate over time. While the fragrance is evaporating, you will begin smelling different notes. Most colognes go through a progression from when you spray it on your body, until it fully evaporates or gets washed off. Top notes, which last only a few minutes, middle notes last less than a half hour, and base notes last until the fragrance fades away.

Top notes

These notes are also called the “head” notes. When the cologne is emitted from whatever is holding it, the top notes are identified immediately. The head notes consists of small, light molecules that evaporate quickly. These notes are the users first impression and for this reason are the most important when someone is selecting a cologne. The essence of these notes are very strong in how it smells, and evaporates quickly. Citrus and ginger are common top notes.

Middle Notes

Also called the “heart” notes, these notes show their true colors right after the initial blast of the top notes. The “head”notes quickly evaporate which set the stage for these middle notes to emerge from anywhere from two minutes up until a half hour or more. With some fragrances, the initial detonation of the cologne spray can be overpowering so the middle notes conceal the initial unpleasant spray of cologne straight out of the bottle. These middle notes grow more pleasant as time passes by. The heart notes are generally more mellow compared to the top notes.


The base notes are the grand finale of the cologne’s journey of evaporation over time. These notes are not observed until approximately 30 minutes to an hour has passed by the initial application of the cologne. Since the base notes are the longest lasting, these molecules are described as strong, large, deep, and rich compounds.

The Fragrance Wheel

fragrance wheel

Phew! That was a lot of generic information on fragrance! But now, we are finally ready for the fun stuff and we are one step closer to choosing our first batch of cologne!

When you first start reading about different fragrances, it can be confusing trying to figure out how colognes smell just by reading about them. Better yet, if you head into a department store to check out some samples, your smelling ability starts to get overwhelmed after smelling just 3 colognes!

This is where the fragrance wheel comes into play and saves the day. Michael Edwards created an easy to understand wheel so you can gauge how a fragrance smells just by looking at where it falls on it.

In the four corners of the image you can see the main categories of floral, oriental, fresh and woody. Here is what these bad boys mean;

Floral – This is the most popular fragrance family. When you think of floral, you should obviously think of flowers. Floral notes can have the spirit of just one flower, which is called solifore, or it could contain the essences of many flowers which is called a white floral bouquet.

I know what you’re thinking and yes these fragrance are typical “girly” and “feminine”. However, with the right combinations of floral scents, these concoctions can smell very mature, prestigious, masculine, and beautiful.

Oriental – These are scents people remember and are great for holidays. These scents are rich, spicy, and usually include warm spices, resins, and rich opulent florals. Oriental flowers are exciting because they are often mysterious and seductive.

Oriental fragrances by themselves can be overpowering. This is why they are often mixed with floral notes to keep the fragrance from blowing everyone away.

Fresh – These scents should remind you of hopping out of the shower and smelling clean, crisp, zingy, and vivacious. The top men’s colognes right now seem to be all in this family of fragrances and you can find an array of the top fresh scents here.

These colognes are youthful colognes, but don’t think they are exclusively for kids. They are worn dominantly during the day and usually during the summer and spring months. Without ever smelling a fresh cologne, you can imagine what these scents smell like. Thinking about what it feels like when someone just steps out of the shower. A combination of this category with others are often deadly powerful combinations and super popular.

Woody – Last but not least we have our woody fragrances. The scents are considered earthy and should remind you of trees. At first this doesn’t sound too appealing but picture the warmth and smell of a roaring bonfire can bring.

Even though you don’t directly think of this warmth, you subconsciously feel it every time you put it on. These scents make you feel powerful and they are the type of fragrances you want to have your back as you go to a job interview, head to the office, or entertain friends at the cabin.

Notice for this article, we did not go into the sub-categories. If you are the type of guy that is just looking for his first cologne, a signature scent, or just something a little different, you do not need to know the sub-categories. Try to figure out the “main” categories first and figure out what types of cologne you like.

If you start to feel a little more attached to cologne and you find a particular family you just can’t get enough, that’s the time to really start focusing in on the sub-categories. We will not tackle these in this “Getting Started” post but in our next lesson we will go into them with more detail.

Tips and Tricks To Get You Started


Tips And Tricks To Get You Started



When it comes to selecting a cologne, you need to make the decision yourself. A “Cologne Master” can give you all the advice in the world, but it’s up to you to make the final decision on what cologne will work best with your body chemistry.

Have at least 3-4 colognes to get you started. When you choose what clothes our outfit you’re wearing for the day, cologne should be a primary accessory. If you’re heading to work, have a cologne for your business clothes and attire that goes a long with it. If you’re heading to the gym, make sure you have a cologne that works well for that. It’s always nice having cologne choices and you will need a few different ones for different occasions.

Women love cologne. If there is not other reason to wear it, this alone is worth it.

Don’t be that guy that puts on too much cologne. Everyone secretly laughs at you and you start receiving attention in a negative way. Remember the personal bubbles in grade school that the teacher didn’t allow you to enter into? If someone outside your personal bubble can smell you, definitely reduce the amount of cologne you are wearing.

Where To Begin Choosing Cologne?

Start thinking about why YOU want to wear cologne. Buying a fragrance to impress a lady is different than finding a cologne to wear to work or school. I strongly suggest taking a minute to think where you plan on wearing your colognes and each situation that you may want a different one. Like I mentioned before, I recommend having 3-4 different fragrances at a time.

1. For daily use like work/school… something clean/fresh

2. A signature scent… Something that when people smell they know you’re around the corner. Lot’s of kids can picture their fathers wearing their “signature scent”

3. Pure Sexiness… You should have a fragrance you use when you’re looking to make some magic happen

4. Something seasonal/manly/ or just a wildcard… For this cologne you might have something special you wear for holidays or maybe something you wear when you’re trying to smell extra manly

After reading through this entire article, you are well on your way to becoming a certified Cologne Master. It’s time to take all the knowledge you have learned or unlearned and put it into practice and find a cologne that is perfect for you. The next place you take a peek at is our Getting Started Page. Here you will find a well organized layout of everything you need to be checking out on this site.

 Topics Worth Checking Out Immediately

Hopefully now you have a cologne that you’re ready to wear. It’s time to figure out exactly where to put it on and how much is necessary. Check this article out so you don’t embarrass yourself.

How To Wear Cologne Like A Boss

If you’re a young guy looking to pick out their first cologne, check out one of our most famous articles in;

Best Cologne For Young Men

After you have chosen, and learned how to wear your cologne, make sure you understand how to prolong and make it last by checking out this article.

How To Make Your Fragrance Really Last

Closing Thoughts

I think what people forget what the purpose of cologne really is. If you read the first part of the page, you know how well it amplifies how you already feel about yourself. If you’re spraying cologne on yourself to impress a girl, you won’t unless you’re actually willing to make the move to do it. If you’re using fragrance as a way to cover your body odor, you will also fail because people smell right through that and you’re most likely going to over spray anyway.

Instead, use fragrance as a tool to enhance what you’re looking for. If you’re heading in for a job interview and need to look sophisticated, use a cologne that will enhance that. If you’re stepping out of the shower after working out and just want to smell clean for the people next to you, wear something that complements that. Don’t lose focus on what fragrance can do for you, because if you use it wisely, you’re going to blow peoples minds with the presence you set.

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Jason is the first ever self-proclaimed “Cologne Master” that is dedicating his expertise and knowledge to helping people choose that special scent for the 1st or 50th time.

  • Hello!
    Really intresting article and i can say i’ve learned alot about this topic.
    But one question i have is, can you use a cologne as an after shave splash on?

    • Awesome question! Some guys wear cologne as aftershave, but I don’t recommend it.

      Aftershave typically has soothing and cooling ingredients that work great after a shave. The only bad thing about them is they don’t last very long.

      Cologne has a higher concentration of fragrance oils in them so many times your face will be left irritated, red, and blotchy.

      For expert advice on shaving and aftershave, don’t be afraid to check out Mark @

  • Hey there! I have never really used cologne, but I would like to begin. I live in a rural area and it’s almost an hour and a half drive to get to a department store that only sells designer brands, which all smell like cheap soap to me. Is there a way that I can get a decent cologne without taking an extensive trip or breaking my bank on colognes I end up not liking?

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