ELLE Man: A cologne coming-of-age story
Sometimes pheromones just aren't enough. Here's how one man made friends with fragrance.
Clockwise, from right: Jean Paul Gaultier Le Beau Male Eau de Toilette Spray ($100 for 125 mL, at Shoppers Drug Mart); Armani Eau de Nuit Pour Homme Eau de Toilette Spray ($105 for 100 mL, at drugstores and massmarket retailers); Calvin Klein Eternity for Men Summer Eau de Toilette Spray ($72 for 100 mL, at Sears, sears.ca); Fan di Fendi Acqua Pour Homme Eau de Toilette Spray ($88 for 100 mL, at Hudson’s Bay, thebay.com); Prada Luna Rossa Eau de Toilette Spray ($88 for 100 mL, Hudson’s Bay, thebay.com); Gucci Guilty Black Pour Homme Eau de Toilette Spray ($77 for 50 mL, at Sephora, sephora.com)
My teens and 20s were full of youth’s confidence. At once useful and irrational, this bravado led to some poor choices. Like getting a henna tattoo of the Playboy bunny in Montreal and showing it to people. Wearing Modrobes (not at raves). Calling the World Health Organization in Geneva and accusing them of scaremongering while writing a story on the avian flu. For my school paper. As my mom vacuumed in the background.
Although, thankfully, none of these lapses in judgment led to anything catastrophic, little mistakes can still hurt. Deciding to forgo cologne was one such bad choice. Now in my 30s, with time and hindsight on my side, I see where I went wrong.
I ditched cologne because of a misguided understanding of pheromones. I figured that if the opposite sex was attracted to my natural scent, then bathing in cologne was counterproductive. Better to let my occasionally musky odour hang around and play wingman. (I know now that bathing in cologne is counterproductive—but not because it masks pheromones. It’s because you never want to be the source of other people’s headaches, like a walking olfactory fluorescent light.)
It was a bottle buried in a gift bag my wife brought home from an event that sparked my way back to fragrance. John Varvatos Artisan Black Edition is clad in handwoven black rattan with only the tiniest sliver of glass poking out at the neck. It looks expensive. If P. Diddy has taught me anything, it’s that shiny and expensive equal fun. That bottle made me want to smell what was inside. And so, for the first time in years, I spritzed.
One spray was all it took for me to realize that I’d spent 10 years compounding one foolish mistake, that I didn’t have to give up cologne altogether and that wearing cologne completes an outfit. I still don’t understand the science behind pheromones, but I can say with certainty that if I’m wearing Artisan Black Edition, my wife finds reasons to be closer to me. And that’s a good thing. I smell like luxury citrus, a basket of rare fruit picked from trees only the Illuminati know about.
When I say that cologne completes my style, I mean just that. I walk taller when I smell good. I feel like a grown man. And since I invest in finding pants with just the right fit, searching for shirts that aren’t cookie cutter and choosing shoes that stand out, why wouldn’t I curate how I smell?
I’d argue that even if the perfect bottle costs upwards of $100, it’s a deal—or, at least, a way better deal than that $300 pair of Jordans.
When I was 20, I would’ve sprung for the shoes. But I’m smarter now.
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