Talk Off | Cologne

December 5, 2007


Talk Off is a recurring forum for two of our opinionated editors to challenge each other’s taste. In this installment, the debaters tackle men’s fragrances.

The Topic: Cologne
The Debaters: Bruce Pask, Men’s Fashion Director (affirmative), Alex Hawgood, Features Associate (negative)
The Winner: See below…

Bruce: I’m for men’s cologne as an enhancement, not a smell disguiser.
Alex: Really? Scent is so personal—why you would want to smell of a prepackaged odor?
Bruce: It should always be a light touch — the final step in a very low maintenance grooming regimen. It’s about taking pride in one’s appearance/presentation. But it is not to overwhelm!
Alex: One should always smell natural. Cologne always seems to overwhelm, no matter how lightly it is applied.
Bruce: I don’t agree! One shouldn’t detect a note of the fragrance unless one is close. I think that adds a bit of sexiness and intimacy.
Alex: The photographer Nick Knight did a limited-edition fragrance called “Violence” that was exceptional. The olfactory experience was described as “two Skinheads fighting.” It smelled like boot-polish, sweat, and blood. That sort of original scent I can get behind….
Bruce: Yeah. I’m not advocating that guys wear White Orchids perfume. Scents for men should either be clean/crisp/classic (like Acqua Di Parma) or slightly musky/spicy (like Comme des Garçons Man 2). I’m not for florals on a man. Well, not scent-wise at least.
Alex: Give me a break. Acqua di Parma is obvious. Why would you want to smell like every other Barneys-shopping guy out there?
Bruce: Well, in this global economy, unless you’re buying an über-expensive personally concocted scent or wearing one of Tom Ford’s ultra-expensive (yet pretty delicious) ones, it is inevitable that your fragrance will be available in many places. Also, I should point out that fragrance reacts differently and smells different on each person.
Alex: Come on, Bruce. Personally, I think something is spoiled when you know a person’s wonderful smell comes from a bedazzled bottle that’s been marketed through absurdist television spots, a free-with-purchase banana hammock, and spun off into an ancillary line of bath beads. But, I admit, unconventional scents are intriguing. Tom Ford has one called “Tuscan Leather” that really just smells like a meth-lab. Or how I imagine a meth lab to smell…. In a good way.
Bruce: There are plenty of scents out there to make one’s own. (But probably not Abercrombie & Fitch’s Fierce.)
Alex: If you can make your scent your own — stray from the Acqua di Gio/Acqua di Parma path by combining fragrances or choosing something really obscure — I might unplug my nose. Otherwise, you just smell like the September issue of Esquire.
Bruce: Acqua di Parma is a fine scent and shouldn’t be blasphemed! I mean, I wear a fragrance everyday, and you don’t smell me in the elevator everyday now do you?
Alex: OK, that I’ll concede.

Winner: You decide! Vote here. Polls close on Friday at noon.

11 Responses to “Talk Off | Cologne”

  1. Matt P said

    I can’t speak knowledgeably about gay men, but if straight men want to be found attractive, by women, scent is important.

    At least one study has shown that women do not find the sweat smell of a man pleasing, though the same study found that women do find the smell of a man less unpleasant when the women are ovulating. Deodorant is a good thing.

    Regarding cologne, I have seen women write, on numerous occasions, that they are attracted to the scent of a man if he is wearing cologne. Presumably, which cologne that is would be important.

    Still, I’m not a fan of cologne, for myself or any man. To me the use of fragrances is womanly, and, though that’s a prejudice, that’s how I feel. If men want to be found manly by other men, perhaps cologne should be avoided.

    Regardless, I respect the right of all–men and women–to choose.


  2. Jorge Perez said

    I agree that a cologne should enhance one’s natural smell. I can also see the point that one does not want to smell like thousand others; some over-marketed fragrances can actually be recognized regardless of the wearer: Eternity, A&F Fierce, Joop, Obsession, and quite a few others. My middle ground approach? I mix a small spritz of Kiehl’s Musk with another fragrance. Also design-oriented menswear stores now sell their own fragrances, and they do not necessarily cost a fortune. JP

  3. Hannah. H said

    This brings to mind Patrick Suskind’s novel “Das Perfume”, where Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born lacking a personal odor and dedicates his life to creating his perfect scent…similar to Grenouille, Alex seems to understand that a personal scent cannot be bought off a shelf. H.H

  4. Reed V. said

    I cast my vote to Alex. Stunningly witty argumentation. One of the unfortunate side effects of reading magazines online is that you don’t get any smellable cologne adds. I think there should be more reasearch into this technological development.

  5. Andrew Gonzalez said

    It’s quite clear that Mr. Hawgood made the more compelling case.
    — AG

  6. Andy said

    When someone smells like a shopping mall I usually dismiss them. I think the natural smell of a man is natural, and I am tired of obtrusive over hygenic compulsions that seems so apparent in America.

  7. Sipph Ramal said

    This debate reminds me of Alain Corbin’s “The Foul and the Fragrant”, where bourgeoning 18th century scientists carried out many bizarre experiments to see the effects of foreign odors on the humors. Essentially the effect was nil and everyone’s bile smelled the same. I have to agree with Alex, in that perfumes add little to a man’s natural appeal, and merely brand him as a conformer.

  8. Ron said

    I totally agree with Alex.

  9. attractive woman said

    I think Alex was very smart and convincing but Bruce was right. I like cologne on a man, not floral, but clean, crisp, and spicy (to use his own words).

  10. LA girl said

    I agree with Alex.

  11. samfoxx said

    I hate to say it, but Alex is right!!!!

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