Follow your nose, and this guide, to finding and wearing signature fragrances that put a top note on your style.

By Mike Fleming

Every gay man loves hearing that he smells amazing, and smelling other guys who do. But you may forego fragrance for fear of getting it wrong.

That’s a shame, because a signature scent can be a fun part of your style. The fifth sense in fashion is smell, and the right scent can put a finish on your first impression.

So it’s time to man up and face your fears. Put those adolescent Old Spice nightmares and old-age Aqua Velva heaves out of your mind. Follow these steps to owning your scents like a boss.

Step 1: You’re the Man

Fragrance is subjective. However many people may get a whiff, you’re the one who has to live with it. You and only you can make the final call on which fragrance to wear. Taking other opinions from interested parties is fine as long as you let it inform, rather than dictate, your choices.

Step 2: Don’t Overthink It.

So you wouldn’t know a cologne from a toilette from a parfum, or a designer from a niche fragrance. Forget it. If it’s making you smell and feel great, you made the right choice.

Step 3: Imagine Yourself

Before you try a single spray or dab, think about where you want to wear it. Is your awesome-smelling dream self rocking jeans on Sunday, working on Wednesday, or sporting a Tux on Saturday night? In your mind, how does that smell? Hold that thought as we move forward.

Step 4: Right Note.

A few fragrance factoids can help at this stage. There are scads of “notes,” from top to midrange to base to finish. When you imagined your dream fragrance, was it woodsy and spicy, fruity and floral, or fresh and grassy? Some combination of those? Give the salesperson these hints, and they can point you in the right direction.

Step 5: Forget the Price

Brands and price are your enemy, unless you’re trying to impress someone besides yourself. If so, put a pretty bottle with a big name in plain sight and make sure to leave the price tag on it. Otherwise, ignore cost until you’re down to your top few, then let your wallet decide if necessary.

Step 6: Try it and wait.

The only way to find out what works is by putting it on your skin. Ignore magazine samples and those cards department stores pass out, and don’t spray it on your clothes. This is a chemistry experiment, and your natural odor is the X ingredient. Put one fragrance on each wrist and leave. Don’t make an impulse purchase today. Over the next three hours, smell each one and notice how it changes over time. Whiff something strong like coffee between each one. Once you decide, think about shopping online for the best deal.

Step 7: Switch it up

Change of Seasons is not just a gay party in Atlanta. Remember your daydream scents and scenarios? Remember the notes and tones you put on them? Chances are you liked more than one. Shifts in the weather might be a good time to give your latest fragrance a break and find a new love. For example, florals and grasses are often great for spring, which kind of makes sense when you think about it.

Step 8: Less is more.

If you don’t switch up your scents depending on mood, season or setting, you run the risk of going nose blind. A bigger risk is putting on more product to compensate. Don’t. If you apply to more than two hot spots – neck, sternum, inside elbows and knees – you’re probably wearing too much. Speaking of less, start with a small bottle of each new fragrance until you know it’s a keeper.

Step 9: Repeat.

Take everything you’ve learned, as well as what you’ve decided as you got to know your new fragrance, and apply it to your next purchase. Maybe go back to one of your previous finalists to see how it holds up, maybe try on something new.

Step 10: There are no mistakes.

Fragrance is a journey, not a destination. Change your mind, change your taste, give the ones you don’t like to your nephew. You’re likely to find several scents that fit several aspects of your personal style, and that’s a good thing.