We’ve been getting lots of questions about Dyke/boi scents recommendations. Seeing as I usually run as far as I can from any department store perfume section, I decided to ask my fashion and lifestyle expert queero, Fit For a Femme. She invited me over to check out M’s extensive cologne selection, and I got a chance to sample dozens of men’s and unisex colognes. Hopefully I’m now equipped enough to give you a Mr. Roger’s-esque walk-through of the world of scents for the handsome queer.
Colognes have 3 parts to them: Top notes, middle notes, and base notes. When you first put it on or spray it onto a paper towel, you’ll only smell the top notes. Wait a few minutes, and the others will come through! The ingredients are like sandalwood, jasmine, suede, other fun things. If you’re sniffing a lot of them at once, you’ll need to cleanse your palette. Hence, coffee grounds:
Here are some of the colognes I sampled!
This was one of the many decants they had, and I love it. Smells kind of like fancy soap to me, but the good kind. I wore it the other day and felt fancy and fresh. Plus, it has the word “Dandy” in it. Hello.
M referred to this as “classic dude” and it smelled a bit like Abercrombie to me. But I liked it.
“M, what’s that one that makes me want to pounce you every time you wear it?” -FFAF. I actually didn’t like it at all. Reminded me of my friend’s crowded beach home that didn’t have any showers. But, you’ll have to try it for yourself! Maybe if I didn’t have negative associations, I’d be all for it.
M referred to this as “sporty” and I was like, what does that mean? And she was like, it will make you smell like you just got out of the shower after a tennis match. Indeed, it does. I also tried this on and enjoyed it for the rest of the night. Even my mom liked it, and she usually hates any type of perfume.
Smells like, well, Maine. Felt like I was out on the docks. Great for the summer!
Also sporty. Don’t know how else to describe it, but if you’re into preppy, I recommend!
It’s great for fall and is supposed to be remeniscent of a barber shop and a freshly shaven dude. I tried it on and it grew on me throughout the evening.
FFAF describes this was like a walk in the woods, with a cabin in the distance with a fireplace. I recommend getting your hands on some and trying it, just to get a sense of how cologne can tell a story.
I also asked them what the difference is between men’s and women’s perfume. FFAF was like, “meh, it’s bullshit. You should wear whatever you want.” And M was like, “I don’t know… you can just tell!” FFAF brought down her tray of perfume too for me to see the difference, and you really can tell! Aside from the chrystally bottle designs, hers smelled flowery, light, sometimes sweet. One we all agreed was totally high femme.
Never hurts to have a scent books on your shelf. We flipped through these throughout the afternoon to look up interesting tidbits and colorful reviews.
Perfumes: The A-Z Guide. By Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez
The Little Book of Perfumes: The Hundred Classics. By Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez
If you are getting into cologne for the first time, here’s what they said to do. You wanna get sampler sizes, which are called decants (pictured below.) You should always try the scent on your skin before buying the big bottle, because you might totally love it straight up, but then dislike it on your skin. So just spray it on your wrist and give it a sniff it throughout the day. The smell will also evolve as the day goes on. They recommend getting a fragrance sampler box. This $50 Sephora Favorites Sampler for Him comes with 12 samples — including Lacoste and John Varvatos — and a certificate to pick up one full-size bottle of your favorite fragrance. Not bad! You can also buy decant combinations at The Perfumed Court, like this Jo Malone Sampler Pack.
Once you’ve found scents you like, look up what’s in it on basenotes.net. This website will tell you every ingredient in it, and then you can look up the individual notes and find them in other colognes.
Everyone has a different approach to scent. M and FFAF use different ones for different occasions. But, some people like to choose a signature scent and stick with it.
FFAF shared with me this recent quote of Frédéric Malle, a “god of sorts in the fragrance world,” that I absolutely love:
With fragrance, you do what you do in life. People do what they want. What do you do with boyfriends, you keep them for two months and then you sort of dump them and then you go to another one for two months? [Laughs] There are some incredibly faithful people that will keep the same fragrance all their lives and you can recognize them by that. There are people that are sort of all about the moment, and go from one fragrance to another. There are people that have fragrance wardrobes, there are people who will have as much of one fragrance as possible and then go to another. It depends. Fragrances are very much matching each person’s physiology, and so people’s attitude with fragrance is very much linked to their inner self.
- Frédéric Malle at a dinner in his honor, hosted by Mark Lee and Barneys New York on December 6th, 2012.
So! I hope this post gave you all the info you need to go out and start experimenting with scents! You can hear more from FFAF and M in this Tomboy Scent piece they wrote too.
(All photos taken by FFAF & M. With their camera, of course.)
As Qwear's Founding Editor, Sonny’s work centers around envisioning a future in which the clothing people wear does not dictate their chances of survival. Sonny was awarded 2015 dapperQ of the Year and was the first trans blogger to be sponsored by Topman. In March 2016, Sonny spoke at South by South West's first official queer fashion panel.