Men's Colognes: Less expensive and you won't smell like a gigolo!

When I was in elementary school, I had a gym teacher named Mr. Donaldson. He was nice enough for a guy who wore sweatpants to work, but he epitomized cheesy. Although it was the mid-1980's, he seemed trapped in the Seventies. He sported a fu manchu moustache, had long blond hair parted in the middle, and reeked of Brut.

When most people imagine a guy wearing too much cologne, Mediterranean cabs driver or sleazy European gigolos come to mind. For me, the eye-watering stench of too much cologne will always be linked with Mr. Donaldson, the gym teacher who could disinfect a scrape merely by standing near it.

Because of the deep psychological damage inflicted by Mr. Donaldson, I avoided cologne for years. My father, who used it sparingly, gave me a bottle of English Leather when I was fifteen. I used it as fire starter. Later, when I was 21, I inherited a big bottle of Zizanie; I finished it off about fifteen years later. Along the way, I got a bottle of Polo Safari from a cousin (I regifted it after I discovered that it made my cat sneeze) and a bottle of Drakkar Noir from a friend (my roommate ended up stealing it). To be honest, I didn't feel a pressing need to refill my cologne stocks. I use a simple deodorant, and don't feel much of a need for anything else.

My wife, on the other hand, is a complete scent addict. She generally has fifteen or twenty bottles of perfume at any one time, and switches them out from day to day based on her mood, the weather, her chances of running into a swarm of bees, etc. When she gets tired of a perfume, she gives it away or sells it on eBay. I can't fault her; compared to cocaine or Hermes, it's a fairly cheap habit. Besides, most of the time, I enjoy her scents.

The trouble came when she decided to resolve my cologne problem. As my wife saw it, this simply a matter of finding the right brand. Her determination, coupled with the easy accessibility of our local perfume counter, led to several months of sorting through various scents, some of which were nice, some of which were sickly sweet, and some of were, I'm pretty sure, toxic waste repackaged in expensive glass bottles. We ended up determining that I'm a "musky/woodsy" type of guy. In other words, I prefer warm scents, which I see as soft and sophisticated, to citrusy or flowery scents, which I percieve as smelling like a bathroom toilet puck.

As we furthered our exploration, I discovered another problem: colognes are expensive. Even relatively common brands of cologne, like Burberry London, which I really liked, cost around $45 for a 3.3 ounce bottle. Admittedly, this wasn't a huge surprise; after all, I'd bought a lot of perfume for my wife. Still, it seemed like a lot of money for something that I wasn't going to use all that often.

Yet another issue is the fact that most colognes are composed of synthetically-derived ingredients. I found this out when I asked my wife why most colognes have a flat, chemical tone. She pointed out that I wasn't really supposed to smell the difference, but it was still very clear. It became even more pronounced when I discovered L'Occitaine's Eau de Baux, a naturally-derived cologne that I really liked. Its smell was clearer, more defined, and lasted on my skin for a lot longer than the other scents that I'd tried.

Best of all, it was very reasonable. According to my wife, synthetic scents are supposed to be a lot cheaper than natural ones. She, however, can't explain why Eau de Baux costs $44 for 3.4 ounces, which makes it less expensive than most synthetic brands.

L'Occitaine has a few other scents, but they're not really my cup of tea. However, they all cost the same as Eau de Baux, which makes them a really good deal for someone searching for a fresh, natural scent. As for me, I think my bottle of cologne should last me for a few more years.

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and co-author of Military Lessons of the Gulf War and A Chronology of the Cold War at Sea.

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