Can Cologne Change Your Life? The Experiment: Part 1

Tech guy and scent skeptic Paul launches his experiment.

Paul writes tech and travel articles for Dappered. This one is about the technology of cologne. Or the travel of scent. Or something. 

I’ve never been a cologne guy. Well … that’s not entirely true. I haven’t been a cologne guy for a long time. I was a cologne guy when I was 10. I think it was English Leather. I’d dab when I wanted to be baller. Of course back then, “baller” wasn’t a word. Things change.

The best I dressed was probably straight out of college. I had a job at a litigation services company and I had to look presentable when meeting with lawyers and their suited-up associates. My boss wore a Brooks Brothers suit every day. I didn’t go that far, but I bought my first pair of Allen Edmonds when I had that job, then a few more pairs while there. I haven’t bought a pair since.

Cologne? Board meetings looked like this.

Cologne? Board meetings looked like this.

After that, I got a job at a web start-up where my boss wore too-big chamois shirts and stone-washed jeans. The technology director was fond of shorts. I tried to hold the line with the Allen Edmonds, but it didn’t last forever. Soon I was wearing boat shoes nearly every day, but I drew the line at pants. My calves didn’t make any cameos at the office. When I wore a blazer, it was assumed I was interviewing elsewhere. Sometimes that was true.

Then I started working at a digital marketing company. My boss wore t-shirts and sneakers.  I wore my first collarless shirt to the office at that job.

Descent complete.

Well, almost. Take a year-long road trip and it will change your dressing habits. Clothes go from clean to clean enough. My driving loafers were all that remained of my fashionable past. Now I’m a work-from-home guy. My business interactions are through Skype. Pants are optional on Skype, just need to show a little collar.

Descent definitely complete.

As I said earlier, I haven’t worn cologne in ages. To me, wearing cologne is like cooking at Alinea, at some point, you’ve exhausted all of the stylish/flavor options and need another place to go, so you start experimenting with smells and flavored air. Cologne can add something to a man, but it can also take something away. Done poorly, it’s a mess – a cloud of stank that accompanies you everywhere, engulfing those around you in a bubble of musk, essential oils, and despair. For many, the risks aren’t worth the potential reward. Most people opt out of it entirely.

But what if I opted in? What would it do to my life? Would it change anything? Would it be like the traveler’s towel, where if one is in possession of a towel, it is assumed “he is also in possession of a toothbrush, washcloth, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet-weather gear, space suit etc., etc. … clearly a man to be reckoned with?” Or would it end in failure? Would it just result in neck hives and wallet emptying? This series of articles will track my experiment.

Mom, why's Grandpa Tom smell like shit?

Mom, why’s Grandpa Tom smell like shit?

Step One: Smell Detox

If I was going to track the influence of a particular smell on my life, then I had to get rid of the other smells already in the mix, mainly my deodorant. Most of time, I smell like the man my man could smell like or the man that buys whatever is on sale at the store when he runs out of deodorant smells like. That had to go, so I bought some smell-free antiperspirant from Tom’s of Maine. I did five days of smell detox before my cologne arrived.

I also bought some Old Grandpa’s Pine Tar Soap thinking if the cologne thing didn’t work out, I’d love to smell like pine all day. Claims made on the interweb promised that while its smell was nearly universally hated by the ladies, it washed away clean and fresh and was worth a try. I’m going to have to disagree with much of that statement. While there may be some hints of pine somewhere in the aromatic make-up of the soap, the tar portion is what overwhelms. After using it for the first time, I smelled like I just got off my shift at the vulcanization plant. Not what I’d call a slam-dunk, scent-free win.

Meanwhile, the Tom’s antiperspirant was the best eco-friendly antiperspirant I’ve ever used – it works all day. Others I’ve tried have all quit working somewhere between the 5-minute and 5-hour mark. This one is the real-deal.

Step Two: Pick a Cologne

Step two was easy. A few years after my initial foray into colognery, I became an Esquire subscriber for the first time. At some point, they lodged Creed Green Irish Tweed in my head as the only cologne that mattered. Supposedly, it was designed for Cary Grant. Why that matters to me, I have no idea. I honestly can’t name a single movie he starred it, but if forced to guess, I’d say he had a cameo role in It’s a Wonderful Life. Whatever. I know the guy could wear a suit. And supposedly dukes wear it, it’s got an aristocratic vibe. Maybe that’s what I like about it.

The price almost knocked me over. The best I could find was $90 an ounce. ONE OUNCE! Must be the ambergris. That was too much commitment so I opted for a sample size – 0.08 oz,$12. The Perfume Emporium never sent me a confirmation email or tracking info, so I crossed my fingers and waited. You might want to get yours direct through Amazon.

Soon I’d smell like a new man.

Coming up:

  • Will cologne improve my love life?
  • Can the right cologne get you upgraded to first class at the airport?
  • What will my friends say?
  • How many free drinks will I score at the local bar thanks to my new scent?

And there may be more. Everything will be in play when I apply my new, irresistible scent. Got a scenario you’d like me to test? Leave your suggestions for testing out my new scented self in the comments below.