Remember Sex Panther by Odeon? The fictional cologne, owned by Paul Rudd’s ’70s newscaster in Anchorman, was a formidable scent, made with bits of real panther, that stung the nostrils. “Time to musk up!” he said—before being rushed to the parking lot and vigorously hosed off. Parody aside, it’s true that the worst you can do with cologne is wear too much of it, but short of a nasal emergency, we wondered: How much of a deal-breaker can it be?
A quick survey of the Vogue.com office revealed that these days, when it comes to men’s fragrance, too much is fair grounds for a breakup. According to Fashion News Writer Steff Yotka, who has noticed many millennials forgoing fragrance entirely, a strong smell has become all the more noticeable. “It’s always bad,” she says. “If you remind me of the inside of a Hollister, we will never go out again.” Beauty Editor Mackenzie Wagoner encountered an aggressive cologne on a first date once—and promptly declined a second. “It should be an intimate experience, not for everyone in the room,” she says.
The less-is-more approach is key—think a gentle spritz, not a shower. When in doubt, Assistant Market Editor Anny Choi advises, save cologne for special occasions only and instead turn to scented body washes to impart a slight perfume. Wagoner adds that scents should be sprayed lightly and close to the skin so only those who are nearby can detect it. “You want to wear your clothes, not let them wear you, and the same goes for fragrance,” she says.
Of course, there’s an exception to every rule. Just ask Fashion News Writer Liana Satenstein, who has fond memories of Axe body spray, which was ever-present and pungent at her high school. “The busboy I worked with would always wear so much of it, and he would get a lot of flak—but I kind of liked it,” she says. Sixty percent of the time, it works every time.
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