Most people steal button-down shirts and sweaters from their boyfriends; I steal cologne. It started naturally enough with a few spritzes of my boyfriend's Rituals' Maharaja d'Or when we were on holiday, and from there it was just a matter of months before I'd blended together our fragrance collections. What's yours is mine, right?
Wearing fragrance in this way has really opened my eyes to how confining it can be to perceive fragrance through a gendered lens. Historically of course, fragrance has a very gendered narrative. Sweet, floral, and fruity notes are typically labelled as 'feminine', while woody and musky scents are referred to as 'masculine'. However, in the past few years, there's been an increase in launches of gender-inclusive or gender-neutral fragrances and a marked change in perceptions of the gender "rules" around fragrances.
Maharaja d'Or is now one of my daily go-tos (please, go smell it), sandalwood, tobacco, and pepper feature within some of my most reached for fragrances, and one of my all-time favourite scents ever was specifically designed for men: Tom Ford Grey Vetiver. Seriously, buy it for your boyfriend/husband/brother—then keep it for yourself.
What is cologne?
If you're wondering exactly what constitutes a cologne, it's actually not that complicated. Typically, eau de cologne has a very low concentration of perfume oils (typically 2-4%) compared to eau de toilette (5-15%) and eau de parfum (15-20%). However, cologne is often just used as a term to refer to men's fragrances, which can encompass all of the above.
Whether you're shopping for someone else or you're looking to mix things up in your own fragrance collection, scroll down to discover my edit of the best men's colognes (all tried and tested).
The best men's colgones:
1. Rituals Maharaja d'Or
Spicy, woody, and aromatic, this is the kind of scent that lingers on your skin, hair, and clothes all day (and night) long.
2. Tom Ford Grey Vetiver
This fresh, spicy fragrance combines orange blossom with saffron—the world's most expensive spice.
3. Maison Francis Kurkdjian L'Homme à la Rose
Rose scents are typically labelled as feminine, so Maison Francis Kurkdjian's "masculine" take on rose is a (literal) breath of fresh air. If you're accustomed to stuffy, sickly florals, this is quite the opposite—it's fresh, green, and citrusy.
4. Serge Lutens Écrin de Fumée
I tend to steal this one from my boyfriend most often in the winter months. It's rich and warm, with notes of tobacco, rum, and cacao.
5. Penhaligon's Mr Thompson
Although it is labelled as "for men", I actually think this is a really wearable, gender-neutral scent. It's soft and creamy, with notes of lavender, pepper, and vanilla.
6. Frederic Malle Uncut Gem
Like all Frederic Malle fragrances, this one is a real statement maker. Loud top notes of ginger, bergamot, and mandarin stand out against a base of musk and amber.
7. Byredo Sunday Cologne
Inspired by traditional gentlemen's colognes, this underrated Byredo scent is clean, refreshing, citrusy, and totally wearable no matter what your gender.
8. Jo Malone Myrrh & Tonka Cologne Intense
This warm and cosy scent is actually one of my all-time favourite fragrances from Jo Malone. it's warm and creamy, with smoky undertones that make it ideal for winter wear.
9. Miller Harris Hydra Figue
Ignore the name because this is far more than your typical fig-based fragrance. Inspired by the wild beauty of the Greek islands, it features marine notes and sea salt alongside ouzo, sage, and lemon. It's the perfect holiday scent to share with your partner.
10. Maison Crivelli Oud Maracuja
If, like me, you're not typically a fan of oud fragrances, this one might just surprise you. The rich, deep oud is balanced out by bright and fruity passionfruit and a sweet vanilla base.
11. D'Orsay Dandy Or Not G.A.
Although it's labelled as 'woody and spicy' (two conventionally masculine fragrance families), this scent smells quite neutral to me. It's light and elegant with sweet notes of cardamom and black tea which makes it feel really wearable.
12. Diptyque Tam Dao
Tam Dao is one of those fragrances which smells different on everyone, so it works perfectly if you're looking for a scent to share with your partner. It's warm and woody, with floral notes and a hint of musk.
13. Malin + Goetz Leather
Leather is commonly labelled as a masculine fragrance note, but don't let that put you off trying this iconic fragrance. It's rich and deep, yes, but light and fresh heart notes of violet, lily-of-the-valley, and orchid balance it out.
14. Maison Margiela Replica Jazz Club
Inspired, as its name suggests, by New York jazz clubs, this boozy scent features notes of rum, tobacco, and leather. It's one I frequently return to because it's got a really unique vintage-y feel to it.
15. Bon Parfumeur 701
A fresh, spicy scent, this is one I tend to reach for in the warmer months. It features bright citrusy top notes of grapefruit, bergamot, and pineapple alongside eucalyptus and pepper.
16. Killian Straight to Heaven
One of the most popular men's colognes, Straight To Heaven has many loyal fans who love it for the way it balance spicy notes of patchouli and nutmeg alongside sweet, boozy notes like rum, dried fruits, and amber.
17. Heeley Sel Marin
If you could bottle the scent of a fresh, sea air breeze, this would be it. Bright, fresh, and salty, Sel Marin is so addictive, you won't not be able to share it.
Grace Day is a beauty editor and content creator. She has over 10 years of beauty-industry experience, spanning editorial, retail, and e-commerce, which gives her a unique understanding into how people shop for their beauty routines.
While studying for a history degree (specialising in the history of beauty) and working as a beauty adviser in department stores, Grace started writing her own beauty blog in order to share the products she discovered while dealing with acne. After graduating, she moved to Beauty Bay as beauty editor and content manager. Grace is currently a beauty contributor to Who What Wear. She has also written for Hypebae and PopSugar and works as a brand consultant and copywriter.