I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: I’m a total perfume snob. I like my perfumes to be personal and individual to me. Each one of my bottles holds a special place in my heart. While one bottle might be my reach-for whenever I need a confidence boost, another might act as my ultimate comfort blanket or a mood-boosting scent. Given my pickiness, my collection is surprisingly vast. I probably own over 50 bottles of perfume, each one equally as loved as the next.
But that’s not to say that my tastes are limiting. You see, I truly do loathe traditional crowd-pleasers. I appreciate that they smell nice, but for me, the very purpose of a perfume is to stop someone in their tracks and pique interest. By their nature, crowd-pleasers do not do this. Their muted floral, fruity and fresh notes just, sort of, politely float around a room, smelling nice but totally inoffensive. And I don’t necessarily want my scents to be inoffensive.
I want people to smell whatever it is I’m wearing and think about how interesting and different it is. I want some people to fall head over heels for it and others to be on the fence. And sadly, women’s fragrances just don’t embody that sense of intrigue anymore. Instead, perfume houses are keen to rinse the lucrative women’s fragrance market for all it’s worth and release one fail-safe crowd-pleaser after another.
Because of this, I’ve been reaching for men’s fragrances more often than I have women's in recent years. And no, I’m not talking about the loosely named unisex types. I’m talking about fragrances specifically labeled for men. You see, while so many brands are cashing in on the idea of unisex scents, they also know that the main purchasers of such scents are female. While heady, woody scents heavily appeal to women, sweet and floral scents don’t seem to do so well amongst men.
So as a result of this quest to expand my scent horizons, my men’s fragrance collection is now actually quite impressive. And other beauty editors are in agreement. We're choosing scents that we love the smell of regardless of the gender that they are marketed too. Ahead, I asked fellow beauty journalists to share the best "men's" fragrances that they love to wear. Keep scrolling to discover all of the traditionally masculine perfumes we can’t get enough of—from zesty, fresh spritzes to deep, woody parfums.
The best men's perfumes for women:
Eleanor Vousden, Who What Wear UK Beauty Editor
I recently wrote a story on Bon Parfumeur perfumes and was sent a couple of the best sellers to try. Among the more feminine perfumes was 701, which I initially disregarded as being a tad spicy for me and gave to my boyfriend instead. However, after smelling it on him, I realised I'd made a huge mistake and promptly started wearing it myself. It's both spicy and fresh—think a crack of black pepper, freshly cut rosemary and coriander from the garden, with a hint of woody eucalyptus and cypress on a warm base of amber wood and incense.
Jacqueline Kilikita, Refinery29 UK Deputy Beauty Director
"My best friend bought this for me as a 30th birthday gift in December, and I haven't stopped wearing it since. Despite a mélange of floral notes (custardy ylang-ylang, syrupy freesia and citrusy neroli), it’s surprisingly masculine. That’ll be the musk and the addition of an essential oil called olibanum, which is woody and green. They lend an initial freshness, much like an aftershave, yet it dries down to something more warm and inviting. I told my friend it evokes a tall, handsome stranger in a smoky bar, surrounded by gin and tonics. She agrees!"
Remy Farrell, Who What Wear Shopping Editor
"When it comes to fragrances, I'm not a loyalist. My vanity table ranges from sweet and fruity to deep ouds and green neroli, but my favourite smell in the world is vanilla. When I first caught a hint of Tom Ford's Tobacco Vanille sprayed on one of my male friend's leather jackets, I was instantly obsessed, and its perfect balance of sweet warmth with a slightly smoky, oaky, amber finish smells like comfort in a bottle. I've been hooked on it ever since, and hearing that it's one of Harry Styles's rumoured fragrances makes that much more appealing to me"
Grace Day, Freelance Beauty Editor and Who What Wear Beauty Contributor
"I've always been more drawn to the notes conventionally found in men’s fragrances than I have to typically feminine scents that rely on fruity or floral notes. Sandalwood, musk, pepper and vetiver are amongst my go-tos, so give me anything spicy or woody, and I’m happy, no matter who it’s marketed at. I think it’s important to remember that scent should be worn for ourselves and not for other people. I also love the idea of wearing the same scent as your partner. The beauty of fragrance is that perfumes smell different on everyone, so it brings a whole new meaning to the concept of fragrance layering! I share several scents with my boyfriend, my favourite of which is Rituals Maharaja D’Or. After falling in love with it in-store, I bought it for him as a birthday present—and within a couple of weeks was wearing it myself. It has a warm, spicy base of cardamom and patchouli but also an aromatic green element to it thanks to fresh pine, so it’s a really wearable fresh, vibrant scent."
Rebecca Rhys-Evans, Who What Wear Branded Content Editor
"I came across Byredo Super Cedar when desperately trying to find a new fragrance for my boyfriend a few Christmases ago. Byredo is beauty mecca for me, so honestly, any excuse to head to its store and indulge in spritzing all the scents and I'm there. I wanted something woody not only because I love quite a heavy scent with earthy and musky qualities but also because this fragrance was a surprise, and you usually can't go wrong gifting men with fragrances on the woody side. I distinctly remember the guy in the store telling me it reminds him of pencil shavings, and now whenever I catch a whiff on someone (usually myself, as I've since commandeered it), I *almost* feel like a school girl again."
Charlotte Bitmead, Cosmopolitan Acting Senior Beauty Writer
"If vermouth were a scent, it would be Parfums de Marly Carlisle Eau de Parfum. By that I mean the cocktail of woody base notes and top notes of bergamot seem to mix to ooze warmth. It might be too heavy for some, but I love how cosy it smells on the skin and the fact just one spritz sticks around all day long."
Hannah Almassi, Who What Wear Editor in Chief
"When I first started working in the fashion industry, there was this mysterious, delicious smell I'd always catch a whiff of in fancy stores, exclusive events and during fashion week… Everyone tried to keep it a secret, but even when Escentric Molecules became more popular, it didn't lose its allure! To this day, I still use 01 and 02 and am happy to share them with my husband, as he's been a long-time fan too. They make for a nice break in between other more seasonal fragrances."
George Driver, Elle Senior Beauty Editor, Digital
"A far cry from the traditionally masculine All Spice scents of old, Dior's Spice Blend is soft, rich, extremely addictive and works on everyone, however you identify. I first discovered it because of Katy Young (Elle and Harper's Bazaar group beauty director), who was wearing it in the office, and it smelled incredible. I managed to nab myself a bottle but immediately thought I'd rather be able to smell someone else wearing it than wear it myself, so I gave it to my now-husband, and he wore it on our wedding day because I loved how it smelled on him so much. Now it's become a little piece of our relationship history, and every time I smell it on him (or Katy!), I love it all over again.”
Jenny Brownlees, Freelance Beauty Editor
"I always had, and remain to have, a soft spot for the men’s fragrance CK One. First launched in 1994, it’s considered a veteran of the perfume-sphere now but always brings to mind dizzying high school crushes and an air of youthfulness. Though it's sold as unisex, as long as I've had a bottle, it has been mainly marketed towards men. Whilst the fragrance is far from new and isn't considered the edgiest scent, the notes of amber and musk, bergamot and cardamom are timeless IMO. These are the same notes that are used in many of today’s viral perfumes loved by millennials and Gen Zers alike. Perhaps it’s nostalgia that keeps me spritzing CK, but claiming a men’s fragrance as my own as a teenager, when rose and floral scents were more widely accepted for young women was a quiet rebellion. As strong-willed now as then, I won’t accept a fragrance isn't for me simply because it’s from the men’s section. I believe in scent and in life, women shouldn’t have to adhere to pretty and soft. If there’s a sophisticated, rich and woody scent you love, wear it with pride."
Vanese Maddix, Freelance Beauty Editor
"Years ago during university, I worked part-time at Next in the men's department. While my knowledge of men's tailoring never quite seemed to take off, I knew I could always make myself useful in the fragrance section. Code Red Eau de Parfum became my top recommendation thanks to its woody and aromatic scent that never smells overbearing. I have a small bottle in my fragrance collection that I spritz on liberally when I want to smell sexy and mysterious. Despite the fact that it's targeted as a masculine scent, I've never let it stop me from wearing it."
Charley Williams-Howitt, Freelance Beauty Editor
"My love affair with men's fragrances began the morning after an unexpected and heady night at my then boyfriend's. Desperate to smell more wholesome than I looked, I generously spritzed on his cologne. It was a game changer. I instantly felt clean, chic and a bit naughty. The scent lingered late in the evening as did my smug disposition. Today, you'll find me doused in the earthy and rich Tom Ford Oud Wood Eau de Parfum pilfered from my husband. It envelops me in a medley of notes: oud wood, cardamom, amber and exotic spices. It's comforting, sensual and surprising all in one breath."
Fani Mari, Freelance Beauty Editor
"A men’s scent I’ve been wearing on and off since high school is Chanel Égoïste Platinum. I’d describe it as a classic warm scent with amber and sandalwood, which is probably why it appeals to me so much. It makes me feel powerful and sexy, as any fragrance should! I’m glad to see more perfumes being labelled as genderless/unisex—if you like it, just wear it!"
Amerley Ollennu, Freelance Beauty Editor
"I’ve never been one to subscribe to gendering scents. If I like it, I’ll wear it, and over the years, I’ve liked a fair few formulated with men in mind. I gravitate to the warm musky varieties, which is why it was love at first spritz when I discovered the Jo Malone London and Huntsman Savile Row Amber & Patchouli Cologne. The comforting warm, lightly sweet amber base envelops you like a bolstering hug, while middle notes of guaiac wood offer a dose of sensual smokiness. It's topped with peppery fresh coriander seed, and I feel a surge in confidence, strength and assertiveness whenever I wear this fragrant masterpiece."
Shop more men's perfumes that we love:
Rose might not be a common note amongst men's fragrances, but this stuff is remarkably fresh and zesty. It’s a floral, woody scent, but the warmth and vitality make it one of my favourites.
This cologne, like many other scents on this list, doesn’t market itself towards either gender but unquestionably teeters towards a male consumer. With bergamot, lemon and grapefruit, it’s zesty and fruity, but it has an herby base thanks to clary sage and lavender that gives it a deep, aromatic dry-down.
This new launch from Bulgari actually sits in my boyfriend’s bathroom cabinet, but I’ve found myself reaching for it more and more. It’s like taking a breath of crisp, cool air. It’s possibly one of the most refreshing scents I have ever come across.
When it comes to evening scents, this is, without a doubt, one of the most interesting and delicious blends I have ever encountered. Whenever I wear it, someone comments on it. It’s leathery and smoky without the headiness that so many fragrances with similar notes possess.
Quite possibly one of my favourite fragrances in existence, Colonia Essenza is one I’ve actually worn for years. I discovered it while perusing the beauty halls and didn’t realise it was a predominantly male scent until I started smelling it on other people. It’s citrusy but woody and smoky at the same time. The blend leaves behind quite a powerful, almost soapy aroma that lingers in the most beautiful way.
Leather is a common note in men’s fragrances, but this particular blend also contains notes of raspberry, rose and patchouli, making it substantially more delicate. It’s heady, sure, but in the most wonderful of ways.
Most of my male friends own a bottle of this iconic scent, but I’m equally as infatuated with it as they are. With neroli, bergamot and lemon, it’s zesty and effervescent, but it also has an amber and rosemary base that gives it a long-lasting aquatic finish.
If you ask me, this is one of the most distinguished high-end men’s fragrances out there, and it’s instantly recognisable. Fruity top notes of pineapple, blackcurrant, apple and bergamot blend with oakmoss, rose and jasmine to create a scent so fresh it’s almost unbelievable. It’s the kind of scent that evokes a million memories at first sniff.
Again, this is technically unisex, but its fan base is mostly male. It’s woody, peppery and musky but not overwhelmingly heavy. Considering its affordability, it smells incredibly luxe.
This particular bottle is new to my collection, but it was love at first sniff. If you like citrusy scents that have an aquatic element to them, look no further. Unlike so many zesty scents marketed towards women, this stuff has a rich vetiver base that makes it distinctively fresh instead of sweet.
You might have guessed that I am a big fan of invigorating summer scents. This new launch, however, embodies all of the autumnal notes I usually shy away from. Whereas traditionally female perfumes champion spicy notes come autumn, this stuff has a base of vetiver smoke and a heart of eucalyptus and apple blossom. It smells like a long stroll through the woods on a crisp autumn day.
It is possibly one of the most popular men’s fragrances out there, but to me, Sauvage is beautifully versatile. It’s fresh thanks to bergamot but has a woody dry-down that lingers on the skin for hours. For something so popular, I receive a lot of compliments whenever I wear this one.
If you’re a fan of strong, spicy scents, this one is for you. It has a distinctive top note of saffron and a vanilla and incense dry-down that is totally intoxicating. It might not be the most obvious choice from Byredo, but if you ask me, it’s certainly one of the most delightful.
You know when you walk into a hotel or a restaurant, and it has that deep and smoky burning-wood smell? This stuff bottles all of that wonderfulness. Again, it's technically unisex, but its intense nature likely makes it more popular amongst men. It’s woody, spicy and totally comforting. A word of warning, though: It’s powerful and not for the faint-hearted.
Next up, Short-Lived Perfume Is the Worst—Here's How to Make It Last
Shannon Lawlor is a renowned beauty journalist and has contributed to Who What Wear’s beauty content since 2020. As a leading beauty editor, expert and brand consultant, she has over eight years of experience working for some of the industry’s most esteemed titles, including Who What Wear (of course), Glamour UK, Stylist, Refinery29 and Fabulous.
Having also worked behind the scenes with some of the industry’s biggest brands and retailers, Shannon has a unique insight into what people really want from their beauty routines. Understanding that beauty lovers seek honest, open and responsible advice, she has it made her mission to demystify the intimidating world of beauty, taking a no-frills approach to the most relatable topics.
While Shannon is the first to admit she doesn’t hold the answer to every beauty question out there, she is dedicated to sharing her expert insights in a bid to help. As a self-proclaimed lazy girl, Shannon has an affinity for easy-to-use, foolproof beauty products and has made it her mission to scope out the best of the best.
When she’s not working, Shannon is likely soaking in the bath or giving no-holds-barred beauty reviews on Instagram from her bathroom floor.