Fragrances to Try From The Men’s Counter This Summer (And Which to Pack Away)

Those of us here in Charlotte are definitely feeling the heat lately, and the scents we wore over the winter are just too much for the 90-plus degree weather we’ve been having. I know I’ve packed my heavy hitters away until fall comes around. If you’re a fan of fragrances marketed to men, you’re having even more trouble, because those tend to project even more. So what do you wear when it feels like your shoes are about to melt to the pavement, and you feel like you’re sticking your head in a furnace when you get in your car to go for lunch? Here are a few good choices for summer wear that won’t make you feel like you’re suffocating.

Prada Luna Rossa

Prada Luna Rossa (starting at $62, Sephora) is a fantastic citrus herbal for daytime. It’s fresh, and yes, it’s somewhat sport-inspired, but it has enough going on with the lavender, mint, and sage that it’s not going to smell like random drunk frat boy, and the ambrette seed and ambroxan give it a rich, fresh-spicy drydown. Like many Prada scents, it’s got a little bit of a soapy character, which means people are going to be thinking that you smell clean, rather than that you bathed in cologne.

(Bit of a quibble: originally, cologne referred to several very specific light, citrus-based scents, such as Maurer & Wirtz 4711 Eau de Cologne, released in 1792, and Guerlain Eau de Cologne Imperiale, released in 1860, both of which are still on the market. Then it came to mean a concentration of fragrance, roughly equivalent to an eau de toilette, but as the 20th century wore on and people got more and more used to gender-specific marketing, it became common to refer to “perfume” as for women and “cologne” as for men. Even though they’re commonly referred to as colognes, men’s fragrances generally come in eau de toilette–that’s roughly “water that goes with the outfit,” not “toilet water”!–or eau de parfum, just like the ones marketed to women.)


Tom Ford Grey Vetiver (starting at $90, Nordstrom) has a little bit of a sharp coldness from the combination of vetiver and citrus, but there’s a woody style to it that keeps it firmly grounded in “classic” without crossing into “smelling like grandpa” territory. This is one that’s in that perfect spot between “casual weekend scent” and “too formal for the office,” making it a great scent to wear to work.

Cartier Declaration d'Un Soir

Declaration d’Un Soir by Cartier ($80-108, Neiman Marcus) is my very favorite fragrance from the men’s counter for my own wear. The pepper note is what really makes it, keeping the rose from being too feminine and the sandalwood from being too heavy for hot weather. It may well be the perfect fragrance: genderless, seasonless, and appropriate for any occasion, but responsive enough to one’s own skin chemistry to make it one’s own. My friend J and I both wear it on occasion, and while I get mostly wood and pepper, the rose note that fades into the background on me stands out beautifully on him.


Bath and Body Works’ Paris For Men ($29.50 regularly; 50% off right now for their semi-annual sale) is going to be by far the least expensive on this list, but not because it’s poor quality. It’s got a sort of marine quality that gives it some freshness, but the violet and lavender notes in it soften the scent up, keeping it from going into “generic blue-bottle cologne” territory. Do me a favor, though, and wait about 15 minutes to let the top notes settle out before passing judgment on it, because it opens a little bit fruity, but it settles out almost immediately. This is one that has fantastic lasting power but doesn’t fill up a room, which is much appreciated in hot weather.



Versace Eros ($62-108, Macy’s) is a great one for summer evenings. It has enough of a green, herbal character that it’s not going to be stifling, but the vanilla makes it a great one to cuddle up with. It’s a fantastic date night scent.


L’Homme Libre by Yves Saint Laurent ($52-85, Sephora) is a fresh-spicy scent, slightly green from the addition of violet leaf, with an earthy vetiver-patchouli base. This is one that I can see being worn year round, but it really comes into its own in the summer, as a break from all the various citruses.

Now, on the other hand, there are also some scents I’d recommend putting away until the weather cools off a bit. Not that they aren’t fantastic, but they just don’t work in the heat. Here’s a list of a few you might want to hold off on until the seasons change:

  • Armani Code. To me, it’s the sexiest men’s fragrance ever made, and even though I’ve always laughed at the old bit about “panty dropper” fragrances (seriously, what kind of douchebag says that?), if I’m already into a guy and Code sits well on his skin, I can’t get enough. However, the leather and tobacco notes in it make it really hard to pull off in the summer. Wear a spray or two when you go out at night if you must, but it really comes alive in the fall.
  • Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb. Too sweet/warm spicy, and it projects so much that in this heat, people will choke. Just don’t.
  • Paco Rabanne 1 Million. Or, hey, how about instead of packing this one up until the fall, you just give it away and don’t wear it anymore? This one is played out, and I’m almost as sick of it as I am of Le Male.
  • Bond No. 9 New Haarlem or its cheaper smell-alikes, Rochas Man and Michael Jordan Legend. There’s nothing wrong with a rich coffee-vanilla scent, and in cooler weather, there’s nothing quite like it. Very sexy, very unique. However, it’s too heavy in hot weather, and it feels sticky and stifling.

I hope this gives you some ideas of new scents to experiment with this summer. It’s OK to have fun with your scent, regardless of your gender, and it really is best to change it up from time to time, especially when the weather changes.


4 thoughts on “Fragrances to Try From The Men’s Counter This Summer (And Which to Pack Away)

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