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The question is: Should men wear fragrances

Sniff us on a bus or a couple of hours after a shower and the aroma we exude is nasty. Sweat may be manly but it’s not very pleasant.

columns Updated: Dec 08, 2018 18:49 IST
perfume,cologne,men's cologne
To be honest most of us (men) do smell but very few smell of something nice. (Representational photo)(AP)

Should a man wear scent? Or are the aromatic flavours only for women? This may sound a touch esoteric but it’s at the top of my mind this Sunday morning.

Women are expected to smell — and usually prettily — and even if that’s male chauvinist it’s also rather pleasing to the nostrils. My olfactories like a whiff of something sweet. When they get the opposite they cringe and crinkle. Which is why I prefer scent. But what about on blokes?

To be honest, most of us do smell but very few smell of something nice. Sniff us on a bus or a couple of hours after a shower and the aroma we exude is nasty. Sweat may be manly but it’s not very pleasant.

This explains why I drench myself in cologne. It makes me choke but once the fumes clear it’s refreshing. At least it is to me. Others usually think differently.

“You’re meant to dab it on not pour it on”, my friend Aftab would admonish. At the time, he was staying with us in London. “You smell worse than a tart’s hanky”.

Never having smelt one I could hardly disagree. However, reactions were no different when I returned to India.

“We always know when you’ve arrived in the office,” the first peon who worked for me used to proudly proclaim. He was barely 18 at the time and I thought this involved an act of quite significant detection.

“How can you tell?” I asked.

“The corridors smell of you.”

I suppose there could be worse ways of announcing one’s arrival and certainly this one was by no means unusual. My dentist in London used to keep a selection of bottles of cologne on his reception table. Most of them were of the unsubtle variety.

“What are these for?” I asked.

“They are there in the hope my patients will use them before they step in to the clinic.”

“And how would that make a difference?”

“Not to them perhaps but certainly to me. It’s a lot easier to contend with halitosis when it’s broken by a good French smell. You can’t imagine how I sometimes want to run when I ask someone to say aaah!”

Of course, motives can vary. Not everyone is straightforward and some, to put it euphemistically, are a lot more obtuse than others. A Lebanese friend at Oxford, with an addiction to Paco Rabanne when it was new and still fashionable, used to fumigate his room each time he sprayed himself.

“What a waste of the stuff”, I said to Karim.

“No it’s not”, he shot back with alacrity and defiance. “Why do you think late at night, when everyone else’s room is full of smoke and funny smells, the girls always come to mine? They like the stuff.”

At the time I thought he was being facetious. Today I know he was right. A woman may put up with a man who behaves like a pig but not if he smells like one!

Consequently, I’m very particular about the smells I use. In summer I prefer light fragrances like Davidoff’s Cool Water or Cerruti’s 1880. Puig’s Lavender Water is a delight and, at a stretch, Dior Homme is quite acceptable. But in winter I prefer heavier fragrances, Terre d’hermes or, even, Pasha by Cartier. Another winter favourite is Black by Salvatore Ferragamo. Odd it may be, but cigarette manufacturers and shoe makers make some of the nicest eau de toilettes.

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Dec 08, 2018 18:48 IST