Sage advice as written (albeit slightly paraphrased) within “How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are” and recommended by Natalie, alas it took me 30 years and one month to find mine. For some guys the idea of a signature cologne is as simple as grabbing a bottle of whatever-is-advertised-on-TV Axe or Lynx, but if you’re a man of taste or just appreciative of those unique personal details, a $2 scent in a grocery shop or pharmacy may not constitute an adequate signatory flourish.
Let’s make sure the difference is clear: this is not deodorant we’re talking about — this is cologne. Cologne’s the smell that separates a store-bought suit from a bespoke tailored creation, or at least gives you that impression. More importantly, it’s a scent that doesn’t so much cover as it does exude; it is a sensual foundation that supports and extends your presence and character.
I found my cologne, inadvertently, while standing in a stage’s wings waiting for a cue to jump out as a gnarled pirate in a performance of “The Pirates of Penzance“. Strange place to find a scent, but you gotta be open to life’s opportunities in all unsuspecting places. A fellow pirate, Rodney — a distinguished attorney from Melbourne — had a musky scent that triggered my enquiry as to its origin. I had experienced the scent before, or something similar to it, and had wanted to know what it was. A good, well-rounded, classic and bold scent that had no notes of cheapness or imbalance of sanitary chemical smells that often offend my nose. “Terre d’Hermès“, he replied in his Melburnian accent, “I’ve been wearing it for 20 years”.
I had planned my first trip to Europe on my 30th year, which was scheduled to depart after the theatre show’s short run had completed. My first trip to the Northern Hemisphere. Before I set off, I stepped into Melbourne’s Hermès shop on Collins Street, feeling slightly intimidated with the high-fashion luxury brand store’s interior and attendants, and dressed as a scruffy looking mid-weight graphic designer hipster, replete with plaid shirt, tight skinny jeans and black Chucks. I chose the large bottle of undiluted Terre d’Hermès parfum (eau de toilette wouldn’t be a sound investment, if it’s slightly watered down — that’s the New Zealander side of me talking).
I’m now about 2 and a bit years into the Terre d’Hermès experience and I can safely say that it will be my cologne for the next 30 years, if not more. It seems each time I apply it to myself I get a new and different scented experience: various shades of wood, citrus and other smells I can’t quite place, but always appreciate. I’ve lugged the bottle across 2 hemispheres and trailed the scent through at least 8 countries. The scent is well embedded into my watch strap and has lightly marinated my t-shirts and shirts. The first bottle took me just over 2 years to finish, with another one already lined up to replace it.
By chance I found my scent, and by chance during my second trip to Europe I found a wonderful woman within a Parisian bar who happened to appreciate it upon my person. When I returned a third time to France I picked up a bottle of its companion perfume — Jour d’Hermès — it was another perfect scented match with her.
There’s an element I don’t entirely appreciate about perfumes or colognes, or any artificial scents, in that they can hide or cover a person’s natural scent. In my own experience it’s just a matter of finding one whose chemistry accentuates your own. Whatever advertisements profess to make you seem stronger, bolder, sexier, or whatever, it’s important to test and experience any and all to find the right scent that fits well with you and gives you that extra boost of confidence — that “joie de vivre”. I got a real lucky break with mine, considering I never thought I would ever use or appreciate one, but the pleasure and appreciation I get from it is well worth its investment.
Perfume — Terre d’Hermès