Smelling All Men!

Man Wearing CologneWhy is it in romances that when we read descriptions of how the hero smells it’s basically down to one of three choices: smoke, leather, or the woods. And generally, those scents are said to be the hero’s own, naturally emanating from his pores like a magical sweet-smelling sweat.

Guys in romances rarely wear cologne; perhaps it just doesn’t seem manly. However, a Men’s Fitness article I read recently listed ten men’s fragrances that are “guaranteed” (so says the article) to drive their women wild. So I wonder, if we’re all going wild from a guy’s fragrance, how come he’s not spritzing it on in our stories?

According to, which says it’s the “technical and business media source” for the industry, the global perfume market will reach $45.6B by 2018. Admittedly the dominant source for that growth is the women’s market, but nonetheless the article states that perfumers are seeing the “men’s fragrance segment beginning to witness strong growth patterns.”

Hmm. OK. So guys apparently are buying fragrance, some of them anyway, and if they’re wearing the right stuff they’re driving us wild. So then what exactly is this right stuff making us gals so crazed? A spokeswoman for a company that develops fragrances and who is cited in the Men’s Fitness article says that what we want to smell on our men are “rich scents with dark woods, warming spices, and amber notes in them.”

That would seem to explain the smoke, leather, and woods smells that are so often ascribed to heroes in romance novels. But I’m still thinking about my original musing, which is why aren’t our heroes dabbing on manufactured scent in our books? Is is only manly to smell good if it’s natural?

I have to admit that I like it when I catch a hint of a guy’s cologne. Living in the NYC area, when I’m on the packed subway I often find myself wedged between people like sardines in a can. Being in such close quarters subjects one to the scent of others, be it good, bad, or “pass the barf bag” revolting. On the occasions when it’s the warm amber note of some guy’s cologne making its way to my olfactory senses, it’s a turn-on. Not just because I’m smelling cologne instead of BO,  but the scent itself triggers interest in the wearer.

Guys definitely seem to be on the bandwagon for endorsing fragrance. Plenty of male celebrities have launched men’s cologne, including Usher, 50 Cent, David Beckham, Antonio Banderas, and Tim McGraw, to name a few. I don’t know whether the products are any good or not but again, as far as I’m concerned, it beats BO hands down.

Any historical romance writer knows that late 18th and early 19th centuries, especially in Britain, saw the omnipresence of the dandy, that rather narcissistic, self-absorbed man who was meticulous in all matter of things related to personal grooming. One would assume that fragrance played a role in the dandy’s daily toilette, which leads me to wonder if maybe our historical heroes abstained from applying fragrance because it seemed too . . . let’s just put it out there . . . gay?

When it comes right down to it, could it be that a romance novel hero would simply come off as effeminate if he spritzed on some Eau de Usher? Does masculinity get compromised if our hero’s scent comes from any other source besides his own magical pores?

What do you all think? To spritz or not to spritz, that is the question. I’d love to hear the answers!

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