Maybe we should just go back to Old Spice.
At least with Old Spice, a gal knew what she was getting: a guy. And, frankly, that was enough.
Men were not trying to telegraph exactly who they were and what they stood for. A guy could be meek or macho, Dem or Repub, on a bender or on oxygen, and chances are, if he could still reach his hand to his cheek, that hand would be slapping on Old Spice.
Today there are more man-scents than Dorito flavors (a coincidence?). At Macy's last week I found a bottle of Hummer - yes, a cologne named for a national embarrassment - next to a bottle of Donald Trump (ditto). Trump's cologne smelled like a newly shampooed rug. Felt like he was standing right there.
Other colognes took their names from designers, moods, psychological problems and raincoats. One called "Le Male" featured a shirtless sailor in lipstick. Now that is a niche. Then there's "Everlast Original 1910," the very first scent named for boxing equipment. (not to be confused with the new "Daytona 500," the very first scent named for a NASCAR event.)
No denying it: Sweat-drenched boxers do hold a certain appeal. Rrruffff! Ruff!
Ahem. Sorry. What I meant was: Sweat is attractive, in context. But in a bottle?
Nancy Tonei, marketing director for the scent, explained that the smell is post-shower, not pre-. "The top note is mandarin, mint, lavender and lemon."
Sounded like Snapple to me, but I decided to ask around.
"It's fresh," declared Mark, a salesman at New York Jewelers under whose nose I shoved the bottle. Nonetheless, Mark said he was not ready to give up his usual fragrance, Eternity. "I put it on and the whole world is following me. The girls of the world," he added quickly.
Teelow, the store's security guard, was more game. "I could wear it after a nice bath. It's got a nice mellow smell to attract the ladies."
Teelow and other males should beware, however, that what they believe is attracting the ladies may be doing just the opposite.
"We found that the No. 1 odor that increased female sexual arousal was a combination of Good 'N Plenty and banana nut bread," says Dr. Alan Hirsch, director of the Smell and Taste Institute in Chicago. The three smells that most "inhibited female sexual arousal," Hirsch continued, were cherries, barbecued meat - and cologne.
"That man is cuckoo," said Teelow, hearing these results.
No comment. But Hirsch not only stands by his findings, he warns his fellow fellows that "men have a worse ability to smell than women, so they tend to use too great a level of scent." And as they age, he went on, their sense of smell only gets worse.
"So the odor you choose may be very different from what a woman likes - especially if you're going out with a woman who is much younger."
Men, please cut out Dr. Hirsch's words and paste them on your bathroom mirror. Because even if you finally find the fragrance that announces to the world your personality, sexuality, choice of raincoat and boxing record, there is such a thing as too much information. Especially when it's going up a lady's nose.